Slick and smart, the latest Land Rover Defender 90 looks the part, but is it any good for foresters?

THE new Land Rover Defender went on sale in September 2019, but the first deliveries commenced almost a year later as production was slowly ramped up. Assembly is in a brand new factory in Slovakia where the Discovery 5 is also produced, albeit slowly due to poor sales. The Defender was also launched to all markets at the same time, meaning demand was higher than supply.

The new Defender has been very well received and is now the best-selling Land Rover vehicle. Not long after launch, Land Rover brought out a new 6-cylinder diesel engine and three versions of this now power all the diesel models, replacing the original 4-cylinder engines introduced at launch.

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The new 6-cylinder, 3-litre Ingenium engine is based on the 4-cylinder engine and assembled in Wolverhampton. It has a mild hybrid makeup and comes in three states of tune: D200, D250 and D300.

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The D200 has 200 bhp and 500 Nm of torque, the D250 has 250 bhp and 570 Nm and the D300 has 300 bhp and 650 Nm. All do 32 mpg. Interestingly, an even more highly tuned version is available in the Range Rover, the D350, which has 350 bhp and 700 Nm and returns 36 mpg, replacing the Mexican-built DV8. The Defender 110 long-wheelbase 4-door was launched first and followed by the short-wheelbase 90, which started to arrive mid-2021.

The short-wheelbase 90 I test drove came with the D250 engine, producing about the same power as the Discovery 4, so plenty powerful enough. The engine is refined and fast if not as sonorous as the old V6. The D250 and D300 are available in the Discovery 5, while the D300 and D350 are available in both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

Forestry Journal:

The entry model into the Defender range is the D200 hard-top 90 with two front seats and coil springs, with prices starting at £35,820 plus VAT for that model. The 4-door 110 hard top starts at £43,012 plus VAT. Even though all the three diesel engines provide similar fuel consumption, their acceleration figures differ, taking 9.1, 7.6 and 6.7 seconds to get to 60 mph, respectively. Supply still remains tight and you must feel sorry for Land Rover as just when production was getting going and early quality issues sorted, COVID-19 arrived to slow things up. Now the worldwide shortage of microchips is holding production up again.

Anyway, I was pleased to try out the Defender 90, especially as my test vehicle was fitted with the new 6-cylinder engine, the D250. This model also came with the optional air suspension, as coil springs are standard on base model 90s. Standard ground clearance is 227 mm for the coil-spring-fitted 90 and 218 mm with the air suspension which, of course, can be raised to 291 mm for off-roading. Wading depth is 850 mm and 900 mm respectively, which is just above the fuel filler cap and just below the windows.

The 90 is a great-looking vehicle. It is 4,583 mm long (including the spare wheel) and the 110 is 5,018 mm long. The 90 weighs a heavy 2,228 kg and the 110 2,415 kg. The fuel tank holds a useful 89 litres and the Ad Blue tank 20 litres. Towing capacity is 3,500 kg for a braked trailer. 

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The interior echoes the layout of the original Defender, with a useful tray running across the dash onto which is attached the LED screen for the control of most functions, but wisely the heating and ventilation are controlled by large rotary knobs and the suspension and gearing also have buttons. In front of the driver is another LED screen for the speedometer and rev counter. This can be reconfigured to show the sat-nav. The actual computer instrumentation is a bit toy-like and slightly too small. On the entry models, analogue dials are mixed up with a central computer screen similar to that found on other Jaguar Land Rover products, which looks awful. All Defenders come with the 8-speed automatic ZF German gearbox with low ratio and constant 4WD. This gearbox/drivetrain combination works well and very smoothly.

The new Defender is a brilliant driving machine both on and off road. On road, it is up there with its Discovery brother for refinement, but probably suffers a little bit more wind noise due to its larger mirrors. It handles really well and is a joy to drive briskly on a twisting road. The standard 90 comes with rear seats which are very comfortable and airy, helped by the alpine windows in the roof. It is a bit of a climb though to get in there. The boot space behind the seats is very small and the rear seats don’t fold flat. Of course, for many people, the hard top without rear seats and with a bulkhead behind the front seats will be a more useful vehicle. Even more so for the 110 hard top, with its large area and underfloor storage compartments.

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Even though the Defender is 2 m wide, the rear door is not so wide, giving plenty of space for the fancy set of rear lights, which look great, especially when switched on. However, all the gaps between them will surely fill up with muck and will be more difficult to clean, compared to a simpler surface as on the Discovery 4. A similar point could be made about the front lights, but less muck usually lands there in the first place.
Land Rover introduced many of its latest gadgets onto the Defender and the rear-view camera mirror is a great invention. Basically, it projects the rear view as seen from a roof-mounted camera which means if your normal rear view is blocked you can still what is behind you. Perfect!

So there you have it. The new Defender is a great vehicle and priced to reflect its talents.

Many thanks to Pentland Land Rover Perth for supplying the test-drive vehicle.