The legendary rural workhorse has been reimagined for the modern era and Ed Coles is mightily impressed with its off-road capabilities
The Land Rover Defender was a mainstay of rural and military life for quite some time. After a four-year gap waiting for the updated version, I was more than keen to see if the all-new Defender 90 lived up to its legendary predecessor. We’re taking a look at the Land Rover Defender 90 P300 X-Dynamic SE, which is the sportier, higher-spec version. Chelsea tractor or capable country wagon? Let’s find out.
Big and bold, the new 90 has retained most of its recognisable silhouette, with some added modern curves and styling. It’s nice to see the classic chequer plating and I rather like the Tasman metallic blue paintwork, which is set off nicely with grey-gloss 20in wheels.
Being the slightly higher-spec Defender, it has a few extras fitted as well as a few optional extras. Upgraded Matrix LED lights, front fog lights and a few sporty trims set the X-Dynamic apart. The view from the rear is interesting, particularly the recessed rear lights, while the spare wheel mounted on the boot gives it the classic Defender look.
Underneath the bonnet, there’s a few surprises. First, we can see a fair bit of the 90’s power plant and, secondly, it is powered by a petrol engine. We have a two-litre turbo engine that produces an impressive 300 bhp and 400Nm of torque. The petrol engine is quite lively and the 300 tiny horses gallop up to 60mph in 6.7 seconds. With a top speed of 119mph, in theory it should provide us with a bit of entertainment. It comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an electronic active differential.
There’s not that much space in the boot — enough for three full bags of wheat, four at a push. Enough room for my cocker spaniel or a few shopping bags, but if you have a couple of stocky labradors you will struggle. It’s definitely a back seat job for the shotgun, rifle or rods. That said, with the seats down, we could fit in a dozen bags of wheat.
It’s trusty feed bag time and underneath there’s a decent amount of ground clearance, which is increased by the optional fancy adjustable air suspension. At its normal setting, it has 226mm of clearance and 291mm in its highest off-road setting, which is above and beyond most pickups.
It does look like it’s on stilts at its highest, though it also looks like it means business. There are few glimpses of the independent suspension front and rear, along with the fancy rear diff, but that is the way with most modern cars.
Land Rover Defender 90 – rugged styling
Inside the 90, Land Rover has retained some of the rugged old Defender styling, but with added plushness. A central screen operates most of the goodies and is fairly user-friendly.
It did take me a while to realise the heater controls double as the buttons for the driving settings — eco, comfort, snow/grass/gravel, mud and ruts, sand, rock crawl, wading mode and a configurable mode. Throw in the adjustable suspension settings and there is a setting for every occasion.
The full-leather, electric, heated (and cooled) seats are comfy, but it was a bit of a faff squeezing in the child seat without scratching the trims. Once in, the wee one was fascinated by the classic Defender windows in the upper panels and the panoramic roof. It is rather spacious in the back, which is why there’s not much room in the boot.
All the usual gadgets are present: DAB, satnav, Apple and Android connectivity — you know the drill. The camera rear-view mirror messes with your head a little, especially if you get something in your eye, and the 3D reverse camera is next-level witchcraft. The overall spec level is impressive.
The Defender handles the twisty back roads well and is quite precise and fun to drive. It’s pretty stable and not too boat-like around corners. The engine pulls well and is relatively sporty. On the open road, it soon gets up to cruising speed and is comfortable on long journeys.
But what we really want to know is, what is it like off-road? Time to check my feeders and get ready for the next shoot day in Edwardshire. The drive to the wet wood up the gravel track was effortless, as was nipping across the stubble to check the feeders along the cover strips. The suspension handles the bumps with confidence and ease, and raising the suspension doesn’t appear to affect the handling.
The slippery wood track was no match for the Defender either and it dealt with the rutted track even in gravel mode as well as it did in mud-and-rut mode. In the latter mode it gives the option of using a low-traction start function, a kind of launch control for off-piste shenanigans. You can feel the fancy diff and all-wheel drive set-up adjust and tweak. With a lot of revving, it made easy work of pulling away from the deep ruts in the wet wood.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Land Rover
- Model Land Rover Defender 90 P300 X-Dynamic SE
- Power 300bhp, 400Nm of torque
- Top speed 119mph
- 0-60mph 6.7 seconds
- Emissions C02 259g/km to 281g/km Low 19.3 to 18.7mpg Medium 26.3 to 24.1mpg High 28.4 to 25.9mpg Extra high 23.3 to 21.3mpg Combined 24.6 to 22.7mpg
- Towing weight, braked 3,000kg
- Ground clearance 226mm to 291mm
The big question is Chelsea tractor or capable off-road vehicle? The answer is both, really. Around town it is fun and capable, and likewise fun and capable off-road. I really enjoyed my week with the Defender 90 and wasn’t keen on giving it back.
This 90 starts off at £53,930 on the road. Add in the optional extras of the metallic paint, leather seats, adjustable air suspension, towing pack — including the all-terrain progress control, Terrain Response 2 and a few more abbreviations — and it comes out at £59,560. It sounds like a lot and it is, but it’s worth every penny, I would say. It was a bit juicy on fuel economy and the boot is a bit disappointing space-wise, but, overall, I love it! Downsides considered, it’s a 4.75 out of five from me.
I love it