Review

Land Rover Defender SUV

Land Rover Defender SUV

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Strong residual values
  • Unbeatable off-road ability
  • Incredibly long pedigree
Cons
  • Spartan interior
  • Exceptionally crude to drive
  • Neither cheap to buy or run

"If you value off-road dependability more than anything else, nothing comes close to the Defender."

It's not exactly a secret that 2015 will be the last year for the Land Rover Defender as we currently know it. After almost 70 years in production, the iconic model has been defeated by stringent European emissions standards, which even Land Rover admits the Defender couldn’t meet in its current form. The Defender will remain in production until September 2015 and will most likely remain on sale for a few months afterwards as dealers clear their remaining stock.

It's usual at this point in our reviews to mention a model's rivals, but the Defender doesn’t really have any. The cars that come the closest are the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Shogun, but they can’t match the Defender's abilities off-road. Even other Land Rover models like the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery don’t come close. These cars are all more efficient, more comfortable and better to drive on-road but none has the Defender's character and heritage. Buyers love the Defender for its unique appeal and abilities that other 4x4 cars simply can’t beat. 

It comes in three sizes: 90, 110 and 130 (referring to the distance between the front and rear wheels in inches). A variety of bodies are available for these different chassis, including the Station Wagon passenger version, pick-ups and van-like ‘hard tops’.

Unlike more modern SUVs, which tend to offer a range of diesel and petrol engines, the Defender is available with just one: a 118bhp 2.2-litre diesel. It's coarse and noisy, but gives you a decent amount of pulling power. Defender buyers should also be prepared to refuel on a very regular basis – even in its most efficient form, this car can’t even manage 30mpg. Plus, high CO2 emissions mean the Defender costs more than £500 a year to tax.

All versions have permanent four-wheel drive, a rust-resistant aluminium body and large wheels and tyres. The most basic model doesn’t even have a radio, but there are also County and upmarket XS trim levels. County features electric windows and a CD player with an MP3 player connection, while XS adds part-leather seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity and air-conditioning. These features may not seem that out of the ordinary, but they’re welcome reminders of the 21st century in the venerable Defender.

The Defender also has a raft of special editions available, from Heritage (inspired by the earliest model) to Autobiography (which offers loads of luxurious touches). There's also an Adventure Edition, with plenty of black detailing, leather seats and extreme add-ons like an engine snorkel and an enormous roof rack.

Although it feels basic and agricultural, the Land Rover Defender is not a cheap car to buy. In fact, it can only really be described as good value for money if you intend to use it as a working vehicle.

MPG, running costs & CO2

1.7 / 5

Fuel efficiency isn’t a Land Rover Defender strong point, but insurance is surprisingly cheap

Engines, drive & performance

1.5 / 5

The Land Rover Defender is slow and is difficult to drive, but has greater off-road ability than almost anything else on sale

Interior & comfort

1 / 5

‘Utilitarian’ is probably the politest way of describing the Land Rover Defender interior

Practicality & boot space

2.5 / 5

There’s less interior space than you’d think, but the Land Rover Defender is available in a wide variety of body shapes

Reliability & safety

2.5 / 5

The aged design of the Land Rover Defender means the mechanicals are simple but safety is poor

What the others say

2.8 / 5
based on 3 reviews
2 / 5
Off-road, very little can touch it. On-road, there's very little to recommend it. Unless you spend a lot of time out in the wilds, any number of more-modern 4x4s make better buys.
3 / 5
Taken from Ford's Transit, the four-cylinder engine isn't quite up there in terms of power and torque, but it still feels punchy and responsive. Also, despite a long throw, the shift action of the six-speed gearbox is positive. And while the motor is a bit noisy, a long-striding sixth gear gives a more relaxed feel. On the road though, the Land Rover's shortcomings remain, with body roll in bends and unresponsive steering.
13 / 20
A dinosaur and the daddy at the same time. The Land Rover Defender is an off-roader that can travel on-road, rather than the other way around. Recent changes mean that it's not quite as mind-numbing and physically demanding to drive than before, but this remains a car that puts agriculture before culture
What owners say 
4.1324074074074
4.1 /5 based on 216 reviews
90%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
31 Jul 2015
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