It’s almost been a year now that I have had this website up and running, and in this time I feel I have reviewed my fair share of cars. There are certain cars that I would call “good” and others that I would politely ask you to stay away from, but there is only a small group of cars I review that I would truly consider buying for myself. So, understand the importance I place on the new Defender when I say that as soon as I set my eyes on it, I immediately wanted one.
Now, right away there are a few things you have to understand about the Land Rover Defender. It is essentially a cult classic. When you think of classic Land Rover, you think of the Defender. It can trace its roots all the way back to the original Series 1 Land Rover and has always carried on that spirit of rugged dependability. Production of the Defender came to a halt in 2016 due to new safety regulations which forced Land Rover to rethink their design and start from scratch. This means that the new Defender is noticeably different from Defenders of the past, but it still has to uphold the pedigree of its past while making sense in today’s market.
There are many features on the new Defender that suggest Land Rover engineers have really fixated on bringing modern technology to the forefront. For the first time ever, it comes with fully independent suspension as well as a unibody construction. It also comes with a new software system called “Pivi Pro” which provides the capability for over the air software updates, something that up to this point I have only seen in Teslas. It even comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox which makes day to day driving much more convenient. These are all great improvements, but the question has to be posed, do these improvements dilute the true character of the Defender?
To answer my own question, no. I do think that it still stays true to what a Defender should primarily be. To me, the Defender should be a purpose built vehicle. Many SUVs on the market today are trying to be multiple things at once, but the Defender is built for one job: off-roading. Consumers have come to love it for its ability to tackle any terrain and over time it has become what we might call a “cool” car. I like to equate it to the infatuation American culture has developed for the Jeep Wrangler. I find the spirit of the Defender to hold many parallels with the Wrangler, but in my opinion the Defender is a more refined and capable car when it comes to off-roading. However, before I get a flurry of strongly worded messages from Wrangler owners, let’s talk strictly about the Defender’s off-road proficiency.
The Defender comes with standard four wheel drive and locking differentials as you would expect on an off-road car. It has 11.5 inches of ground clearance which with the optional air suspension can be adjusted. It’s true party-piece is the array of technology you get at your fingertips which help you navigate all sorts of terrain. A graphic on the display pops up when you wade into rivers, showing you how close or far away you are from the max wading height of 35.4 inches. As part of the slew of cameras on the car you also get something called “clearsight ground view” which allows you to see the ground directly underneath the car to ensure that you don’t suffer from a puncture. You can even manually change how much lock or slip you want on each wheel, but if you can’t be bothered you can of course let the computer do the thinking for you. I really don’t think I could summarize the Defender’s off-road capabilities in just one paragraph, but based on my research it has been impressive on road tests and hit all the milestones expected of it.
The Defender is fully worth the purchase in my book, but there are two problems with actually buying it: pricing and availability. In America, even finding a dealership that has the new Defender in stock will be tough as they have only been shipped over in limited amounts. COVID-19 has hampered Land Rover’s ability to manufacture new cars which makes it unlikely that any more Defenders arrive on American soil anytime soon. Prices for a Defender (starting at $50,000) are significantly higher than those of the Wrangler, which in my opinion is the main reason why we rarely see any Defenders on the road in America. This fact, however, can play both ways as even though purchasing a Defender is expensive, it holds its value extremely well. I was able to find a 1992 Land Rover Defender listed for $120,000. This is of course an extreme example, but it points to a general trend. So, while at first it might not make sense to put down that much money for a Defender after going through the additional headache of finding one, putting up with these inconveniences might serve you well in the long run.
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Aucock, Richard. “Jaguar Land Rover Debuts New Pivi Pro Infotainment At CES 2020 | Motoring Research”. Motoring Research, 2020, https://www.motoringresearch.com/car-news/jaguar-land-rover-pivi-pro-infotainment-ces-2020/. Accessed 11 June 2020.