Reader test team: Land Rover Defender

The iconic off-roader has been reinvented as an upmarket SUV that can still handle hard work. What Car? readers give their verdict...

Land Rover Defender reader test team group

Replacing the car that defines your brand will never be an easy task, especially when that car in question is the Land Rover Defender. It needs to appease the die-hard fans who loved it and helped forge the foundations upon which your reputation stands, yet also appeal to a raft of potential new customers to be a success.

In order to achieve both tasks, Land Rover has drizzled the all-new Defender with design details that hark back to the old model, including a side-hinged rear door complete with spare tyre, and Alpine windows in the cove of the roof. On top of that, there’s a solid helping of hardcore off-road technology that promises to make the new Defender the most capable Land Rover yet.

It also has all the very latest equipment inside and out, to make it a thoroughly civilised vehicle to live with day to day, and to keep it competitive with other iconic off-roaders, such as the hardcore Jeep Wrangler and luxurious Mercedes G-Class.

To find out if the new Defender can live up to its name among established fans, we assembled a team of readers to view this latest Land Rover at the brand’s Eastnor Castle experience centre and asked for their thoughts.

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Matthew Brock

Richard Lucking and Matthew Brock

Job Self-employed IT consultant and software tester Drive BMW i3, Land Rover Series 2a, Range Rover

Richard: “We already have two Land Rovers: a short-wheelbase Series 2 and an older Range Rover. We also have a BMW i3 that was meant to be a stop-gap, but we’re looking likely to keep the i3 and scrap the idea of a Suzuki Jimny because of the long waiting list.”

Matthew: “The Jimny was kind of a fun toy, but the shine could soon wear off. When the novelty of the Defender passes, it’ll still be a really pleasant car, albeit quite an expensive one to use daily.”

Richard: “We will probably wait for the 90 to come out and have a look at that. Ideally, we’d want to see the plug-in hybrid. Hopefully it’ll have a 30-40-mile range.”

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Richard Lucking

Matthew: “I’d want to try the 3.0-litre straight six petrol, but if the plug-in hybrid will cover most of our journeys around town, it might be a better compromise.”

Richard: “My grandfather had a 110 in the 1980s, and I always remember looking out of the Alpine windows. The new ones aren’t quite so big, but it’s a nice carry-over design feature.”

Matthew: “You’d have to get the white roof, though, because they just blend into the black roof.”

Verdict 5/5

Read more: Land Rover Defender review

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Ross Pushman

Ross Pushman

Age 58 Job Company director Drives Land Rover Defender 110 Adventure

“On first getting in, I was struck by how adjustable the driver’s seating position is. There’s loads of space, even if you’re tall. It’s really easy to find a comfortable posture.

“It’s a shame they carried over the side-hinged rear door, though; they’re a nightmare when towing, because the door fouls on the handle of the jockey wheel when you try to open the boot.

Land Rover Defender reader test team - rear of car

“I used to drive 30,000 miles a year in Defenders and they were fantastic for towing but awful on long journeys. Swapping to the Discovery 3 in 2007 was a complete revelation in terms of comfort. Since then, I’ve had 15 Discoverys, both seated and commercial versions.

“We tried a Discovery 5 commercial back in 2018, but I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor, because it’s half a tonne lighter and you can feel the trailer moving it around. I’m hoping the new Defender will be much better, and I’ll keep an eye out for the commercial version.

“I still have a late Defender Adventure, but I’ll be swapping that for a new Defender when it arrives.”

Verdict 5/5

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Brian Hall

Brian Hall

Age 68 Job Consultant Drives Range Rover Evoque

“I really appreciate the fact that Land Rover has a well-earned reputation for its cars’ off-road capabilities and is continuing like this without sacrificing the sophistication wanted by buyers today. The design also impresses me, because it really stands out from the more streamlined, luxurious-looking Land Rovers.

“You had to be very familiar with all the off-road systems in the old version; I think they’ve moved the Defender into another league altogether with it now able to do a lot of things automatically.

Land Rover Defender reader test team - side storage

“There are four optional lifestyle packs, but I don’t think they’re all necessary. It confuses me as to why you’d need so many add-on features.

“The surround-view camera is tremendous. You can see the lines when parking, or how far you are away from an object. And when you take the car off road, you can see rocks, tree roots and other obstacles straight away and can steer around them.

“The camera-based rear-view mirror is another great idea; we’ve all been so loaded up that we can’t see out of the back; now, by flicking a tab under the mirror, that issue goes away.”

Verdict 4/5

Read more: Off-road 4x4 mega test

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Pete Smyth

Pete Smyth

Age 57 Job MD of a building company Drives Land Rover Discovery 5

“As a compromise between a working vehicle and a family car, I think the new Defender is akin to how the Discovery 4 was. You could treat it in a slightly rough fashion and get away with it; my Discovery 5 is a bit too posh.

“I run a construction company and I think the Defender would fit in better than my current car. I tend to throw a lot of kit in it, or get in it with a crew, all wearing muddy boots, and you’re always conscious that the Discovery is a luxury vehicle. The Defender seems a little more robust.

Land Rover Defender reader test team - bonnet protection

“My first car was a Land Rover Series 2, and I can see that this new Defender is very reminiscent of Land Rovers of old, even though the car of today is obviously far more sophisticated than its predecessors.

“I’d prefer it if they’d not stuck with the side-hinged rear door. The boot opening itself could have been bigger, too, and might be restrictive for some.

“I’m a realist and I see all of the add-on packs as a bit of a gimmick. A lot of the things they include don’t enhance the functionality of the car. I’m not sure that any of them really give you value for money.”

Verdict 5/5

Land Rover Defender reader test team - Bryan Davis

Bryan Davis

Age 54 Job Construction industry Drives BMW X3

“I think they’ve done a good job with the digital driver information display, although I would have liked a bit more customisation so I can swap the rev counter and speedometer around.

“There aren’t any gearbox paddles behind the steering wheel; it would be useful to have those to make it easy to drop a gear or two when coasting downhill, or when towing.

Land Rover Defender reader test team - centre console

“I tow a caravan around 20 times a year, and I have 100% confidence that this Defender would be able to pull it. That’s because it’s a Land Rover, and it’s part of the brand’s USP of practicality and off-road ability. I also have no doubt that the four-wheel drive system will be among the best around.

“You’ll always get those who say ‘that’s not a proper Defender’, but times move on and I think they’re wrong. This is a Defender and Land Rover was right to design it this way. It’s far more rugged than the rest of the range.

“I’ve always liked Land Rovers and have had two Defenders in the past. As to the question of whether or not I would have one of these: yes, but not the 110, because it’s too big. I’d have a 90.”

Verdict 4/5

Read more reader test teams

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