Land Rover Defender 110 P400 S 2021 road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 21 June 2021

Tim Nicholson puts the impressive new Land Rover Defender to the test.

Few automotive nameplates can boast legendary status. But the iconic Land Rover Defender certainly can. The utilitarian off-roader was famously manufactured for a continuous run of 67 years, ending in 2016, with the biggest changes coming in the early 1980s.

  • Thumbs up: Unrivalled road presence, tough interior, clever gadgets, standard safety gear, exceptional ride quality.
  • Thumbs down: It’s not cheap, options can push the price up considerably, adaptive cruise control slow to react, it’s thirsty.
White Land Rover Defender towing caravan off road

The Land Rover Defender is a modern take on the go-anywhere 4x4 wagon theme and ups the ante for safety and in-car technology.


Safety and emissions regulations forced Land Rover to start all over again with a new version, which was released in Australia last year. It’s a modern take on the go-anywhere 4x4 wagon theme and ups the ante for safety and in-car technology. A change from ladder chassis to a more car-like monocoque chassis had some wondering if the Defender had lost its edge.

Unfortunately, Victoria’s brief covid-related lockdown in February ended our plans to test the Defender off road, so our impressions are purely from on-road driving.  

Land Rover Defender 110 P400 S 2021 review

How much does a Defender cost? 

Since its 2020 launch, the Defender range has swelled to include the short-wheelbase three-door ‘90’ variants, alongside the ‘110’ five-door versions.  

In typical Land Rover fashion, there’s no shortage of engines to choose from. Three petrols, including the recently released 386kW V8, and a pair of diesels.  

Pricing for the Defender 90 and 110 ranges from $74,640 before on-road costs for the entry level 221kW petrol 90, up to $205,500 for the V8 110. 

We sampled the mid-range Defender 110 P400 S, powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol and priced from $92,360.  

The Defender is generously fitted with the usual off-road friendly features, but it’s also packed with the latest in-car technology. While there’s not much missing from the standard features list (although a head-up display would be nice), in typical Land Rover fashion, the optional extras are pricey. And there are a lot to choose from.  

Our P400 S included options like a Comfort and Convenience pack, a Driver Assist pack, black contrast roof and black exterior pack, premium paint, optional wheels, privacy glass and a few more things that pushed the price out by about $17,000. Peruse the options list with caution.  

In terms of rivals, few premium large SUVs have the off-road chops of the Defender. Aside from its Discovery stablemate with which it shares a platform, the only other real 4x4 luxury wagon is the Toyota LandCruiser-based Lexus LX. 

What safety features does it have? 

The Defender took out the Safest SUV over $35,000 category in RACV’s 2021 Safest Cars Awards thanks to its recent 5-star ANCAP crash safety rating and generous suite of standard equipment.  

On the road, the adaptive cruise control is slow to react. It gets close to the vehicle ahead before it kicks in and it’s slow to speed up when you move into another lane with no vehicle ahead.  

The lane keeping aid tugs at the steering wheel enthusiastically and can mistake road shoulder lines for separate lanes. This technology is still in its infancy and needs more finessing, regardless of the brand.  

Interior view of Land Rover Defender dashboard

The Defender is a mix of high-tech gadgetry and robust materials that can take a beating, but it still feels premium.


What's the space like inside?

Before we step inside, a little about the exterior. Thankfully Land Rover didn’t go full retro for the new Defender, but some design elements reference the original, including the narrow panoramic windows along the rear of the roof line, and the side-opening tailgate.  

Other elements like the cool LED tail-light signature add to the modern vibe. The Defender’s bold and striking design ensures it has more presence than any SUV on the road. 

Inside, the Defender is a mix of high-tech gadgetry and robust materials that can take a beating, but it still feels premium. It has cool utilitarian touches like visible bolts in the door inserts. Rubber floors and hardy materials throughout make cleaning after a muddy off-road trek a breeze.  

A handy shelf that can hold phones and other items runs the width of the dash, and the gear shifter, start button and air con dials sit up high to allow more room for storage in the console.  

USB-A and C and 12-volt outlets are found up front, as well as an optional cooled central storage bin and phone charger.  

The controls on the beautifully designed steering wheel change function, switching from phone or media to vehicle settings. This smart feature is found in other Jaguar Land Rover models. 

The optional Merdian sound system is phenomenal, and the multimedia system is a cut above, with a logical menu, appealing graphics and loads of off-road functions to explore. The 3D surround camera with multiple views is a welcome inclusion.  

Once you open the big heavy door and pull yourself up into the driver’s seat, you’ll find a commanding driving position, comfortable seats with manual adjustment and good bolstering for the upper body. 

In the spacious rear, the 40/20/40 split-fold seats are flat but comfortable and there’s a central fold-down arm rest with cup holders.  

Features back there include a USB on the rear of each front seat, grab handles, map pockets, two more USBs and two 12-volt outlets, knee level air vents and good bottle storage in the doors.  

The side-opening tailgate is cool, but parking rearward against a wall will limit its aperture. Behind the second row the Defender can swallow a generous 1075 litres of cargo, increasing to 2380L with the rear seats stowed.  

Like the cabin, the boot floor material is robust for hosing out. There’s thoughtful storage compartments in the inside of the tailgate itself and loads of tie-down hooks. The electronic air suspension allows you to lower and raise the ride height to assist with loading heavy items.  

How does it drive?

We would like to tell you how the Defender performs off road, but that pesky February lockdown put a stop to that. For those interested, the Defender has a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg, a maximum wading depth of 900mm and it can carry up to 168kg of gear on the roof.  

We can tell you that on road, the Defender impresses. Of the various powertrain options, the P400 S uses a 294kW/550Nm turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engine good for a 0-100km/h dash in just 6.1 seconds.  

Despite its significant weight (2361kg), the big Defender doesn’t mess about. It feels relaxed at urban speeds, but is eager and responsive when pressed, pulling away quickly when overtaking. 

It’s heavy on the road, but it feels solid and unbreakable. The size and heft of the Defender instils a sense of safety. The steering is heavily weighted and feels a little numb – not surprising for a vehicle like this. 

The ride is supple around town and smooth as silk on highways and back roads. The Defender is unbothered by corrugations large and small.  

Given its size it won’t corner like a hot hatch, but it’s not as lumbering on the twisty stuff as you’d think. Still, best not to approach bends too quickly.   

Some of the design elements create blind spots, specifically the B-pillars and enormous C-pillars, so the high-tech 3D camera will come in handy. The hushed cabin adds to the premium feel. 

Land Rover quotes an average fuel figure of 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres, and we recorded 13.7L/100km after a week of mixed urban and regional driving.  

The verdict

While we sadly can’t tell you what the Defender is like in its natural off-road habitat, we can tell you it gets a big thumbs up in virtually every other area. Land Rover was never going to replicate the magic of the original, but the world has moved on and the new version reflects that.

There’s something special about the new Defender. From the undeniable road presence, to the modern yet hardy interior and exceptional drive experience, it sets a new standard for premium go-anywhere 4x4s. 

Land Rover Defender 110 P400 S 2021

PRICING

List price: $92,360 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $109,352 before on-road costs.

Model range: $74,640-$205,500 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive.

Power: 294kW@5500rpm.

Torque: 550Nm@2000-5000rpm.

Wheels: 255/65 R19.

FUEL

Premium ULP RON 95, 90-litre tank. 

Consumption: Premium ULP RON 95, 90-litre tank.

Emissions: 230g/km CO2 emissions.

STANDARD SAFETY

Five-star ANCAP safety rating, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, rear collision monitor, traffic sign recognition, driver attention monitor, tyre pressure monitor, 

STANDARD FEATURES

Keyless entry and start, electronic air suspension, off-road tyres, side-hinged tailgate, heated, electric and power folding exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, ten-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio and satellite navigation. 

WARRANTY

Five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Five-year/100,000km capped-price servicing. Servicing schedule every 12 months or 10,000km.  

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