2020 Land Rover Defender

2020 Land Rover Defender Review: A Triumphant Return

by Karl Furlong

After an extended hiatus, the Land Rover Defender marks its return to North American soil with an all-new model that has little in common with the last one to be sold here. For some brand loyalists, this is a problem, as the new Defender appears a lot softer than before. Its stylish retro-modern design conceals genuine off-roading chops, though, with Land Rover's Terrain Response and all-wheel-drive system ensuring supreme confidence when the tarmac turns to gravel and mud. And, unlike the beloved old Defender, this one isn't offensively unrefined when undertaking a trip to the mall. At the top of the range, a turbocharged inline-six with mild-hybrid tech produces nearly 400 horsepower, guaranteeing rapid performance. For customers considering a fully loaded Jeep Wrangler, the base Defender is a strong alternative with its more prestigious badge and legendary Land Rover ruggedness.

🚙What’s New For 2020?

The 2020 Land Rover Defender is an all-new model this year and a return of the Defender nameplate in the United States. The Defender's unique appearance retains the boxiness associated with the old model but is clearly a modern product with its attractive LED light clusters. Both two-door (Defender 90) and four-door (Defender 110) versions are offered, with the latter able to seat up to seven occupants. Two powertrains are offered: the P300 with a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four, and a P400 with a 3.0-liter turbo-six featuring 48-volt hybrid assistance and tuned to produce 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Every model has four-wheel drive fitted as standard, while Land Rover says that the monocoque architecture has three times the torsional rigidity of a more rudimentary body-on-frame design. Worth noting is that the S, HSE, and X models are only arriving in the summer, while production of the Defender 90 has been delayed.

Pros and Cons

  • The Defender is back, and better than ever
  • Retro styling is smart and sophisticated
  • Supreme off-road capability
  • Now also comfortable on the road
  • Wide scope for customization
  • Rugged and spacious interior
  • Optional extras can get really expensive
  • If you want an opulent-feeling cabin, this isn't it
  • Defender 90s' cargo capacity isn't great
  • Six-pot engine suffers from some turbo lag

2020 Land Rover Defender Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
110
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$49,900
110 S
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$53,350
110 SE
3.0-liter Twincharged Inline-6 Hybrid
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$62,250
90 First Edition
3.0-liter Twincharged Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$65,100
110 HSE
3.0-liter Twincharged Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$68,350

Defender Exterior

The squared-off new Defender is a pleasing blend of modern and classic Land Rover. The two-door model is the sportier of the two, but that doesn't mean the four-door is dumpy-looking. The base model has standard features like LED headlights, power-folding door mirrors, and 18-inch white steel wheels with all-season tires which gives it a much plainer look than higher-spec trims; however, in the context of an off-roading vehicle like the Defender, it works well. The First Edition models have front fog lights, signature DRLs, a folding fabric roof (on the 90), a sliding panoramic roof (on the 110), and 20-inch wheels. The Defender X 110 also has a sliding panoramic roof.

2020 Land Rover Defender Front Angle View Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Side View Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Front Angle View 1 Land Rover
See All 2020 Land Rover Defender Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Both the Defender 90 and 110 share a width of 82.9 inches, including the side mirrors. However, they differ in most other aspects. The 90 has a 101.9-inch wheelbase and a length of 180.4 inches including the exposed spare wheel mounted at the back. This makes it over 13 inches longer than the Jeep Wrangler. The 110 is naturally a lot longer, with a 118.9-inch wheelbase and a total length of 197.6 inches, once again including the spare. The 90 has a height of 77.5 inches, with the 110 nearly as tall at 77.4 inches.

Off-roading prowess is a given and the maximum ground clearance of 11.5 inches with a wading depth of 35.4 inches speaks to this. The approach/departure/ramp angles of the Defender 90 works out to 38/40/31 degrees; the Defender 110 matches these numbers but has a lower ramp angle of 28 degrees.

The Defender isn't a light vehicle in any respect, starting at a curb weight of 4,815 pounds for the Defender 110 P300 five-seater and stretching all the way to 5,385 lbs for the Defender X 110 when equipped with seven seats.

  • Length 197.6 in
  • Wheelbase 119.0 in
  • Height 77.4 in
  • Max Width 79.1 in
  • Front Width 67.1 in
  • Rear Width 66.9 in

Exterior Colors

To mark the arrival of the new Land Rover Defender, the First Edition models are painted in a distinctive Pangea Green Metallic shade. On the Defender 90, this color is contrasted with a white roof while the Defender 110 has a black contrast roof. On the base Defender, there is a lot more choice, starting with the default Fuji White. Following this are six metallic paint options at $710 each. They are Indus Silver, Pangea Green (as found on the First Edition), Gondwana Stone, Eiger Grey, Tasman Blue, and Santorini Black. For nearly $4,880 more, a Satin Protective Film can be optioned on some, but not all, of the available colors. Go for the Defender X, and you also get a black contrast roof and hood.

  • Indus Silver Metallic
  • Eiger Grey Metallic
  • Santorini Black Metallic
  • Pangea Green Metallic
  • Gondwana Stone Metallic
  • Tasman Blue Metallic
  • Fuji White

Defender Performance

Although designed to effortlessly clamber over pretty much any off-road obstacle you can throw at it, the Defender's two powertrains endow it with enough performance to keep pace on the road, too. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is turbocharged and produces 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the bigger 3.0-liter turbocharged six-pot with mild-hybrid tech has a meatier 395 hp and 406 lb-ft to play with. All models are four-wheel drive and the base version should manage the 0-60 mph sprint in 7.7 seconds before reaching a top speed of 119 mph. The quickest model is the smaller Defender 90 paired with the bigger engine, which can reach 60 mph in a rapid 5.7 seconds. However, the fastest top speed - not that most owners will ever be pushing these limits in the Defender - is 129 mph when the 110 is equipped with the bigger engine and 22-inch wheels. With the six-cylinder engine, the towing capacity is up to 8,201 lbs. A plusher and more luxury-oriented SUV like the BMW X3 can't tow as much but accelerates more quickly than the Defender. However, the Defender is both faster and can tow much more than the Jeep Wrangler.

2020 Land Rover Defender Front View Driving Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Side View Driving Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Infotainment System Land Rover

Engine and Transmission

The Defender's base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the more powerful 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo with mild-hybrid tech generates 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. All models make use of an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.

Although it may not be the fastest SUV at its price, even the base version provides smooth and fuss-free acceleration around town and acceptable passing power, although it does have to work fairly hard at higher speeds considering the Defender's weight. The bigger engine's mild-hybrid system benefits both economy and emissions by harvesting, storing, and redeploying energy. In addition to a twin-scroll turbocharger, this engine is bolstered by a 48-volt electric supercharger. Naturally, this powertrain feels a lot more energetic and pairs just as well with the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission that is standard on every variant. That said, the 3.0L does demonstrate some initial turbo lag.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.0-liter Twincharged Inline-6 Gas, 3.0-liter Twincharged Inline-6 Hybrid
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    4X4

Handling and Driving Impressions

As standard, the Defender features an electronic air suspension with adaptive dynamics, a two-speed transfer case, and the brand's Terrain Response system. These technologies, along with the unibody construction, combine for an SUV that is both comfortable on-road and highly capable off-road. It delivers a smooth and refined ride, ironing out most bumps before they reach the cabin. The steering rack is light enough for easy maneuverability in town but has decent weighting at higher speeds, too.

Off-road, the Defender shines. The twin-speed transfer box helps the big SUV overcome steep inclines and declines. Across terrains like snow or sand, the intelligent all-wheel-drive system sends up to 100 percent engine torque to the relevant axle to increase traction. Land Rover's Terrain Response System adjusts transmission, engine, and chassis settings based on the mode chosen, such as Mud & Ruts and Rock Crawl. Additionally, an electronic active differential is optional and enhances traction by managing the slip between the left/right rear wheels.

Defender Gas Mileage

The benefit of the 3.0-liter's mild-hybrid system is clear, as even though this model is significantly more powerful than the 2.0-liter, it is more efficient in some cases. The Defender 90 with the 2.0L has the best economy in the range, returning an EPA-rated 18/21/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The Defender 90 with the 3.0L returns a nearly identical 17/22/19 mpg. In the larger 110, the 3.0L (17/22/19 mpg) is actually rated as more efficient than the 2.0L (17/20/18 mpg). In the Defender 90, a 23.4-gallon gas tank should allow for a maximum range of around 445 miles, while the Defender 110's marginally larger 23.8-gallon gas tank increases the range to 452 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    23.8 Gallons
* 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 AWD

Defender Interior

The Defender's target market is clear when you get inside the cabin. Devoid of glossy surfaces and the glitz of some rivals, the strong horizontal lines and hardy materials are what you'd expect in an off-road-focused SUV. There are also well-positioned grab handles, useful since many owners will be clambering in and out when the Defender could be parked at some compromising angles. It's a highly configurable space, with the choice of two front seats in a walk-through cabin, a front jump seat, and a seven-seater layout in the 110. Fortunately, the latest Defender is not nearly as basic as the previous model offered here, with standard features such as semi-powered front seats, a modern infotainment system, a 360-degree parking aid, lane keep assist, and wireless device charging. Higher up in the range, features like heated/cooled seats in classy Windsor leather and a sliding panoramic sunroof make an appearance.

2020 Land Rover Defender Dashboard Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Front Seats Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Front Seats 1 Land Rover
See All 2020 Land Rover Defender Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Defender seats either five, six, or seven (in the case of the 110) occupants depending on the layout chosen. While the five-seater layout is standard, a front jump seat can be specified which increases seating capacity to six, or the 110 can be had with a third row for a total of seven seats in a 5+2 configuration. The 110 can't be had with the front jump seat and the third row - you'll need to choose between one or the other. In the 110, the headroom and legroom in the first two rows are excellent, although the middle jump seat is narrower than the two outer front seats. The optional third row will be uncomfortable for adults, as is so often the case with a seven-seater layout. Second-row legroom in the shorter Defender 90 drops by around 2.5 inches over the 110, so bear this in mind if you'll often be carrying rear-seat passengers. The standard cloth seats have eight-way partial power-adjustability in front and prove comfortable, even on lengthier trips. Moving up to the S introduces higher-quality Robust Woven Textile seat upholstery, while upper trims have leather. The Defender's blocky stature generally equates to good visibility from the driver's seat.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 39.1 in
  • Front Head Room 40.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 39.1 in
  • Rear Head Room 40.4 in

Interior Colors and Materials

Land Rover goes for a more durable approach with the base Defender. This variant gets cloth seats in Ebony, along with rubber cabin flooring and a rubber cargo area floor. Fortunately, both the gearshift lever and steering wheel are leather-wrapped. Even this base model has access to Windsor leather seats, but this upgrade is a pricey $5,425 - it does add further features like heated/cooled front seats, though. The First Edition has more luxurious Ebony Grained leather and Robust Woven Textile seat facings. Lighter Acorn and Khaki interior color schemes are offered, too. On the HSE and X, the seats are upholstered in Windsor leather. The X gets especially striking Vintage Tan/Ebony seats.

Defender Trunk and Cargo Space

The Defender 90 may be the sportier-looking of the two variants, but it suffers when it comes to cargo capacity, with just 15.6 cubic feet of space behind its second row. Then again, that's still more than what the Jeep Wrangler offers. By folding down the 40/20/40-split folding rear seats, total cargo capacity grows to a much more useful 58.3 cubes. The Defender 110 has a minimal 10.7 cubes behind its optional third row of seats, but either 34 (five-seater) or 34.6 cubes (seven-seater) behind its second row. Total cargo space in the 110 increases to 78.8 (five-seater) or 69 cubes (seven-seater) behind the first row.

In-cabin storage is pretty good and comprises an average-sized glovebox, twin front cupholders, and an overhead storage compartment for your sunglasses. There are other open storage compartments dotted about the cabin, such as the horizontal space directly ahead of the front-seat passenger. The door bins are well-sized and, on five-seater versions, there is a useful center console. If you opt for the middle front jump seat, you get less center-console storage when it's folded, although this seat does still have twin cupholders integrated into its back.

2020 Land Rover Defender Front Seats 2 Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Front View Land Rover
2020 Land Rover Defender Side View 1 Land Rover

Defender Infotainment and Features

Features

The base Defender isn't badly equipped and gets features like LED head- and taillights, power-folding mirrors, puddle lights, and rain-sensing wipers. It's also equipped with most of Land Rover's off-road gear like the Terrain Response system, hill launch assist, a two-speed transfer case, and hill descent control. Inside, this version has eight-way semi-powered front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 3D surround-view camera system, driver condition monitoring, blind spot assist, and 360-degree parking aid. Moving up to the Defender S adds leather-upholstered seats with 12-way semi-power adjustability in front, a 12.3-inch interactive driver's display, and auto high-beam assist. Higher up in the range, things get a lot more advanced with features such as a head-up display, a ClearSight interior rearview mirror, heated and cooled front seats, and a sliding panoramic roof. The Defender X is fitted with an electronic active differential as standard.

Infotainment

Land Rover's all-new infotainment system is dubbed Pivi Pro and makes use of a single ten-inch central touchscreen. This is in contrast to the manufacturer's older Touch Pro Duo system, found on models like the Range Rover Sport, which uses dual touchscreens. Most of the time, dual screens don't work as fluidly as you'd think, so the transition to a single screen is a good move. The screen is easily accessible and response times are an improvement over the brand's older system. Over-the-air updates are also possible. The new Pivi Pro software extends to the 12.3-inch high-definition driver's display, which is equipped to some trims. It has crisp graphics and offers full-screen 3D map-view navigation. Every model has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, navigation, and multiple USB/12-volt sockets. SiriusXM satellite radio is standard on upper trims. The base model and S have a six-speaker sound system with 180 watts of power while moving up to the SE introduces a 400-watt, ten-speaker Meridian sound system. On the Defender X, a head-up display and a 700-watt, 14-speaker Meridian sound system are fitted.

Defender Problems and Reliability

No recalls have yet been issued for the 2020 Land Rover Defender and, as a new model, we'll have to see how dependable it turns out to be after more time has passed. We do hope that the Defender improves upon reliability ratings relative to other Land Rover products, such as the Range Rover Sport, which holds a lowly 62 out of 100 score for quality/reliability from J.D. Power.

The Defender is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty which also includes the powertrain. Although a six-year corrosion-perforation warranty is also part of the package, complimentary scheduled maintenance is not.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    6 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

Defender Safety

The 2020 Land Rover Defender has yet to be evaluated for crashworthiness by either the IIHS or the NHTSA.

Key Safety Features

The last Defender to be sold here until 1997 was eventually forced to be discontinued as it couldn't meet updated US safety regulations at the time. Thankfully, that's not the case with the 2020 Defender. All models are fitted with six airbags comprising driver and passenger airbags, side-curtain airbags, and thorax airbags. This is in addition to several systems designed to ensure capable, safe off-roading, such as hill launch assist, low traction launch, and hill descent control. On the road, the Defender is kept on the straight and narrow by cornering brake control, electronic traction control, and dynamic stability control.

The driver assistance suite is comprehensive, too, with even the base model equipped with emergency braking, blind spot assist, a 3D surround camera, cruise control with a speed limiter, driver condition monitoring, lane keep assist, a 360-degree parking aid, traffic sign recognition, and wade sensing. Moving up through the trims adds advanced technologies like a clear exit monitor, rear traffic monitor, and a head-up display.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Land Rover Defender a good SUV?

Although today's Defender and the 1990s model last sold here share the same name, it doesn't make much sense to draw parallels between the two. Judged on its own merits as an off-road SUV for today's customer, the new Land Rover Defender gets a lot of things right. This is an exemplary off-roader that will go places where many other luxury SUVs would be left floundering. And yet, it's admirably capable on-road, cruising with smoothness and the assurance expected at this price. Both engine options are powerful and refined, and we like the choice between the more youthful 90 and the more practical 110. Overall, it feels more sophisticated than the Jeep Wrangler with which it will undoubtedly be compared, but then again, the Land Rover is pricier. Overall, the new Defender strikes a fine balance between the rugged, off-road appeal of a Jeep and the sophistication and luxury found in Germany's more road-biased competitors.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Land Rover Defender?

The 2020 Land Rover Defender has a starting MSRP for the entry-level 110 of $49,900. Moving up to the S increases the price to $53,350, and this is followed by the SE at $62,250, the 90 First Edition at $65,100, 110 First Edition at $68,650, and the HSE at $68,350. Topping the range is the Defender X at $80,900 - when this model is fully loaded with options, its price exceeds $100,000. On the base trim, upgrading to the six-cylinder engine will add $12,350 to the price.

All these prices are for the 110, besides the First Edition price, which is for the smaller 90. More derivatives of the 90 are expected, but at the time of writing, Land Rover hadn't yet announced prices for these models. Furthermore, the S, HSE, and X trims will only arrive in summer 2020.

All prices exclude tax, licensing, registration, and a delivery charge of $1,025.

2020 Land Rover Defender Models

The 2020 Land Rover Defender is offered in a choice of six trims: base, S, SE, HSE, First Edition, and X. The base model and the S are powered by the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine but can be upgraded to the 3.0-liter six-cylinder mild hybrid which is standard on every other trim. All models have all-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission, hill launch assist, and hill descent control.

The entry-level model ships with 18-inch steel wheels, LED headlights and taillights, power-folding mirrors, and a side-hinged tailgate. Inside, it has dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker audio system, eight-way semi-powered front seats, and safety technologies like blind spot assist, lane keep assist, and 360-degree parking aid.

Moving up to the Defender S adds 19-inch wheels, an interactive driver display, leather upholstery, and 12-way semi-powered front seats.

The SE has 20-inch wheels, premium LED headlights with signature DRLs, front fog lights, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, and an upgraded ten-speaker Meridian sound system.

Next in line is the HSE which ships with a sliding panoramic roof, 14-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, Windsor leather upholstery, and extended leather.

The First Edition is uniquely finished in Pangea Green Metallic paint, with the two-door 90 having a white contrast roof. This trim also has 20-inch wheels, black roof rails, First Edition badging, and 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating.

Finally, the range-topping Defender X is also the most capable model in the range with its Terrain Response 2 system and an electronic active differential. It also gets a head-up display and a 14-speaker Meridian surround sound system.

See All 2020 Land Rover Defender Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

A true off-roader needs to be adaptable to the needs of a varied customer base, so Land Rover has made sure that the new Defender is widely customizable. For instance, there are four accessory packs - Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban - to choose from. On the base 110, for instance, the $4,800 Explorer Pack adds a matte black hood decal, wheel arch protection, and a raised air intake, which is perfect for sandy conditions. Staying with the base model, an Off-Road Pack for $1,345 adds off-road tires, an electronic differential, and a domestic plug socket. For $700, the Cold Climate Pack adds heating to the windshield, steering wheel, and washer jets. More driver-assist gear can be accessed via the $1,275 Driver Assist Pack with a clear exit monitor, adaptive cruise control, and rear traffic monitoring.

Even the range-topping Defender X can be comprehensively upgraded. On this model, the $895 Towing Pack adds a tow hitch receiver and advanced tow assist. For a sportier look, the $1,700 Appearance Pack includes a spare wheel cover, wheel arch protection, and a body protection kit. There are many standalone options too. On the X trim, three-zone climate control is $1,075, a Wi-Fi hotspot is $360, and upgrading to the seven-seater layout will cost $1,800.

🚗What Land Rover Defender Model Should I Buy?

At $49,900, the entry-level Defender 110 offers most of the off-roading kit of more expensive models, lots of space, and just enough features to keep everyone happy. It may not look as flashy as pricier trims, but the Defender is one of the few Land Rovers that works well in a more basic, utilitarian trim. Of course, the sporty Defender 90 is a fantastic off-roader for buyers who don't need quite as much space, and it looks great. At over $80,000, the Defender X is far more expensive, so it's just as well that Land Rover has made the electronic differential and other equipment on this model available lower down in the range, too. In summary, depending on your needs and budget, you could make a strong case for any of these trims. If you can stretch to the First Edition, it's a decent pick as it offers the bigger engine and a long features list.

2020 Land Rover Defender Comparisons

Jeep Wrangler Jeep
Toyota Land Cruiser CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Land Rover Defender296 hpTBC$49,900
Jeep Wrangler 285 hp17/25 mpg$28,295
Toyota Land Cruiser 381 hp13/17 mpg$85,415

2020 Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep name instantly conjures up vivid images of dirt trails, scaling impossible boulders, and wading through deep water. It's not by chance that Jeep is so closely associated with adventurous treks into the unknown; it's that vehicles like the Wrangler are amazingly capable off-roaders. Jeep has also adhered closely to the stylistic traits that have made its SUVs so popular, and the Wrangler offers the unique option of removing the doors and roof. However, the Jeep is outgunned by the newer Defender in the power stakes - the Wrangler's 285-hp V6 engine is strong, but it can't compete with the Land Rover's 395-hp 3.0-liter six-pot. Not only is the Land Rover quicker, but it can tow a lot more too. The Defender is also a lot more refined on the road and is far better equipped, but it does start at close to double the price of the base Wrangler. So, if you're considering a fully-loaded Wrangler, you may want to look at the new Defender instead, which is the better overall SUV. But, when it comes to off-road chops, the Wrangler may still be king.

See Jeep Wrangler Review

2020 Land Rover Defender vs Toyota Land Cruiser

While the Jeep Wrangler is a smaller and cheaper competitor, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a larger and more expensive alternative to the Defender. Although the Land Cruiser feels unstoppable and performs brilliantly off-road, it seems ungainly and looks its age alongside the newer Defender. With a massive V8 under the hood and plenty of weight to lug around, the Land Cruiser is slower and much heavier on fuel than the Defender, and it can only seat one extra passenger. The Defender's far more modern infotainment system also outshines the Land Cruiser's outdated system which doesn't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A significant aspect in the Toyota's favor is reliability, where Land Rover doesn't have the greatest reputation. This matters when you're spending days or even weeks in the great outdoors. But despite this, we'd rather have the Defender.

See Toyota Land Cruiser Review

Land Rover Defender Popular Comparisons

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2020 Land Rover Defender Video Reviews

Check out some informative Land Rover Defender video reviews below.

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Photos
$49,900 - $80,900
Price Range (MSRP)
Land Rover Defender