2020 Land Rover Defender X review: Rugged and refined in equal measure

Dude, this thing is acute.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Sometimes, Mother Nature brings the off-road park close at hand. With my corner of Michigan deep under a foot of snow, and with the neighborhood’s snow plow infrastructure so lacking it might not even exist, venturing out becomes a capital A adventure. Thankfully, I have a Land Rover Defender X in my driveway, which through a combination of luxury appointments and off-road capability, turns this white hell into a winter wonderland.

Like it

  • Seems tough.
  • It can go through almost anything.
  • The lightweight hybrid I6 can push.

I do not like

  • Touchy brakes
  • Big boy, big thirsty
  • Better infotainment, still not great

Whether it’s a general novelty or the fact that a Defender hasn’t graced our waves of amber grain in two decades, this SUV truly turns heads. Part of that comes from its astonishing size. It looks a lot smaller in the pictures, but get up on this thing and it feels like you’re staring at a building. Its 119-inch wheelbase makes both a Range Rover and a Mercedes-Benz G550 look tiny. The bodywork is overall shorter than both, but it is not a compact utility vehicle.

Being big and in charge is also reflected in the style of the Defender. It is loyal to both past and future Defenders, borrowing elements like the round headlights and diamond plating on the hood and adapting them to a sleeker, more modern design. The aggressive militaristic stiffness of the Mercedes G-Class is missing, but it’s not far off. My top-of-the-line X tester hushes things up with a contrasting black roof and hood, satin chrome trims, and tough 255 / 60R20 Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires ($ 350). Put the replacement mounted on the back and you have a complete look.

The interior further exemplifies the entire safari-chic theme. Cover the badge on the Defender X’s steering wheel and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell this isn’t a Range Rover. Then again, with a starting price of $ 82,250 including the destination, it would be better to be close. Leather abounds, with raw cut walnut finishes sprinkled on the center console and door panels to great effect. Plastics have a rougher finish which speaks more of durability than brittleness. Considering the external dimensions, it is not surprising that there is a great deal of head and leg room for all passengers, and the seats themselves are extremely comfortable. Visibility is also top-notch, although the rear-mounted spare wheel can dent rear views; Thankfully, my tester sports a rearview mirror that shows a feed from the backup camera mounted above the spare.

The function walks hand in hand with the form inside the Defender X. Almost the entire central part of the dashboard serves as a tray for storing maps, masks, phones, you name it – heck, there’s even a pass-through behind the screen of infotainment. The center console offers two levels of stowage, plus a small storage space under the armrest. Open the tailgate (be careful if you park too close to a wall or other cars) and there’s 38 cubic feet of cargo space, half a cube more than the Mercedes G550 and nearly 150% of what you get in a Range Rover.

While there’s no V8 under the hood (yet), it almost seems there is. Instead, the Defender X uses a 3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine combined with a 48-volt lightweight hybrid system. This powerplant delivers enough power of 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Given its curb weight of over 5,200 pounds, Land Rover’s Ingenium engine can propel the Defender with an impressive amount of haste, its eight-speed automatic rattling smooth shifts in the background whether I’m gaining or decreasing speed. . It sounds pretty good in the process too. The Mild-Hybrid is more efficient than the 2.0-liter petrol engine available on lower finishes, delivering an EPA estimate of 17 miles per city gallon and 22 mpg on the highway – not big numbers by any means, but 3 mpg ahead of the V8-powered G550 on the highway. These figures are relatively easy to come across, but much harder to beat. He is thirsty.

The focus on smoothness extends to the rest of the Defender X’s ride. Equipped with those heavy off-road tires and standard air suspension, this unibody SUV’s smooth ride feels a little more composed than a Mercedes G550, but there are still a few. trucker vibes, with sharp highway expansion joints translating some thrills into the cab and a bit of wallowing on the undulating floor. Throw in the steering which is a bit light, and don’t forget the bulk of the thing during daily operation. The brakes, which on my tester have red calipers for some reason, are more than able to stop quickly, even if the pedal is tougher than I’d like, requiring a little more finesse for smooth stops. If you need more ground clearance, the air suspension can lift the body to offer 11.5 inches of clearance between Defender and dirt.

The Defender’s interior is not only attractive, but also very versatile.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Speaking of dirt, Roadshow’s social media editor Daniel Golson had a different Land Rover Defender that he took seriously at a local off-road park, and called it an “absolute beast on even the most rocky and treacherous terrain, with the Terrain Response driving modes that make setting up the car quick and easy. “It didn’t even need to reach the lower regions of the Defender’s many off-road options to have fun, but with locking differentials, 360-degree cameras and control of the uphill descent, the Defender is capable of tackling some serious stuff.

My time in the shin deep snow couldn’t have been easier. I didn’t even have to use the Defender’s many modes; letting the standard all-wheel drive do its thing for slip-free starts and stops every time. Sure, it might be like bringing a tactical nuclear device to a knife fight, but for once, it’s good to be too prepared.

The Defender’s new infotainment system is good, but Jaguar Land Rover’s latest still suffers from some of the same issues that have plagued its iterations for years.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

All Land Rover Defenders come standard with the automaker’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system, which resides on a 10-inch touchscreen embedded in the dashboard. It houses pretty much everything you need here, be it off-road settings, navigation, Apple CarPlay or Android Autoand what is not shown is clearly displayed on the configurable meter display or on the head-up display that is part of the X trim. The Pivi Pro is a little underwhelming, though; while I appreciate the new skin and its improved responsiveness, it is still slow to boot when cold and overall response may still be slow. It also takes some time to get used to how the menus and options are organized.

In terms of safety equipment, all Defenders include automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, a surround camera system, lane keeping assistance and parking sensors. The Defender X also boasts a standard Driver Assist Pack, which is optional on the lower trims, consisting of adaptive cruise control, active blind spot assistance and rear cross traffic warning.

You’ll be happy that a rearview mirror is available, because that tough-mounted spare part eats into rear visibility.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

The Land Rover Defender isn’t a cheap proposition, but thankfully it’s nowhere near the MSRP excesses of the Mercedes G550, which won’t leave a dealership lot for anything under $ 125,000 or so. Four-door Defender 110 models start at $ 51,250 including destination, while my Defender X exists at the upper limit of $ 85,750, as it includes almost everything the automaker can include. Still, it’s a steal compared to its competitor, even if you don’t get the badge cachet or a V8 under the hood. The G550 could be more luxurious, but I’m not sure it’s worth many tens of thousands of dollars more, given how similar the two are in terms of off-road capability.

Regardless of external factors, however, the Land Rover Defender is exceptional. It brings luxury finishes to a vehicle that can practically go through an apocalypse unscathed. It is more than comfortable enough in everyday use and will serve as a powerful family transporter even if it never sees even an inch of mud, and for far inferior to its main competitor. The 20-year wait was worth it.

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