Land Rover Defender 90 Review

Written by Andy Brady

8/10
heycar rating2020’s most exciting new car
  • 2020
  • SUV
  • Petrol, Diesel

Quick overview

Pros

  • Long-awaited new Land Rover Defender
  • Wide range of petrol and diesel engines
  • Loads of optional accessories

Cons

  • Traditionalists will hate it
  • Land Rover doesn’t have the best reliability record
  • It’s not cheap...

Overall verdict

"Following in the footsteps of the bigger 110, there’s a new Defender 90 on the scene. And just like the long-wheelbase model, the long-awaited Defender 90 is a fresh take on a modern-day classic, with improved refinement levels, fresh technology and, of course, unbeatable off-road ability."

Land Rover Defender 90 frontright exterior

Following in the footsteps of the bigger 110, there’s a new Defender 90 on the scene. And just like the long-wheelbase model, the long-awaited Defender 90 is a fresh take on a modern-day classic, with improved refinement levels, fresh technology and, of course, unbeatable off-road ability.


Designed to appeal to a more upmarket clientele than its predecessor, the latest Defender is a premium take on the off-road vehicle. Think of it as a British Mercedes-Benz G-Class, if you like - even though it’s built in Slovakia. Ah, that won’t go down well with enthusiasts.


It is unmistakably a Defender, though. It’s got a distinctive silhouette, with a boxy outline and a spare wheel on the rear door. It’s more modern than before - much more modern than before - with high-spec models getting matrix LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof.


The interior is dominated by a crossbeam running along the width of the car, while a 10-inch infotainment screen sits on the centre console. The Defender is more technologically advanced than the old model (which is a bit like saying the Tesla Model 3 is more technologically advanced than a Morris Minor).


Land Rover says its new Pivi Pro infotainment system is more intuitive and user-friendly than previous versions, with instant responses and requiring fewer inputs to perform frequently used tasks. Most models also come with a fancy 12.3-inch interactive driver display which sits behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to switch between navigation and conventional dials or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, over-the-air updates will ensure the latest Land Rover Defender is always kept up-to-date.


The Defender 90 model range consists of S, SE, HSE, First Edition and top of the range Defender X models. All are well-equipped, with higher-spec models in particular having a much more premium feel than owners of the old Defender could ever dream of. But then, higher-spec models will cost you in the region of £75,000...


Customers will also be able to personalise their vehicle in more ways than any previous Land Rover with four distinct accessory packs. The Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban packs each give Defender a distinct character with a specially selected range of modifications. On top of this, there are no fewer than 170 individual accessories available - ranging from a side-mounted gear carrier to an electric winch and rooftop tent.


From launch, the Defender 90’s diesel engine line-up consists of two four-cylinder units producing 200 or 240PS, badged the D200 and D240 respectively. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and each produces 430Nm of torque.


A P300 2.0-litre petrol is also available, producing 300PS and 400Nm, while a mild-hybrid P400 tops the range. A plug-in hybrid model is set to follow in 2021. 


Of course, being a Defender, the latest 90 is loaded with clever technology to ensure it’ll never get stuck off-road. All models come with four-wheel-drive, naturally, with Terrain Response - Land Rover’s off-road system which tweaks vehicle settings depending on the terrain (sand or mud, for example).


Unlike the 110, most 90 models come with coil springs rather than air suspension (the First Edition is an exception). They also feature a 3D surround camera which can provide an augmented visualisation when wading deep water or reversing a trailer.


If you want 2020’s must-have off-road vehicle but don’t need the space of a  Land Rover Defender 110, a Defender 90 seems like the obvious choice.

We’d go for a diesel, unless you enjoy spending time at your local petrol station. First Edition models are ultra-desirable and only on sale for the first year.


The obvious rivals include the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and Jeep Wrangler. You could also consider the Suzuki Jimny, if you fancy a cute retro off-roader, while more affordable workhorses include the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara. In truth, the latest Defender is probably more of an alternative to premium SUVs, like the Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser and even the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90.

Comfort and design

"The new Land Rover Defender 90 manages to combine modern touches with a rugged approach to interior design. Land Rover says that structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality."

Land Rover Defender 90 front interior

The new Land Rover Defender 90 manages to combine modern touches with a rugged approach to interior design. Land Rover says that structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality.


There’s a clever dash-mounted gear shifter, which allows space for an optional central front ‘jump’ seat which allows three-abreast seating - just like an old Land Rover.


We’re yet to sit in a new Defender and prod around the interior, but we expect it to be leagues ahead of the old model in this regard.

The Land Rover Defender 90 uses a new 10-inch Pivi Pro infotainment screen. Most models also come with a fancy 12.3-inch interactive driver display which sits behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to switch between navigation and conventional dials or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, over-the-air updates will ensure the latest Land Rover Defender is always kept up-to-date.

The innovative Front Row Centre Seat (otherwise known as jump seat) allows three people to travel in the front row. Intended as an occasional seat, the practical addition means the Defender 90 can accommodate six occupants in a compact family hatchback length body.


When not in use, the seatback folds down to provide a front armrest and oddment stowage, including a pair of additional cupholders. Practicality is a hallmark of Land Rover interior design and the new Defender 90 comes with an abundance of storage opportunities including a choice of high and low centre console.

Handling and ride quality

"Despite being a big four-wheel-drive, it’s fair to assume that the new Defender will handle better than the old model."

Land Rover Defender 90 frontleft exterior

It’ll still be immensely capable off-road, though, with no shortage of clever systems designed to keep you moving.

At launch, the petrol line-up comprises a four-cylinder P300 and a powerful six-cylinder P400 featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology. Alternatively, customers can choose from a pair of four-cylinder diesels – the D200 and powerful D240.

‘Refinement’ used to be a dirty word in Defender circles, but the new model should be infinitely more refined than the old model.

The new Land Rover Defender is yet to be crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but we’d be surprised if it achieved anything less than five stars.

MPG and fuel costs

"Both the Land Rover Defender 90 D200 and D240 officially return up to 32.2mpg in combined WLTP fuel economy tests."

Land Rover Defender 90 backright exterior

The P300 returns up to 25.1mpg, while the P400 MHEV can see up to 25.6mpg.

Insurance groups are to be confirmed.

After the first year, the Land Rover Defender 90 will cost £150 a year in tax, plus the £325/year premium car tax for the following five years. The mild-hybrid P400 will get a £10 reduction.

How much should you be paying for a used Land Rover Defender 90?

"Prices for the new Land Rover Defender 90 start from £40,330."

Land Rover Defender 90 right exterior

Expect a long waiting list and little in the way of getting any discounts or deals.

Highlights of the standard Land Rover Defender 90 include LED headlights, a body-coloured roof and a heated windscreen, as well as 18-inch steel wheels with all-season tyres. It gets heated eight-way adjustable front seats, while infotainment comes in the form of a 10-inch navigation system. There’s a whole heap of driver assistance features, ranging from Land Rover’s Terrain Response off-road system to cruise control and a 360-degree parking camera.


The Defender 90 S adds automatic high-beam assist and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there’s a leather steering wheel and gearshift, as well as a centre console armrest. The seats are part-leather, heated affairs with 12-way adjustment.


The Defender 90 SE comes with premium LED headlights with signature daytime running lights, front fog lights and keyless entry. The exterior looks a bit more upmarket, thanks to body-coloured door handles and 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there’s Land Rover’s clever digital rear-view mirror, as well as an electric steering column and electric memory front seats. The SE also gets a premium Meridian sound system with 10 speakers, while additional driver assistance tech is provided in the form of blind-spot assist.


The high-spec Defender 90 HSE comes with a folding fabric roof and matrix LED headlights. The wheels are 20-inch dark grey alloys, while the Driver Assist pack is standard. The interior gets a heated steering wheel and extended leather upgrade.


The fully-loaded Defender 90 X features a bold appearance, including a black contrast roof and bonnet, a sliding panoramic sunroof, satin chrome exterior accents, orange brake calipers, rear recovery eyes and darkened tail lights - as well as 20-inch dark grey alloy wheels.


The interior gets a walnut veneer and premium cabin lighting, as well as heated rear seats and Windsor leather upholstery. There’s a Meridien surround sound system and a head-up display. Off-road highlights include air suspension, as well as Terrain Response 2 and an electronic active differential.


The limited-run Defender 90 First Edition features a white contrast roof (with a folding fabric opening), premium LED headlights and front lights. There’s keyless entry, privacy glass and 20-inch silver alloy wheels with all-season tyres. The interior gets a heated leather steering wheel, the ClearSight interior rear-view mirror and 12-way electrically-adjustable heated seats. The Meridian sound system is standard, as well as a long list of driver assistance features including blind-spot assist, a 360-degree camera, wade sensing and lane-keep assist.


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