Land Rover Defender 90 - long-term review - Report No:5 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 27th September
Long-term review

Land Rover Defender 90 - long-term review

£51,295/£74,146/£1004 pcm
Published: 01 Jul 2022


  • SPEC

    90 D250



  • BHP


  • 0-62


Uh-oh: our Land Rover Defender may have broken down


We’re not long into our journey and the Defender has thrown up a 'low coolant' warning. And now we’re stopped – is that steam? We pull over and pop the bonnet. It’s a hot day and we’re not taking any chances.

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A thorough scout of the engine bay doesn’t reveal anything drastic, just a meaningful amount of Flubber-green liquid sat atop some plastic trim. It’s dripping slowly onto a hot part of the engine. That’ll be the steam. The coolant level is sat below the minimum fill line. No cracks, no loose hoses. Not to worry – it’s had tougher working conditions than a Welsh sheep farmer, this thing. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

So, a quick top up (the old Defender behind us is, naturally, carrying 5 litres of coolant) and we’re on our way. The temp indicator hasn’t budged off the middle of the gauge.

Fast forward 24 hours, and on a descent from Sugar Loaf mountain’s National Trust car park, the amber coolant warning bongs again. It’s dropped a litre and a half overnight, so we top up and cover the short distance home.

Day three involves a 60-mile jaunt across to Wales to Bristol. We’re a bit paranoid by this point, but the car appears to be holding coolant and temps remain constant. Regular checks en route show we’re holding liquid – and there’s a little intermittent dribble from the expansion tank overflow. To be expected as the car warms and levels settle.

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Our route takes us past Sytner Land Rover of Bristol (not so much a dealership as a sprawling luxurious mall…) so we try our chances and call in, maintaining generic customer credentials.

A few eyebrows are raised as we creep slowly past the lines of Premiership-spec Range Rovers and onto the polished tiled floors of the service centre in the world’s muddiest new Defender. I feel like I’ve walked into my parents’ living room in hiking boots. Sytner are helpful, mustering up a JLR tech for a once-over, but they can’t fit the car in for quite a while. They point us to Land Rover Assist, suggesting we’re clear to head home and call them out.

LR Assist attend within the hour. A bit of back and forth with a senior LR technician on the phone and a possible internal crack in the charge cooler is proposed. The first available dealer appointment though? Two months away. Yeesh. LR Assist assure me they’ll call back with a loan vehicle and – true to their word – they’ve mustered up a Discovery 5 HSE within 24 hours. Phew.

Alas, we’ve got big plans with the Defender and pages to fill so it’s time to pull some strings and the car’s fast marched back to Land Rover UK HQ for a health check. Diagnosis? A cracked cap on the coolant expansion tank. Hmm. Now it's back and repaired, we'll be keeping a close eye on it.

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