Land Rover Defender Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the Land Rover Defender.
Car Tested: Land Rover Defender 110 P300 SE; Road Test No. 1328; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 97.19 lakhs – 1.40 crore
Superb off-road capabilities, excellent ride quality coupled with a practical cabin make the Defender a great all-round SUV
The demand for SUVs is rising at such an alarming rate that almost every carmaker is making one and while most are crossovers at best, Land Rover doesn’t believe in the concept of pseudo SUVs at all and thus has a lineup of very capable off-roaders that blend luxury and go-anywhere ability. However, there was an exception and that was the Defender which was so focused to do off-road duties that it compromised comfort in lieu of retaining an old-world charm. Things have however changed drastically with the new Defender which steps away from the norm.
MotorQuest: Introduced in 1984, the Land Rover Defender is a series of British workhorse SUVs known for their outstanding off-road capabilities, simplicity, ruggedness and versatility. The Defender traces its history back to the original Land Rover from the 1940s which was updated and refined over the years to make the original Defender. Its body-on-frame platform and the four-wheel-drive system could handle the worst of road conditions making it extremely capable.
Exteriors – The Defender 110 (the long-wheelbase 5-door model) looks very intimidating with its massive size. It’s not just long but very wide as well, it’s quite tall too, more so with the height raised to the max using the air suspension. The design is boxy with the right curves and somehow Land Rover has managed to blend retro and modern touches quite well on this vehicle. The lights are of particular interest, specially the rear ones which have these cute cubes, all LED of course with the full-sized spare wheel mounted on the tail-gate.
Interiors – The Defender’s cabin is all about function with tons of rubber used in lieu of plastic. You sit very high up with a commanding driving position. The colours used on the dashboard are also quite tasteful and there seems to be unlimited storage space as well, right across the width of the dashboard to the massive storage bin right ahead of the centre console (but one needs to be careful as dropping your mobile phone to the bottom storage happens quite a lot). The 10-inch instrument cluster is easy to read and the touch-screen infotainment system is very slick to use too with the 360-degree camera offering great help in manoeuvring the massive Defender in the city.
Many parts inside the cabin are made of rubber in order to make them more durable and easy to clean
While this Land Rover is decently equipped, our test car wasn’t the top-spec model and thus missed out on certain features which the higher trim does get. The standout feature is the ClearSight camera that is a flick of a switch away on the inside rearview mirror, giving you a great view of what’s behind. And talking about behind, the last row of seats aren’t suited to adults at all, although the safari windows are quite cool. The middle row has ample space, the cabin is more than wide enough to seat three and there are charging ports in all rows, along with plenty of storage spaces as well. This is a very practical cabin with big windows and a large panoramic sunroof for a very airy feel.
Performance – Land Rover offers 4 powertrain options with the Defender, our test car was the base petrol dubbed P300 which as the name suggests, produces 300 HP while torque output is 400 Nm, from the 2.0-litre turbocharged motor. The engine is very refined and only gets vocal in the top-end, but in a sporty way. There are no drive modes other than an Eco mode which further dulls performance which itself isn’t exciting enough as the Defender is heavy. There is some low-end lag and the engine doesn’t have the punch in the top-end and thus this powertrain doesn’t really excite.
The Defender is offered with multiple petrol and diesel engine options, however, the diesel is our pick
However, it gets the job done as performance is linear and the mid-range is strong. But one still needs to go hard on the throttle for quick overtakes on the highway and while the 8-speed torque converter gearbox is decently quick with shifts and gets the right cog almost all the time, there are no paddle shifters, it does get the tiptronic function for manual gear changes though. 0-100 km/hr takes around 8.65 seconds which is nothing to write home about but then, this is the base engine and the 6-cylinder units are sure to offer a huge smile on the driver’s face with their punchy performance. Fuel efficiency is between 7-10 km/l which is respectable for a vehicle of this weight.
Driving Dynamics – Land Rover has ditched the ladder frame for the modern monocoque construction which has led to weight savings and a huge improvement in the handling of the Defender. In spite of its size, the steering is shockingly light at lower speeds, making it easy to park and manoeuvre this massive car at slow speeds in the city. However, it still weighs up beautifully well at higher speeds and gives the Defender predictable handling, there is of course body roll but it’s not bad at all, considering the lack of aerodynamics and the towering height of this beast. The ride quality is fantastic (thank you air suspension) and the Defender takes almost everything in its stride without a hiccup.
Thanks to air suspension, the Defender boasts of fantastic ride quality and generous ground clearance
Being a Land Rover, it’s also very capable off the road and has a slew of modes to help you traverse the worst of terrain. That along with ample ground clearance, stupendous 900 mm of water wading capacity and the ability to raise the ride height further with a touch of a button and all-terrain tyres means you don’t think twice before going off the beaten path. The brakes offer very surefooted stopping power but with a bit of nose-dive under heavy braking. High-speed stability is surprisingly good too and the cabin insulation is so well done that you can’t hear much of the road, tyres or wind.
Verdict – The Land Rover Defender is a jack of all trades and a master of some. It truly feels like an all-round SUV which is rugged yet comfortable and appealing yet practical. It looks amazing, drives really well and rides even better. Easy to drive in spite of its size, very capable off the road and comes with a slew of engine options (get the D400) that get the job done well. It sure is pricey and Land Rover’s own Range Rover models might seem like a better alternative but for sheer ruggedness and desirability, the Defender is hard to beat.
What’s Not So Cool
Alternatives – Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes-Benz G-Class
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