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.
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.