After what seems like years of waiting, the new 2020 Land Rover Defender is finally here. It seems like just about anyone who loves off-roading has been waiting for the Defender to return to our shores, and now we can see what it actually looks like. Pulling cues from the original legend, the new Defender keeps some of the upright look while venturing into new, far more modern design territory. We have mixed feelings about it (largely because we adored the old one). Let's take a closer look.
The Defender eschews the old very boxy design and moves toward smoothed out corners and an overall fuller look without ditching the ruggedness of the original. Some features from the last one remain such as the round headlights in a rectangular housing, the canted contrast-colored roof, the skylights, and the almost completely flat rear tail section. Though no one will say it looks just like the old one, they will recognize some resemblance, and that's what Land Rover was aiming for.
What's most important to Defender devotees is its off-road prowess. It comes with independent suspension at all four corners (ditching the solid axle of the old SUV), full-time four-wheel-drive, an active locking rear differential, and a manually locking center differential. The Defender also comes with an electronically adjustable suspension setup, taking it from 8.5 inches of ground clearance to a whopping 11.5 inches.
The Defender will come in two-door (90) and four-door (110) versions and both will have vertically hinged rear doors, thick C-pillars, all-aluminum chassis (thank goodness!) called D7x, which will be the brand's stiffest platform ever, making it perfect for those who want to take it out and do what it does best. It's important to note that the Defender 90 and 110 are longer than the Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited when pitted against the 2- and 4-door dimensions.
Power for the Defender was never its strong point, but the new one definitely gets more. The choices of which model gets what engine is interesting. It's the two-door 90 that receives a standard engine in the form of a 48-volt mild-hybrid turbocharged inline-six as found in the Range Rover, good for 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is a spritely 5.7 seconds, about twice as fast as the original.
The 110 gets an inline-four cylinder turbo that's good for 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The mild hybrid is optional on the 110. Both engines get an eight-speed automatic transmission, and towing capacity for both models tops out at 8,200 pounds.
Perhaps the biggest change is the interior. No longer painfully spartan (but fans love the fact that the old one was no-nonsense), the cabin is still rugged but this time with refinements and modern tech. Though there's ample plastic and chunky designs, there's also the option of adding wood, metal, and upgraded materials. You can also get front bench seats in the Defender, not exactly a common option in SUVs. You can also opt for a third row in the 110 that provides capacity for seven. Opt for the front bench seats in the 90, and you can cram in six people.
As with most modern Land Roers, the layout is clean and unobtrusive. There are crisp analog gauges, a wide touchscreen, and large climate control knobs. There's also quite a bit of storage space for gear and those convenient "oh shit" grab handles that flank the center console. We like the fact that the new Defender doesn't seem too posh inside, and we're guessing the loyalists would hate that, anyway.
The Land Rover Defender will be available for sale in the U.S. in spring 2020, but you can jump on the configurator now to play to your heart's desire. The four-door 110 will be the only model available initially, and then the 90 months later. The 110 will start at $50,925 for the four-cylinder and $63,275 with the mild-hybrid six. Pricing for the 90 hasn't been set yet. We just can't wait to try it out.