2021 Land Rover Defender

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2021 Land Rover Defender Test Drive Review: The 21st Century Off-Roader

You wait twenty years for a new Land Rover Defender, then two come along in the space of a few months. The 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 only landed in the US in June, but buyers can already opt for the three-door 90 introduced for 2021. That's the model we recently got to sample in the UK, where we spent an intensive couple of days in the English countryside, putting the 90 to the test at Land Rover's Gaydon and Eastnor proving grounds.

Just a couple of weeks after giving the 110 a proper going over in the Californian desert, we were keen to see if the shorter, trendier Defender 90 could match its bigger brother. Our first taste was of the range-topping X P400, finished in Gondwana Stone with a black roof, 20-inch wheels, and a circa 400-horsepower 3.0-liter six-cylinder powerplant. From looks alone, this is the Defender to get, but having spent time cruising along the highway, threading through villages and subjecting the car to some serious off-roading, under the handsome facade is a complex, highly competent machine. Just ask the stunt guys and girls working on the new James Bond film, No Time To Die.

To hammer that point home, a morning tackling grueling off-road terrain in an Indus Silver 90 SE P300 on coil springs powered by a 2.0-liter four-pot revealed that whether you are after an SUV that will show up your neighbor's Wrangler or a true off-roader for serious work, Land Rover offers a Defender in a variety of flavors to suit your needs.

Read in this review:

8.1
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2021 Land Rover Defender Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Defender?

2021 officially marks the second model year for the latest Land Rover Defender. After a limited 2020 release, the range has now expanded with the addition of more three-door Defender 90 variants in base, S, X-Dynamic S, and X trims. It's the smaller 90 that we got to experience here, with 2020 production of this three-door model having being delayed initially. The X-Dynamic models are a new addition to the range and are offered on the larger Defender 110 as well. This trim comes with unique interior fittings to set it apart from other versions in the lineup. Hopefully, the broader range will bolster Defender sales.

Pros and Cons

  • Expanded Defender 90 lineup
  • Class-leading off-road capability
  • For a capable 4x4, refined on the highway, too
  • Seating for up to seven occupants
  • Appealingly rugged cabin design
  • Lots of personalization options
  • Average cargo space in Defender 90
  • Six-pot has noticeable turbo lag
  • Pricey extras

Best Deals on 2021 Land Rover Defender

2021 Land Rover Defender Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
90
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$46,100
90 S
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$49,400
110
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$50,500
110 S
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$53,800
90 X-Dynamic S
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$57,800
See All 2021 Land Rover Defender Trims and Specs

2021 Defender Exterior

2021 Land Rover Defender Frontal Aspect Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Aft View Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Side View Land Rover
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Dimensions

  • Length 180.4 in
  • Wheelbase 101.9 in
  • Height 77.5 in
  • Max Width 79.1 in
  • Front Width 67.1 in
  • Rear Width 66.9 in
  • Curb Weight 4,550.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Eiger Grey Metallic +$710
  • Pangea Green Metallic +$710
  • Gondwana Stone Metallic +$710
  • Yulong White Metallic +$710
  • Tasman Blue Metallic +$710
  • Santorini Black Metallic +$710
  • Hakuba Silver Metallic +$710
  • Carpathian Grey Premium Metallic +$1,050
  • Silicon Silver Premium Metallic +$1,050
  • Fuji White

2021 Defender Performance

2021 Land Rover Defender Front View Driving Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Rear View Driving Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Gearbox Controls CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

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

Handling and Driving Impressions

Land Rover has delivered on making the new model a more accomplished off-roader and a better on-road companion than it ever was before. The Defender has two very distinct sides as a result. From the lofty seating position, drivers will feel like they are dominating the road ahead, cruising in comfort and quiet on the highway thanks to buckets of torque, a silky eight-speed transmission, and adjustable air suspension. The ride quality is matched by incredible handling. You can't really chuck the 5,000-pound SUV around as you would a sports car, but it behaves brilliantly when asked, with excellent feedback through the steering, although the touchy brake pedal took some getting used to. Traction is also superb thanks to its full-time 4x4 system and torque vectoring. On the twisty 60-mph B-roads and later at Gaydon's proving grounds made up of 34 miles of roads and tracks, where we took the 90 X to its 120-mph top speed on the high-speed loop, entering and exiting corners at speed was surprisingly easy. There's even a Sport mode that sharpens the transmission and optimizes the powerplant if you want to really have some fun.

Taking the 90 X off-road revealed an entirely different skillset. Traversing Gaydon's broken surfaces, adverse cambers and rallycross was a doddle for the Defender, which is why Land Rover invited us to Eastnor to tackle the harshest of terrain in a 90 SE 300P. Over 66 miles of managed trails in the grounds of Eastnor Castle is where every Defender's off-road credentials have been tested for decades. We spent two hours clambering over rocks and mud, wading through deep water, and tackling steep slippery inclines. The configurable Terrain Response 2 boasts a selection of off-road programs accessible via the Pivi Pro touchscreen, including 'Mud & Ruts' and 'Grass, Gravel, Snow,' setting the Defender up perfectly for the conditions faced. Auto-locking center and rear differentials, over 11 inches of ground clearance, and all-terrain Goodyear rubber made light work of terrain that would beat most cars.

The Defender is so easy to maneuver too. Visibility is superb, and when you are challenged, external cameras can be set to 'off-road', which shows close-ups of the front wheels as you move through tight spots. Easily the most capable off-road car we've ever tested, we can only imagine how the turbocharged and supercharged inline-six would have fared off the beaten track.

2021 Defender Interior

2021 Land Rover Defender Interior Overview Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Infotainment System Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Insignia Land Rover
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 39.0 in
  • Front Head Room 40.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 36.6 in
  • Rear Head Room 40.4 in

2021 Defender Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Land Rover Defender Trunk Space Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Trunk Space 1 Land Rover
2021 Land Rover Defender Maximum Trunk Space Land Rover

2021 Defender Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender a good car?

Few cars offer such a breadth of ability as the Land Rover Defender. Combining peerless off-roading capabilities with an engaging drive on the pavement, this is a go-anywhere vehicle in the truest sense. While the Wrangler comes close, the Defender takes off-roading to another level all wrapped in a far more premium package. It also looks better than the similarly-priced Discovery. If you're concerned about buying the first year of a new generation, we imagine that 2021 models would have ironed out any kinks found in the 2020s. Remember this is a car that Land Rover has spent billions of dollars and years of work bringing to fruition. From the all-new chassis and elegant design to the brand new electrical architecture and new Terrain Response system, the individual elements of the Defender stand up to criticism on their own. The fact they can all be found in one car is even more impressive.

2021 Land Rover Defender Comparisons

Jeep Wrangler Jeep
Land Rover Discovery Land Rover
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Land Rover Defender296 hp18/21 mpg$48,700
Jeep Wrangler 285 hp17/25 mpg$29,995
Land Rover Discovery 296 hp19/22 mpg$55,000

2021 Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler

With a starting price of under $30,000, the Jeep Wrangler is a far more affordable alternative for adventurers on a tighter budget. Like the Defender, the Jeep is offered in three- or five-door configurations, but only the Defender can seat more than five occupants. The Wrangler is one of the best off-roaders in any guise, and the ability to remove its doors and roof is a novel feature that makes it appealing to outdoor enthusiasts. However, the Defender is similarly capable across harsh terrain yet is smoother and more refined for daily use. Although the five-door Wrangler comes with the option of a torquey turbo-diesel with 442 lb-ft of torque, the Jeep doesn't offer the same potent acceleration of the Defender with its 395-hp six-cylinder engine. There is also far more cargo space in the Defender, plus a more advanced suite of driver aids such as adaptive cruise control is offered within the Defender range. The much cheaper Wrangler still offers plenty of appeal, but we'd rather have the Defender, which combines off-road ability with a more premium feel.

See Jeep Wrangler Review

2021 Land Rover Defender vs Land Rover Discovery

Higher up in the Land Rover hierarchy is the more luxurious Discovery. While the Discovery trades some of the Defender's boxy lines for a sleeker design, make no mistake, it's still a formidable off-roader. Although a 2021 facelift is on the way, we don't expect it to be dramatically different from the 2020 version, which begins with a 254-hp turbodiesel engine that offers similar performance to the base Defender. However, the top-spec Discovery isn't as potent off the mark as the six-cylinder Defender. Both models have the same maximum towing capacity, but the Defender has superior approach/departure/ramp angles and better ground clearance, so it's the more capable off-roader between these two. In terms of cago capacity, the Defender has a bit less space behind the second- and third rows. The newer Defender is more rugged and a better off-roader, while the Discovery will likely please those who spend more time on the asphalt.

See Land Rover Discovery Review

2021 Land Rover Defender Popular Comparisons

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