New Land Rover Defender X P400 review

Land Rover’s all new Defender proves to be worth the wait and is now as capable on road as it is off it. It’s no driver’s car but as a do everything machine it’s hard to fault and we wouldn’t be embarrassed to have one share garage space with a more traditional evo car

Evo rating
  • The best road car Land Rover makes and one you’d be happy to drive off or on road
  • Straight-six petrol model is expensive and thirsty 

It’s not the car that will appear on many, if any evo reader’s list of dream cars for a dream drive, but we’ve always said that the thrill of driving comes in all shapes and sizes, on and off road. There is also the small matter that many of you have or do own a Defender or one of its older relations and we think you’ll be interested in how this all-new Defender fares. 

Available as both a five-door 110 and three-door 90, the new Defender is offered with a variety of four-cylinder 2-litre petrol and diesel engines and a 3-litre mild-hybrid straight-six petrol, which we spent most of our time driving. And it’s really rather good. Impressively so, an example of what’s achievable when you set out to design and build a car fit for the purpose it’s meant for rather than crudely adapting what you have in the parts store and pretending it’s something that it clearly isn’t. Rivals could learn a great deal from this approach.

> Range Rover review - hugely capable, but can it compete with saloon rivals for luxury?

Engine, performance and 0-60mph time

Land Rover’s Ingenium mild-hybrid engine was first introduced in 2019 for the Range Rover and now finds its way further down the food chain in the new Defender to join two four-cylinder turbo diesels (the D200 and D240) and a P300 four-cylinder petrol. 

This P400 mild-hybrid is currently the only straight-six available in the Defender, although a diesel will arrive soon enough, with the 3-litre unit featuring both a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and a 48V electric supercharger. There’s also a belt-integrated starter motor in lieu of an alternator, with a 48V lithium-ion battery that stores recuperated energy as the car slows.

Combined, these two elements produce 394bhp and 406lb ft of torque, making this the most powerful Defender in the company’s history. The quickest, too, with a 0-60mph time of 6.1sec and a 129mph maximum if you go for the optional 22-inch wheels, otherwise you’re pinned back to 119mph.

There’s a claim of 29.4mpg, but we did struggle to get out of the teens on our drive. Perhaps a longer run on a motorway would help rather than a mad dash across the Fosse Way in the Cotswolds.

Drive is via an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, with twin-speed transmissions providing both high and low ratios, the latter for towing and off-road fun.

Technical highlights

Where to start. The most connected, the most technologically advanced, the most advanced car Land Rover has built, the Defender wants for nothing. 

Built on an all-new aluminium monocoque chassis Land Rover calls internally D7x, the new Defender is available as a three-door 90 or five-door 110, as well as a commercial vehicle. The 110 is available with three seating configurations: five-, six- or a five + two, with the 90 limited to a maximum of half a dozen seats. Defender, S, SE, HSE, First Edition and X make up the trim line, the last of those only available with the P400 straight-six engine. Four accessory packs are also offered: Explorer Adventure, Country and Urban.

Beneath Gerry McGovern’s design is the full complement of technical kit to take the Defender anywhere it cares to go. There’s a two-speed transfer box within the eight-speed auto, centre and rear locking differentials and, of course, permanent four-wheel drive.

Independent multi-link double wishbone suspension is fitted at the front, with an integral link axle at the rear, while air suspension is standard across the 110 range, with the X model also featuring as standard an electronic differential, Terrain Response 2, configurable terrain response – think driver modes for sports cars but for a car designed for bog snorkelling rather than lap times – and all-terrain progress control (an off-road cruise control system).

What's it like to drive?

Nothing like a Defender of old, which some of you will be more than happy about while others will head straight outside to hose out the interior of their ‘real’ Defender. But it’s 2020 and having a car that drove like it was designed to survive being dropped from a plane makes for a lovely piece of nostalgia, but not such a great car.

In the new Defender you’re driving a car that works on road as well as it does off it. It doesn’t lurch around or pitch itself into a corner or around a motorway slip road curve with the grace of an elephant on skates. It drives like a normal car. It drives better than most car-based SUVs.There’s a suppleness to its ride quality that puts the Discovery 5 to shame and its body control is superior, too. It certainly responds to being hustled along better than the 5, and aside from the slightest evidence of vagueness from the steering around the dead ahead when the optional off-road tyres are fitted, you find yourself travelling quicker than expected.

The thump from the straight-six helps considerably here, neither troubled by the 2443kg kerb weight nor aerodynamics that probably raised a snigger from the wind tunnel operators. Its step-off from stationary is instant, the mid-range punchy and responsive beyond all expectations, and it even enjoys troubling the red line. Unlike its predecessor and so many of its ilk, it lets you set the pace rather than dictate it. For those long road trips and too far away places that Defenders are drawn to, the road part will no longer be a chore.

Your overriding impression of the new Defender is just how complete it feels. How nothing has been compromised or sacrificed and every need has been catered for. It will still crawl up a rock face or submerge itself in a bog and haul itself out the other end, but crucially it will no longer suck the life out of you when you need to travel any distance on a road.

Price and rivals

This 110 X edition isn’t cheap at £79,655 but you’ll want for nothing when it comes to kit and finish. Its natural rival is a G-class 350d AMG Line, yours for £96,180, and despite the charm and transformational driving characteristics Mercedes achieved following its comprehensive overhaul in 2018, the G-class will feel very last century to drive after a new Defender. So too Stuttgart’s other offerings, such as the new GLS, which starts at £72,965 for a 400D. While its focus on luxury will outscore the Defender, it’s unlikely to beat it off-road or in the charm stakes.

Audi, BMW, Bentley, Porsche, VW... none has dared to go diff lock to diff lock with the Defender in the past. Their problem now is that the Defender is able to match them on the road as well as beating them off it. And for those who dismissed Land Rover’s utilitarian model previously, they now have a strong reason to consider one.

More on Defender

'The Land Rover Defender is a rewarding drivers' car'
Land Rover Defender SUV

'The Land Rover Defender is a rewarding drivers' car'

Is there an ‘evo’ defence for the Land Rover Defender? As an owner of one one, Porter believes there is
3 Jul 2018
Land Rover Defender Works – celebrating 70 years of the iconic model
Land Rover Defender Works V8 – front quarter
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover Defender Works – celebrating 70 years of the iconic model

Land Rover is producing a limited run of Defenders fitted with a 399bhp Jaguar-sourced V8 engine.
17 Jan 2018
Next Defender could be first Slovakian-built Land Rover
Land Rover Defender SUV

Next Defender could be first Slovakian-built Land Rover

New Land Rover Defender and other models will boost Jaguar Land Rover's production by 300,000 cars
11 Aug 2015
Land Rover Defender review
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover Defender review

An all time classic
11 Mar 2015
Urban Truck's ultimate Defender
Urban Truck Land Rover Defender Ultimate Edition
Land Rover Defender SUV

Urban Truck's ultimate Defender

Land Rover modifier Urban Truck shows off its bells-and-whistles spec Defender Ultimate Edition
12 Jun 2014
Land Rover Defender Challenge review, price and specs
Land Rover Defender Challenge by Bowler
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover Defender Challenge review, price and specs

The Land Rover Defender Challenge is a Bowler-prepared 4x4 to give rally raid beginners a taste of the Dakar
1 Apr 2014
Land Rover 'Defender Challenge' announced
Land Rover 'Defender Challenge' announced
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover 'Defender Challenge' announced

Land Rover has announced a new one-make series, called the 'Defender Challenge', which is to be run by Bowler. Details here
31 Oct 2013
2013 Icon Land Rover Defender review
Nene Icon Land Rover Defender 90 Sport Wagon
Land Rover Defender SUV

2013 Icon Land Rover Defender review

With 270bhp on tap this re-engined Land Rover is one of the quickest Defenders ever - but is it any good to drive?
21 Dec 2012
Twisted Land Rover Defender review and pictures
Twisted Land Rover Defender rear corner
Land Rover Defender SUV

Twisted Land Rover Defender review and pictures

This £75K Red Edition highlights the tweaks Twisted can apply to the iconic Land Rover Defender
30 Aug 2012
Land Rover DC100 concept review
Land Rover DC100
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover DC100 concept review

evo has been given an exclusive chance to get behind the wheel of the Land Rover DC100 concept, a car that shows the direction the next Defender will …
16 Nov 2011
Land Rover DC100 concept in action
Land Rover DC100 Defender concept
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover DC100 concept in action

See the Land Rover DC100 new Defender concept and its plethora of exciting features in action on video
16 Nov 2011
Land Rover's new Defender concept
Land Rover Defender concept
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover's new Defender concept

Land Rover has released images of its Frankfurt motor show concept, hinting at the look of the new Defender it will introduce in 2015
31 Aug 2011
Qt Wildcat R300 video review
Qt Wildcat R300
Land Rover Defender SUV

Qt Wildcat R300 video review

The Bowler Wildcat is now made by Qt, and we've reviewed the physics-bending off-roader on video
2 Sep 2010
Land Rover Max! show
Land Rover Max!
Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover Max! show

Land Rover enthusiasts and car fans alike have something entertaining to do this August bank holiday
29 Jul 2010