Sometimes vehicles get second or third chances. The Land Rover Defender, absent from the new car landscape for several years, returned not too long as a new model.
For 2023, the off-road slanted sport utility vehicle is further customizable to appease any adventurer.
The two-door Defender 90 and four-door Defender 110 have been joined by the extended-length Defender 130. The threesome’s base level starting prices range from $53,400 to $68,000. The top-line Defender has three rows of seating in a 3-2-3 configuration.
As a midsized luxury SUV, the Land Rover Defender is available in three body styles and three engine choices as well as several trims with multiple option packages.
It’s also unique because it’s in a segment alone. The Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler are marketed for off-road treks, but the Land Rover is more powerful, more luxurious and more expensive. The Lexus GX is also touted for its off-road capabilities, but its technology and other modern-style features don’t compare to the Defender’s offerings.
The reviewed Land Rover Defender 110 personifies the brand’s reputation inside and outside. The interior is simple and appealing with a spacious, rugged design. Land Rover’s recent vehicles aren’t as boxy as older models featured in movies on set in deserts or jungles. But the overall theme remains, including top prices nearly double the entry-level numbers when the SUVs are properly equipped.
The driven Defender had a 5.0-liter, 518 horsepower V8 engine, propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Gas mileage averages are dismal, 14 miles per gallon in city driving, 19 mpg on the highways. The maximum towing capacity is 8,201 pounds with available advanced tow assist.
A twin-speed transfer box, Terrain Response with off-road drive modes, LED headlights and taillights and rear fog lights give the Defender its impressive night-driving savvy.
Rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, wireless charging, two USB ports and two 12V power sockets add to the vehicle’s proficiency. The 700-watt Meridian surround sound system is top-line.
The standard infotainment system features the Pivi Pro system with an 11.4-inch touchscreen loaded with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, HD Radio and navigation.
Safety is a Land Rover strong point. The Defender includes a driver condition monitor, emergency braking, a 360-degree camera, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and wade-sensing (vehicle-mounted sonar pulses that help navigate streams or flooded roads.)
With its tall profile, the Defender offers a spacious interior, front seat and back. Overall vision is excellent, thus part of the vehicle’s popularity in remote areas a trademark since the British brand’s debut in 1948.
Land Rover vehicles aren’t known for keen acceleration or smooth rides. The Defender 110 accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds. Once at cruising speed, smooth rides rule for front-seat occupants. Back-seat passengers don’t have the same experience. All imperfections, on and off-road will be felt; nothing is absorbed.
The Defender has a few small but impressive touches. If equipped with air suspension, the ride height can be lowered from the cargo area to ease the task of loading heavy stuff. Also helpful is a swing-out tailgate; it opens toward the curb. The spare tire is mounted on the tailgate for easy access. It’s heavy and partially obscures the rear window view.
As a luxury SUV, the Land Rover has much to offer, but its price prompts a pause. With full packages, taxes and destination fees included, the Defender costs $109,970. It’s too much for a vehicle at its best where it’s viewed less.