Because this new Defender will steal high trim Wrangler sales.
The Land Rover Defender is an automotive icon but for the past 20 years, you haven't been able to buy one in the United States. Well, know you can, because the all-new 2020 Defender has just been revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show and for the first time in decades, it is actually an all-new model. The Defender joins an already crowded Land Rover lineup with similarly-priced models like the more practical Discovery and the more luxurious Range Rover Velar.
It may seem like Land Rover is trying to slice the SUV pie a bit too thin, but automakers like Jeep and Toyota have proved people are willing to pay top dollar for luxuriously appointed off-roaders. The old Defender basically felt like driving farm equipment but this new model should attract a new generation of off-road enthusiasts.
There are bound to be people out there who hate this new Defender, purely based on the fact it isn't the old Defender (which looked basically the same for decades). But we are in love with this new design, which reminds us of all the best retro off-roaders like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen and Toyota FJ Cruiser. Land Rover wanted the new Defender to stay true to its heritage without being dictated by it.
The boxy shape and unique headlight/taillight designs look like no other vehicle on the road and we love that Land Rover will even build a work van version and offer steel wheels as an option if you like a truly basic SUV. We do prefer the two-door 90 model but the four-door 110 looks pretty cool as well as and will doubtless be the more popular of the two. Toss in some off-road colors like green and brown and we'd say the Defender is a styling win.
The original Defender was completely devoid of technology - sure it offered A/C, a heater, and a radio, but you could rarely count on any of them to work properly. This new model has leaped into the future but without ditching its roots completely. There are some old school touches, like an optional middle seat up front that folds to become an armrest - that's a feature you rarely see on base pickup trucks anymore. Clearly this new Defender may not be perfect for someone who wants the typical modern Land Rover experience and those buyers should probably get a Velar.
But for someone who is shopping for a high trim Wrangler or 4Runner, this new Defender could hit the sweet spot of luxury and old school. The four-door 110 model comes in five, six, or 5+2 seating configurations, so you can even take the whole family along on an off-road excursion.
In typical modern Land Rover fashion, the new Defender will be offered with several drivetrain options. The base powertrain will be called the P300 and use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque good for 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 119 mph. From there, you can upgrade to the P400 with a 3.0-liter turbocharged mild-hybrid inline-six producing 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque good for 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. A full hybrid model will be added to the mix later on.
All models send power out to all-wheel-drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission. As you'd expect of a Land Rover, the Defender was built with off-roading in mind and as you can see from the press photos, the company expects you to get it dirty. There are plenty of tools to help novice off-roaders such as a 3D surround camera, wade sensing, and a speed limiter.
Pricing for the base 110 P300 model with steel wheels starts at $49,900 while the more powerful P400 starts at $62,250. The highest 110 X P400 trim starts at a more wallet-shredding $80,900 and going heavy with the options can easily push it near the six-figure mark. Jeep and Toyota won't have to worry about the high-trim Defender models but the base one might bring pause to anyone shopping for a well-optioned Wrangler or 4Runner. Those two vehicles can easily reach the $50,000 mark and there could be plenty of buyers who would stretch their budget into a Land Rover for the added brand prestige.
The next-closest competitor is the Mercedes-Benz G-Glass, which starts at a whopping $124,500. This puts the Defender in a great position to split the difference between the more affordable Wrangler and 4Runner and the expensive Benz.