Don’t Hate: The 2020 Land Rover Defender Is an Adventure Machine!

The 2020 Land Rover Defender is a thoroughly modern adventure machine that carries on the storied history of the iconic nameplate with authenticity.

While drivers know the Defender as the simple rectangular body-on-frame, solid-axle, no-computer, off-road icon, the new Defender flips the script on nearly all those things. The 2020 Defender is a uni-body, fully independent-suspension supercomputer.

You might have negative thoughts about all of the above in an off-road vehicle. But if you step back for a second and realize the age we live in, including all the emissions and safety regulations, you’ll realize all these things are necessary to bring you a vehicle that can live up to the capabilities of the original all while meeting current buyer expectations.

It’s been 22 years since a Defender was sold new on U.S. soil. The Defender was relatively unchanged for its continuous 67-year worldwide production run of over 2 million vehicles. Other off-road SUVs, like the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, and even the Mercedes G-Wagon, have evolved over time. The Defender, however, stayed nearly the same until now.

This iconic British vehicle will now be made in Slovakia, is owned by an Indian corporation, and will finally be back in American new car dealerships in 2020.

Land Rover Surprises

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If you’ve been following the much-anticipated launch of this new Defender at all, you’ll realize that there really aren’t many surprises. The one pleasant surprise is the starting price for the Defender 110 four-door model — about $50,000.

While not inexpensive, that’s quite a bit lower than many expected for this iconic vehicle. Pricing will initially top out at well over $90,000, however, which is more in line with what many thought this vehicle would cost.

I’m also impressed and surprised at the level of comfort and refinement Land Rover built into this latest Defender. A stark contrast to the old Defender, this new machine offers things like heated seats in all three rows! It also has advanced smart LED headlights that dim in sections when it detects oncoming traffic to avoid blinding other drivers.

2020 Land Rover Defender Design

Sure, the front end isn’t all that attractive, and the overall shape could be mistaken for a number of other SUVs on the market (at least from certain angles).

From near or far, though, this new Land Rover stays true to the iconic silhouette of the original Defender that is instantly recognizable around the world. The Clamshell hood, floating roof, vertical rear end, rear spare tire, and alpine windows all scream “Defender.”

Competition has imitated many of these traits — originated with the early-series Land Rovers — for years.

Land Rover Defender: A Build for All Appetites

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Thew 2020 Defender comes in two sizes — the two-door 90 and four-door 110 — and six trim levels. At launch, the brand will offer it with two gasoline engine options: a 300-horsepower 2.0L I4 and a 400-horsepower 3.0L I6 with a mild hybrid system. Expect diesel and plug-in-electric options soon.

Land Rover also offers four distinct Accessory Packs — Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban — to upgrade them quickly at the dealership for your personal taste and use case. On top of that, there will be over 170 individual accessories available at launch.

Ultimate Off-Road SUV

The new Defender is arguably the most capable off-road vehicle ever produced by Land Rover.

While remote off-road durability is still a big question mark to many, Land Rover has gone to great lengths to test the new Defender beyond normal SUV testing requirements in the world’s harshest environments: “From the 122°F heat of the desert to the sub-40°F cold of the Arctic to an altitude of 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Defender has been tested to the extreme.”

While the Defender does now come standard with air suspension and big wheels, it can be ordered with coil suspension and 18-inch steel wheels. This should help appease purists a tiny bit and improve off-road durability.

While the vehicle comes with tires just under 33 inches, tires slightly larger than that will probably fit without modification. Sadly, big 35- and 37-inch tires that many off-road enthusiasts love won’t be an option without extreme modifications.

The Defender requires impressive entry, breakover, and exit angles. This new one delivers. And even more impressive are the nearly 3-foot-deep water-fording ability and 11.5 inches of ground clearance on the 2020 Defender.

Land Rover Modernized

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A modern Land Rover is really about top-level technologies for off-road capability. Tech over old-school solid-axles, big, aggressive tires, and driver skills has been Land Rover’s direction for decades now.

The Terrain Response system in modern Land Rovers is impressive. But the new Defender takes it to new levels of capability and driver-selectable customization. The new Defender utilizes a whopping 85 ECUs. That’s a lot of computing power!

The camera systems on the new Defender will also provide more real-time driver terrain information than ever before. Not only is there ClearSight Ground View that lets you basically see through the hood of the vehicle, but there is also a 360-degree aerial view that lets you see all around the vehicle.

To top it off, there’s a rearview camera that can be displayed in the rearview mirror. This is perfect for those times when the back is full of adventure sports gear or friends.

Optional rubber flooring and flush door sills, for easy cleaning, are just a few of the features that let you know this Land Rover is designed to get dirty. Even the heads-up display, not something found on many off-road vehicles, offers off-road driving data like incline and yaw.

Overland-Ready Defender

The Defender has been one of the top choices for overland vehicles since they hit the market. You can find dealer support around the globe. Owners know these vehicles for capability and carrying capacity. The 2020 Defender does not disappoint and even adds a few key features that overland and adventure travelers will much appreciate.

Most overland vehicles are way over gross vehicle weight (GVW) when built and on the road. Payload numbers include passengers and fuel on top of all upgrades and onboard gear.

The 2020 Defender 110 has a massive class-leading 1,984 payload capacity to work with. This means that you can upfit it with off-road and overland goodies, load your adventure sports gear and your friends, and hit the road less traveled without an issue. When you keep the weight within factory specifications, the vehicle will perform safely and reliably as advertised.

The payload isn’t the only impressive specification that will make the Defender a great adventure companion. The load can hold up to 370 pounds of dynamic load, which is perfect for roof racks, rooftop tents, kayaks, and more. The Defender can also tow up to 8,201 pounds. That’s a huge number for a relatively small SUV!

The Adventurer Configuration

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My favorite configuration would have to be a Fuji White with black roof Defender 110 SE with P400 mild-hybrid engine package — which gets from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds — and Adventure Pack. The Adventure Pack includes a 1.7-gallon pressurized portable rinse system, trunk-mounted air compressor, 24L exterior side-mounted gear carrier, and a 6.3-gallon seat backpack.

I’d also add factory accessories like the roof rack, side-mounted roof ladder, raised air intake (aka snorkel), winch, and awning. This configuration of Defender would probably set me back well over $76,000.

Design your own 2020 Land Rover Defender online with the Configurator tool.

I Want a Land Rover Defender Now!

We’ve waited this long for a new Defender, but we still have to wait a bit longer. The Defender 110 four-door model will hit the U.S. market in spring 2020, with the Defender 90 two-door model showing up “later in the year 2020.”

We’ll have to wait even longer for the diesel and electric variants.

The Defender Legacy Continues

Will the 2020 Land Rover Defender live up to the iconic nameplate it carries? Only time will tell.

I bet we’ll see an update in less than 43 years this time, though. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this impressive vehicle. I also can’t wait for it to hit the used market so that I can afford one!

Americans Are Craving Off-Road SUVs

The off-road SUV market in the U.S. is finally heating up after many years of being dominated by three vehicles: the ever-capable Jeep Wrangler, the reliable Toyota 4Runner, and the regal Mercedes G-Wagon.

The Defender slots in between the G-Wagon and the rest in terms of price but above them all in many ways. It really sets itself apart from the competition with more hauling capability — more payload (up to 1,984 pounds), more towing (up to 8,201 pounds), more cargo space, and more passenger seating (up to eight people).

With the Ford Bronco coming soon, this segment is about to really get exciting!

Bryon Dorr
By

Bryon Dorr caught the outdoor adventure addiction through whitewater kayaking, and worldwide adventures to remote places ensued. He crafted his own professional path as a photographer, journalist and marketing consultant in the automotive and outdoor industries, while full time overland traveling for nearly 8 years. You’ll usually find him out exploring by adventure motorcycle or 4x4, while seeking out opportunities to ski, mountain bike and kayak.

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