Land Rover Defender review – ride and handling

Its brilliance lies in off-road capability and on-road comfort, but it’s come at a cost of dynamism

Evo rating
  • Versatility; intelligent design; impressive new in-line six powertrains; character
  • Heavy; expensive; petrols are thirsty

Quite simply, the new Defender drives nothing like the old one, 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 2021 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 almost drives like a normal car.

There’s a suppleness to its ride quality that puts a 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 engines helps considerably here, neither troubled by the high 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.

Most Popular

Porsche 911 Sally Carrera Special Edition revealed
Porsche Sally Carrera – front quarter
News

Porsche 911 Sally Carrera Special Edition revealed

Porsche’s been collaborating with Pixar on this one-off special that’ll be sold at Car Week for charity
12 Aug 2022
Best Impreza Colin McRae Edition review – homage to McRae's championship 555 racer
Subaru Impreza Turbo 555 – header
Videos

Best Impreza Colin McRae Edition review – homage to McRae's championship 555 racer

We drive an original Group A Subaru Impreza 555 rally car, as well as the £370,000 contemporary homage Best Engineering has created in its image
12 Aug 2022
231mph Ultima GTR640 on the Isle of Man – evo Retro
Ultima GTR640
Features

231mph Ultima GTR640 on the Isle of Man – evo Retro

The Ultima GTR640 is one of the fastest accelerating road cars ever built. John Barker channels his inner racer and unleashes it on the Isle of Man TT…
11 Aug 2022