New Land Rover Defender: everything you need to know

Published: 17 October 2019

► The latest on the all-new 2020 Defender
► New platform, design and engine line-up
► Get the low-down on specs, prices and options

This is the all-new Defender. As expected, it represents the biggest shake-up in the model’s 71-year history, with highlights including an all-new platform, a wide range of engines, new technology and significantly increased dimensions. Production has also moved from Solihull to Slovakia.

Three-door 90 and five-door 110 versions of the new Defender have been confirmed so far, with the 110 on sale now at £45,240. Land Rover indicates that the 90 will be ‘around £40,000’ when it arrives shortly, and a range of commercial variants will start from £35,000 plus VAT. 

What’s under the skin of the new Defender?

The new Defender 4x4, which is codenamed L663, switches from body-on-frame construction to an aluminium unibody derived from the D7 platform of current Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Land Rover Discovery siblings.

As is the case with those cars, that also means the Defender has switched from solid axles to double-wishbone front suspension and Integral Link independent rear suspension. Buyers can opt for either coil-sprung suspension or air on the 90s, while the 110 variants are only offered with air suspension.

2020 Land Rover Defender

However, the Defender’s platform is said to be 95 per cent new compared to that used in existing models, and is dubbed D7x – denoting ‘extreme’. Land Rover says it’s the strongest, stiffest structure it’s ever engineered, with torsional rigidity of 30kNm/Degree. To put things in perspective, that’s slightly better than a Jaguar E-Pace SUV.

In order to help bolster its off-road performance, hardware such as the battery, cooling circuits and spare wheel (normally positioned underneath, now fixed to the side-opening rear door) has been moved to help shorten the front and rear overhangs.

The wheelbases are unrelated to any other D7 models (or indeed the imperial measurements that 90 and 110 once represented). The suspension hardware has been significantly beefed up, too: the Defender’s steel subframes feature sturdier welds, and it also benefits from extra braces, more durable bushings and ball joints for suspension control arms, and the longer and stiffer front control arms.

The Defender is also bigger than it was before: the new 90 and 110 models measure 4583mm and 5018mm long respectively (including the spare wheel on the rear door), which is up 722mm and 440mm on previous models.

The wheelbases of the 110 clocks in at 3022mm (or 119in), which is 99mm longer than a Discovery’s, helping keep the Defender’s trademark short overhangs that are so essential to its off-road performance.

Wheel sizes have grown from the previous 16-18 inch wheels to 22 inches. The interior space has increased dramatically, as we’ve already experienced in our passenger ride, and weight increases over 200kg on like-for-like models. The new 90 model, for example, weighs a minimum of 2133kg as a four-cylinder diesel.

The 2020 Land Rover Defender: a new engine line-up

You’ll certainly leave the old-timer behind on the road thanks to the new Defender’s range of modern engines. Powertrain options will include  four- and six-cylinder petrols, and hybrid and plug-in variants, as well as the more traditional four-cylinder diesel option.

The entry-level Defender, badged D200, is powered by a 2.0-litre SD4 diesel with sequential twin turbos. It produces 197bhp and stout 317lb ft; a more powerful D240 version is also offered, which punches out a higher 237bhp and the same 317lb ft.

On the petrol front, buyers can pick between the four-cylinder P300 or six-cylinder P400 MHEV Defender. The P300 features a single-turbo 2.0-litre Si4 petrol engine which produces 296bhp and 295lb ft.

The P400 MHEV, however, is a very different variant. It features a 3.0-litre i6 engine, for starters, which features a single turbocharger, a 48-volt electric centrifugal supercharger and a mild hybrid set-up. As a result, it pounds out an impressive 395bhp and 406lb ft – which helps make it the most powerful and quickest variant of the new Defender by a long stretch.

Regardless of which you pick, however, you’ll always get an eight-speed ZF automatic which sends power to all four wheels via a two-speed transfer case .

A four-cylinder plug-in hybrid version of the new Defender will also join the line-up in 2020.

2020 Land Rover Defender towing

New Defender performance and efficiency details

At launch, the performance figures for the new Defender engine line-up is as follows.

  • D200: 196bhp, 317lb ft, 0-62mph in 10.2sec, 109mph
  • D240: 237bhp, 317lb ft, 0-62mph in 9.0sec, 117mph
  • P300: 296bhp, 295lb ft, 0-62mph in 8.0sec, 119mph
  • P400 MHEV: 395bhp, 406lb ft, 0-62mph in 6.0sec, 129mph

These figures are all for the 90 versions, but the heavier 110 models are only fractionally slower and slightly less efficient.

On the economy front, you can expect the following – and these are the most recently published WLTP figures, so should better represent real-world usage.

  • D200: 29.9-32.2mpg, 230-248g/km of CO2
  • D240: 29.2-32.2mpg, 230-248g/km of CO2
  • P300: 23.2-25.1mpg, 255-277g/km of CO2
  • P400 MHEV: 23.6-25.6mpg, 251-271g/km of CO2

Additionally, all versions have a braked towing weight of 3500kg.

2020 Land Rover Defender

The new Land Rover Defender’s off-road credentials

Off-road smarts are bolstered by permanent all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case as standard, plus an optional locking rear diff in addition to the centre diff, which is locked by swiping the central touchscreen.

Air suspension can lower the ride height by 50mm, but also raise it by up to 75mm, with a further 70mm boost to a maximum of 145mm (for a maximum of 291mm ground clearance overall) – for when the body needs a brief lift to clear obstacles. The wading depth matches the 900mm of a Discovery, and represents a huge 400mm over the previous model.

There’s new off-road technology too, including the ClearSight GroundView that projects a picture of the ground normally hidden by the bonnet onto the central touchscreen and first debuted on the second Evoque. The familiar Terrain Response system now has four individual profiles that owners can configure to their liking.

However, while the new Defender promises to best its predecessor off-road in many areas, its reduced ground clearance and longer overhangs make it inferior in terms of off-road geometry. A 90’s maximum approach (38 degrees), departure (40 degrees) and ground clearance of 291mm on raised air suspension are all lower than its coil-sprung predecessor’s 47-degree approach- and departure angles, and 314mm ground clearance.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Land Rover cites the need to comply with modern crash and emissions regulations, but stresses that overall the new hardware and technology have made this generation more capable in the vast majority of off-road environments, and that it has aced trials that were previously off-limits to the old workhorse, including the notorious Steel Bender, Poison Spider and Hell’s Revenge trails in Moab, America.

Still, if you were a particularly devious TV producer you might arrange for an old Defender to be driven up a steep incline that represented the very edge of its abilities, then make viewers gasp when the new one failed to repeat the trick.

The new Land Rover Defender interior

The interior embraces the Defender’s utilitarian roots with rubberised flooring (though UK cars get easily removed carpet inserts too) and an exposed magnesium cross-car beam that’s hidden behind the dashboard in sister models. An optional ‘jump-seat’ in the first row (inspired by the early Series models) means buyers can choose from five-seat, six-seat or seven-seat variants, if not eight.

Defender also jumps forwards several generations with technology including a 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle, 10-inch infotainment touchscreen with over-the-air software updates and the full A-to-Z of driver-assistance systems.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Five trim levels are available: S, SE, HSE, First Edition (available for the first year) and range-topping Defender X, with upholstery spanning base models’ Resolve textile to top-spec Windsor leather.

There are also four accessory packs – Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban – and 170 accessories, including a pop-up roof tent to take full advantage of the roof’s ability to support a 300kg static load.

For a more in-depth look at the new Land Rover Defender, including interviews with design boss Gerry McGovern, vehicle line director Nick Collins and durability and robustness programme manager Andy Deeks, check out CAR’s October 2019 issue.

How much does it cost – and when can I buy one?

You can already configure and order the new five-door 110 versions of the Land Rover Defenders, which admittedly aren’t the cheapest 4x4s by far – with prices starting at £45,240 for the 2.0-litre D200.

The rest of the pricing is as follows:
D200 Defender 110: £45,240
D200 S 110: £48,695
D200 SE 110: £52,625
D240 S 110: £51,750
D240 SE 110: £55,680
D240 HSE 110: £60,505
D240 First Edition 110: £58,860
P300 Defender 110: £48,295
P300 S 110: £51,750
P300 SE 110: £55,680
P400 X 110: £78,800

Read our low-down of the Frankfurt motor show here

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator