Land Rover Defender long-term test: report 4

Huge waiting lists underline how popular the Land Rover Defender is, but does it have the all-round ability and feel-good factor to justify its high price? We're living with one to find out...

Land Rover Defender closing door

The car Land Rover Defender 90 D300 HSE Run by Jim Holder, editorial director

Why it’s here Can Land Rover’s reinvented icon really live up to the hype?

Needs to deliver Capability and practicality on and off-road as standard, plus enough wow factor to justify the £66,000 price tag

Mileage 4523 List price £58,875 Target Price £58,875 Price as tested £66,450 Official economy 31.1mpg Test economy 29.9mpg

22 March 2022 – Why the Land Rover Defender 90 won't suit everyone

You might think it absurd for me to write about practicality for a car that is 4.3m long (without the spare wheel), 2.1m wide (mirrors out) and give or take 2m high (enough for the aerial to be at risk of a serious clonking in restricted car parks).

Logic dictates that when most of the country makes do with a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, even the smallest Land Rover Defender – the 90 – should have family transport nailed. But on this occasion, logic has some questions to answer.

Let’s start with the positives: for front and rear seat passengers the Defender 90 is cavernous. While that’s perhaps no surprise up front, what is especially striking is just how commodious the space in the rear is. Such is the leg and head room that two adults could cross a continent comfortably back there.

But beyond that… where to start?

Land Rover Defender 90 getting in

The first hurdle is getting in. It would seem churlish to complain that getting into the front seats requires a sizeable step up, given most buyers of a car of these dimensions would expect that. Just be warned this is not an SUV that allows you to save your back and slide in – I’m nearly two metres tall, and even I had to pull myself up.

But getting in the back is harder still. I regularly used the car for a school run for pre-teens, with the challenges of the pick-up requiring them to first open the heavy door, then climb up to tip and slide the passenger seat forward, then haul themselves into the back and then reach a body length forward to get hold of the door handle and – big muscles time – haul the door shut again. At times it was easier for me to hop out and offer the full chauffeur service, just to save time and occasional desperation.

Then there’s the boot, which is comically small in reality. Measured at its maximum of 297 litres it sounds so-so, but factor in the side-hinged boot mechanism that almost guarantees anything resting on it will tumble out and the useable space is really less. Sure, this explains why the rear seat space is so generous but, if you can excuse the cynicism, it’s hard not to think the extremes between the two are partly motivated by a desire to persuade families to buy the larger Defender 110.

Land Rover Defender rear seats folded down

And, finally, a special mention must go to the fact that the rear seats don’t fold flat. No doubt someone will have a focus group study that suggests owners don’t value this, but I can counter that with emails from a would-be buyer who have walked away because they can’t put their dog cage on the slope that they are left with. They are not the only ones to mention it, either.

Of course, for some, especially those who don’t use the rear seats for anything other than four-up journeys (so a front seat passenger is always there to help the rear seat ones in) or who simply travel two up most of the time, and use the back as load space, none of this likely matters. I’m not for a minute suggesting that the Defender 90 is so impractical that it should never be considered, but rather highlighting that some of its drawbacks and, for some potential buyers, certainly inconveniences, and for some bad enough to be deal-breakers.

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