The 2020 Land Rover Defender is available in two-door and four-door versions. The two-door 90 model is shown here. (Land Rover)

The 2020 Land Rover Defender is available in two-door and four-door versions. The two-door 90 model is shown here. (Land Rover)

Land Rover’s legendary Defender is reborn, with amenities

The rugged SUV’s capabilities are still intact, but new architecture gives it better road manners.

Land Rover resurrected its legendary Defender nameplate with an entirely refashioned 2020 model capturing the original’s adventurous essence, but incorporating the latest in contemporary engineering and technology.

There are two versions of the 2020 Defender: the four-door 110 model and two-door short wheelbase 90 model. I drove the Defender 110 and the information you read here is concentrated on that model.

The new Defender’s shape is as boxy as you can get. Nearly nonexistent front and rear overhangs add to the visual effect but also contribute to the SUV’s exceptional off-road capability. The spare wheel is mounted outside the vehicle, on the traditionally Defender-style side-hinged rear door. It saves space elsewhere, makes the short rear overhang possible, and gives Defender’s overall character a big boost.

Unibody construction replaces the old Defender’s body-on-frame design, providing a threefold increase in torsional rigidity and the foundation for the fully independent suspension that replaces the old solid axle. These changes are the recipe for the new Defender’s tranquil ride on the highway, something not found on the oldies.

There are six trim levels of the Defender 110: Standard, S, SE, HSE, First Edition and X. Pricing starts at $51,250 including the $1,350 destination charge for the Standard trim and maxes out at $82,250 for the top-tier X model.

Standard and S models have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine with 296 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque, and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.7 seconds. The fuel economy rating is 17 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.

All other Defender 110 models come with a 3.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged six-cylinder mild hybrid (MHEV) powertrain producing 395 horsepower, 406 pound-feet of torque, and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds. The fuel economy rating is 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined.

Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case for a set of low-range ratios essential for towing or off-road driving when extra control is required. By the way, Defender’s maximum towing capacity is 8,201 pounds.

My Defender test vehicle was the SE model ($63,600), the entry level for the six-cylinder engine. Other features it adds include 20-inch wheels, automatic high-beam headlights, power adjustable front seats, digital gauge display and a 400-watt Meridian audio system with 10 speakers. A slew of optional equipment items provided adaptive cruise control, cold climate protection, enhanced off-road capability, a panoramic roof and more.

Defender’s interior is intriguing, a cross between upscale and spartan, rough and futuristic. An exposed magnesium cross bar beam spans the length of the dash, looking cool but also contributing to the vehicle body’s overall strength. Other exposed hardware is seen in the door panels.

The six-cylinder engine is an impressive performer, powering the 5,035-pound Defender effortlessly. The brakes tend to get excited a little too easily, kicking in a bit hard when normal pressure is first applied to the pedal. I adjusted, used less-than-normal pedal pressure, and all was well.

Land Rover offers many ways for buyers to customize their new Defender, including four optional Accessory Packs: Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban. The packs have features specifically designed for various activities, from extreme travel to stylin’ in the city.

2021 LAND ROVER DEFENDER 110

Base price, including destination charge: $63,600

Price as driven: $72,780

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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