BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Car Review

Land Rover Defender 90

£ N/A
Published: 19 Mar 2021


What is it like to drive?

The 90 isn't significantly different on the road from the 110. And that's a really good thing. The Defender doesn't drive down a road like a hardcore off-roader. 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, 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 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.

The six-cylinder diesel is far more refined than your typical clodhopping four. Depending on the trim, it comes in 200, 250 and 300-horse outputs, with between 369 and 479lb ft of torque. Really, that's plenty. The base P200 engine is a four, but a reasonably refined one. You probably want the P400 six. Well you probably want the V8, but you don't need it.

All are autos, and it's a smooth box. All are mild-hybrid, which saves a bit of fuel and provides smooth and prompt start-stop in town.

It's generally a quiet thing, the engine soft when it's not worked hard, the tyre and suspension noise pretty distant. A roof rack and knobbly off-road tyres will add noise and drag, mind.

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

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 90's shorter wheelbase versus the 110 is handy for snaking around trees and boulders. Even without the air-suspension to levitate the body in extreme circs, it's amazing. Remember, ground clearance between the wheels is determined by the wishbones, and raising the air springs wouldn't help that. Of course you don't get the advantage of using air to increase your breakover, but in the SWB that angle is so insanely good anyway it's seldom a worry.

The engine and autobox dispense torque gingerly when you need to ease across slippery mud, but with vim when you're pointing up a precipitous slope. Traction is awesome. Clearance and articulation pretty colossal. Wading depth almost scary. Downhill control near-supernatural.

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