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Car Review

Land Rover Defender 110 review

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Published: 24 Jan 2024
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

The most amazing thing about the Defender is it doesn't feel like a hardcore off-roader. Not when it's on the road. There's none of the Jimny's unruliness, the Wrangler's vagueness, the Land Cruiser's queasiness. Axles don't shudder on the mountings and the body doesn't quake on the chassis. Everything feels tied together.

Because of the long suspension travel with its adaptive settings, it's soft and gentle in its reactions. Which is very different from the forced urgency of sporty SUVs, and much more honest and real-word sensible, really. It absorbs hard shocks, and the wheels don't shudder over corrugated surfaces.

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More remarkable, provided you drive smoothly, is its fine control of pitch and roll heave. And you can drive smoothly because the electronic power steering is progressive. So, you can whisk it along a difficult road at a respectable lick and remarkable comfort. Almost luxury-car comfort. No really. Go for the P525 V8, though, and noise and drama are very much your friend. The chassis and suspension are also toughened up to deal with 518bhp and the weight of said engine, while 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds (4.9s for the 90) isn’t bad for something with the aerodynamic properties of a 1960s tower block.

I can't even afford the fuel for a V8, what other engines can I have?

There are many, but the first thing to note is that all come equipped with JLR’s smooth eight-speed auto gearbox (with a twin-speed transfer box for low range ratios) and all, of course, are driven by all four wheels at all times.

The six-cylinder diesel engines are stoutly up to the job. All are equipped with mild-hybrid tech too. They’re badged D200, D250 and D300 thanks to their metric power outputs. If you want petrol power without a V8, you’ll need the four-cylinder P300 or the six-cylinder P400 mild-hybrid.

The P400e is a full plug-in hybrid that can only be had in long wheelbase 110 form and combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a 105kW electric motor for a maximum of 398bhp and 472lb ft of torque. A 19.2kWh lithium-ion battery means up to 27 miles of EV range (or just over 20 if we’re talking real-world).

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Acceleration doesn't feel too hidebound by the weight no matter what engine you end up with (although we’d probably avoid the P300 petrol), at least up to 60mph. From then on progress is slightly limited by the brick-outhouse aerodynamic profile. It'll cruise on the motorway, but it can't snappily slot into a quick outside-lane gap unless you’ve gone full-fat.

It's generally a quiet thing, the new Defender, the engines are soft when not worked hard and tyre and suspension noise is pretty distant, particularly in the 110. A roof rack and knobbly off-road tyres will add noise and drag, mind. As will a trailer – which reminds us, the towing capacity is 3,500kg.

Overall then, it feels like a heavy luxury crossover. Honest. Then you turn off the road. Suddenly it's a whole different machine.

Tell me more about off-roading...

Articulation, traction, wading, ascents, descents, side-slopes, mud, sand. It's not just that it surmounts and traverses and dismisses all these obstacles, it's the effortlessness that amazes you. The hardware – axles, air suspension, anti-roll, gear ratios, diffs, tyres – works as an indefatigable harmonious whole. Overlaid on that is the software, and Land Rover is better at this than anyone. The launch and traction control systems, the slow-speed throttle control, the underbody cameras, they all make your job so much easier.

Plus, you can choose your Terrain Response mode yourself, or you can stick it in Auto and let the car do it for you, at which point it’ll cycle through the modes constantly to find the most grip in every given situation. It can be a strange experience handing over control to the computers, but they really are rather good at this sort of stuff.

Don’t believe us? Click here to see what happened when we took one of the very first new Defenders across Namibia…

Highlights from the range

the fastest

5.0 P500 V8 130 5dr Auto [8 Seat]
  • 0-62
  • CO2
  • BHP493.5
  • MPG
  • Price£114,185

the cheapest

2.0 P300 SE 90 3dr Auto
  • 0-628s
  • CO2224.0g/km
  • BHP296.4
  • MPG
  • Price£48,460

the greenest

3.0 P400 X 90 3dr Auto [6 Seat]
  • 0-626.3s
  • CO2219.0g/km
  • BHP394.3
  • MPG
  • Price£74,405

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