Smooth, quiet, comfortable. Just a few of the words you would never associate with the original Land Rover Defender.
That iconic 4x4 was famous for many things but its focus on passenger comfort wasn’t one of them. So it’s no surprise that when Land Rover reimagined the model for the 21st century that wasn’t one of the characteristics it carried over.
Now, despite its tough looks and rugged image, the Defender is an impressively comfortable and refined means of covering the miles.
Shorter passengers might need a stepladder to get in, even with the air suspension set to access height, but once inside this imposing machine offers acres of space for five in its leather and Robustec seats. There is abundant head, leg and even shoulder room and, in the long-wheelbase tested here, up to 853 litres of boot space for muddy wellies, dogs or shopping bags crammed with haute couture.
Part of the modern Defender’s appeal is that it has a very modern interpretation of the green oval’s rugged image that’s both sturdy and stylish. Interior elements such as the grab handles are oversized and clad in hard-wearing materials but are neatly designed and tactile. Touches like the exposed bolt heads are largely for show but there’s still an honest practicality to the layout and materials, and to the wealth of storage and power points.
The exterior is a similar affair. There’s the rough outline of its famous namesake but finished in a softer, chunkier style more in keeping with modern tastes. Our test car’s X-Dynamic S trim ups the urban appeal with a glossy black contrast roof, satin chrome highlights, darkened tail lights and orange brake calipers. There’s still no doubt, though, that this is a lot more capable than your average road-biased SUV and should you venture off road, it’s as able as anything to ever wear the famous badge thanks to the latest configurable version of the Terrain Response 2 system and chunky off-road tyres.
But it’s on the road where it really impresses. Those road-focused alternatives offer more precise handling and body control but once you get used to the overall size of the Defender and its softer on-road behaviour it’s the kind of smooth, refined machine in which you can make comfortable, confident progress for mile after mile. Light electronic steering makes directing this 2.5-tonne beast a breeze and the adaptive suspension mutes most road imperfections.
Under the bonnet our test car features one of a new generation of 2.0-litre hybrid powerplants.
Hybrids are generally supposed to offer improved economy over a regular petrol or diesel engine without sacrificing performance. The Defender PHEV certainly doesn’t want for performance. This big boxy 4x4 can cover the 0-62mph run in 5.6 seconds and feels spry and sprightly accelerating in any gear once on the move. That’s thanks to the 398bhp and 472lb ft being put out by its combined petrol/electric powertrain and sent, as you’d expect, to all four wheels.
While that arrangement makes for rapid on-road progress, it also gives plenty of low-down grunt that the complex Terrain Response 2 system can use to best effect if you head off road.
Where it doesn’t fare so well is in the economy stakes. Official tests put fuel consumption at 72-86mpg. In the real world, even with an occasional charge, our test car hovered around 30mpg. Of course, charge the car fully every day and you’ll be able to do around 25 miles just on battery power, saving petrol for longer trips, but it’s not going to be a cheap machine to run.
It’s not cheap to buy either. The 110 P400e X-Dynamic S like we tested starts at £72,200 and our particular car featured £7,840 of options, including 20-inch wheels, an opening panoramic sunroof, electronic active diff with torque vectoring and fancy mixed-material seats. Shockingly, even the Type 2 home charging cable was a £220 optional extra.
So you’ll need deep pockets to run one but if you have the money, the latest Defender is a spacious, comfortable and high tech machine. Other cars are better to drive but the Defender remains easygoing and refined and comes with the style and brand cachet buyers can’t seem to get enough of.
Land Rover Defender P400e Dynamic X
Price: £72,200 (£80,040 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol with 105kW electric motor; Power: 398bhp; Torque: 472lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 119mph; 0-62mph: 5.6 seconds; Economy: 72.4-85.6mpg; CO2 emissions: 74-88g/km; EV range: 25-27 miles
- Spacious and practical
- Huge off-road ability
- Poor economy
- Feels huge on the road