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In-depth reviews

Land Rover Defender review - iconic 4x4 reinvented

"The Land Rover Defender has returned with an incredible repertoire of talents, including a strong range of plug-in hybrid, petrol and diesel engines"

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

Owners Rating

5.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Incredible off road
  • Great interior

Cons

  • High running costs
  • Expensive to buy
  • Cumbersome tailgate

Verdict – is the Land Rover Defender a good car?

The Land Rover Defender has been around for decades. But while the old model was a back-to-basics, rough-and-ready, go-anywhere 4x4, the new one matches that ability with a luxurious cabin and prodigious on-road driving manners. If you’re looking for a no-compromise all-rounder, the Defender ticks a lot of boxes.

Land Rover Defender models, specs and alternatives

This is the all-new Land Rover Defender: the long-awaited, much-hyped replacement for Britain's most famous off-roader. It returned some four years after production of its predecessor stopped, and manages to be both similar to the original, and yet significantly different, too.

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Its design clearly pays tribute to the original ‘Landie’, albeit in original new ways, and Land Rover still claims it's the best off-roader you can walk into a showroom and buy. However, its advanced technology, improved performance, luxury and safety kit mean the Defender has been parachuted into the 21st Century.

Best 4x4s 2024Top 10 best 4x4s 2024

We'll let you decide whether its design is a success, but it certainly looks appropriately chunky, and details like its front and rear lights are impressively intricate. There are plenty of personalisation options too. It may be that you love the basic Defender with steel wheels, but hate the range-topper with gargantuan gloss black alloys, or vice versa. Similarly you may prefer the looks of the three-door Defender 90 to the longer five-door 110; there’s also an even lengthier 130 model to choose from, too.

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Inside, the Defender has a rugged, industrial aesthetic, characterised by exposed bolt heads, metal surfaces and an exposed magnesium crossmember that forms part of the car’s structure. The Defender 110 and 130 are available with up to seven and eight seats respectively.

Passengers are treated to the latest in-car entertainment and connectivity, with Land Rover's Pivi Pro system using two modems to ensure it can be wirelessly updated, even while being used for media, navigation or traffic updates.

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At launch, a pair of four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engines with 197 or 237bhp were available, badged D200 and D240 respectively. These were swiftly replaced by a pair of 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines with mild-hybrid electrical assistance, badged D250 and D300. The base D250 produces 247bhp, while the D300 version produced 296bhp. In 2024, the D300 was replaced by the D350, upping the horsepower to 345bhp.

The petrol-powered Defender range initially kicked off with the P300 engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 296bhp. Buyers could upgrade to the P400 straight-six engine with 394bhp for some extra grunt, or the 2.0-litre P400e plug-in hybrid for better fuel-efficiency. As of 2024, all three engines have been discontinued, replaced by the P300e plug-in hybrid and P425 engines.

The P300e uses a detuned version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor setup from the old P400e, with a similar electric-only driving range, while the P425 uses a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine producing 419bhp. Both engines are available for all bodystyles.

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Top of the tree is the Defender ‘V8’, equipped with the P525 V8 engine in the Defender 90 and 110, or the P500 V8 for Defender 130s. Introduced in 2021, this uses the same 5.0-litre V8 as the P425 but tuned up to 519bhp (496bhp for the P500). It's the fastest factory version ever, hitting 0-62mph in as little as 5.2 seconds, but also costs around £110,000.

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No matter which powertrain you choose, all versions of the Defender come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, low-range gears and four-wheel-drive.

All of the Defender’s powertrains offer plenty of punch, but it's the way the Land Rover feels to drive that's most surprising. The steering is direct and responsive, tucking the nose into corners with little hesitation and while there's some body roll, this suits the Defender's character. This is a Defender that's surprisingly sporty and enjoyable to drive along a twisty road, thanks to the chameleon-like nature of its adaptive air suspension.

Off-road, the same setup can extend, providing enough articulation to see the Defender crawl over almost any obstacle and wade through almost a metre of water. It's almost unstoppable off-road, and incredibly comfortable while tackling the very roughest terrain. It can also tow up to 3,500kg and carry an unbelievable 300kg on its roof.

The Defender has always been innovative and the latest version is one of the most intelligent cars we've ever tested. It may be rather uneconomical – unless you choose the plug-in hybrid and charge it up regularly – but it makes up for this with impressive on and off-road manners, and an incredibly well-considered design for demanding buyers, their passengers and all their gear.

There are few SUVs on sale today that can match the Defender’s broad spectrum of skills. Those looking for a rugged 4x4 may also want to consider the Toyota Land Cruiser or Ineos Grenadier, but neither are as refined or rewarding to drive on-road as the Land Rover. At the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of luxury SUV alternatives such as the BMW X5 or the Audi Q7, both of which offer a more upmarket cabin. However, many of these premium SUVs are designed primarily for road use and will struggle to match the Defender’s all-terrain talents. 

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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