Goodwood Test: Land Rover Defender 90 2022 Review
The previous Land Rover Defender was in a class of its own. No other car possessed such a broad range of superannuated shortcomings and patent mismatch to modern roads yet was so inexplicably revered by everyone from hipsters to hill farmers. Although the latter all drive pick-ups these days leaving the Defender for the beardies with their own microbreweries. The new Defender on the other hand is an incredible creation with a breadth of abilities that put it in a class of its own, but for good reasons this time. That’s the case for the five-door Defender 110 variant at least but does the shorter two-door 90 make as compelling a case for itself?
- Looks the part
- Now has on road abilities to match the off-road
- Useful selection of tech
We don't like
- Rear seats tricky to access
- Very limited bootspace
- The commercial version is probably more useful
Regardless of how it went, the Defender always looked the part, like it could go anywhere and look good parked outside once it arrived, whether that was a base camp or Belgravia. Its simplicity was never going to translate directly into a world of modern safety structures and emissions standards, but Land Rover has done a decent job of incorporating Defender design cues into the new car with circular headlight graphics, flat wing tops and safari roof windows. Some of it is smoke and mirrors however; the door aperture is much smaller on the inside than the outer shutlines suggest and from inside the pillars are humungous, limiting your view. Overall it has the same pleasing ruggedness as the 110 and gains a foursquare stance that the longer car lacks.
Performance and Handling
The four-cylinder diesels have been dropped from the Defender line-up, leaving a choice of three straight-six Ingenium oil burners in 200, 250 and 300 guises, all with mild-hybrid tech. We tested the mid-range version with its 249PS (183kW) and 570Nm (420lb ft) of torque matched to the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic. Despite shaving 100kg from the long wheelbase model the 90 still tips the scales at over 2.2-tonnes, so it was never going to move that briskly off the line regardless of the number of ratios or help from the hybrid set-up. The 0-62mph standard takes 8.0 seconds which will be as much a surprise to the owner of a modern performance SUV as it will be to an old Defender owner, albeit from diametrically opposed viewpoints. Both will be familiar with a heavy combined fuel consumption of 30.4mpg.
The gearbox also has a habit of making lurching downshifts at junction negotiating speeds as it decides what to do with all the mass it has to move. Once in gear and on the move though the straight-six provides a strong shove at virtually any speed up to and beyond the motorway speed limit. This explains why the natural habitat of the Defender now seems to be bullying its way up the outside lane, where it tracks straight and true, rather than wobbling along like a Jeep Wrangler.
Despite the optional air suspension and Adaptive Dynamics, the Defender remains an off-roader as opposed to a Sport Utility Vehicle. The nose rises and squats in response to acceleration and braking, the body rolls and leans on its tyres through bends. None of that is a bad thing, however, thanks to progressive and smooth weight management, accurate steering and supple suspension. We only dabbled in a bit of dry weather off-roading in our time with the Defender, but we know from old that its all-terrain abilities will far surpass what almost any owner will ever ask of it.
Yet again, the Defender’s cabin is unlike any other; part Star Trek console with its shallow angled layout and touchscreens, and part Meccano set with its deliberately exposed fixings and chunky aesthetic. The excision of 435mm from the wheelbase however has led to a compromise that may prove tricky in day-to-day ownership for anyone who travels more than two-up.
The shutlines on the outside may give the impression of a long, useful door but this is not matched by the aperture itself, meaning there is no room to squeeze into the back without moving the front seats forward. This is achieved painfully slowly thanks to electric rather than mechanical action, and one which frustratingly doesn’t return the seat to the same position. The rear pews are also set quite far back which leads to an ungainly scramble to get seated, no doubt kicking over whatever you have placed in the inexplicably floor-mounted cupholders. As to getting a baby seat in there, its hard to see how you would manage without getting in yourself first and having it passed to you. That or a gentle lob. Rear seat passengers will benefit from excellent leg, shoulder and headroom however. The boot is just about adequate for a single small bale of hay so raiding the options catalogue for the various panniers and roof racks on offer may be a necessity.
Technology and Features
The central touchscreen runs JLR’s Pivi Pro User Interface which is one of the better examples on the market. It's generally smooth and responsive, with an intuitive navigation. There was occasionally some glitching and lag on the photorealistic navigation screen however.
Other than the expected suite of safety systems and Android or Apple smartphone integration, the main tech thrust for the Defender is to up its already considerable off-road abilities. So there is the aforementioned Adaptive Dynamics which came as part of the optional Air Suspension package (this is standard on the 110 but the 90 comes equipped with springs), 360-degree camera system and wade sensing. The big trick of course is Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control which basically amounts to 'point the Defender at anything and it will drive on, over or through it', adjusting ride height, throttle response, diff and traction control settings to suit.
The new Defender is still in a class of its own and now for all the right reasons. The base price for this model, at just over £51,000 on-the-road is even reasonable given the breadth of its abilities both on and off road. We are just not entirely sure who it is for, given the limitations of its packaging. You could probably bribe some teenagers to climb into the back but the boot isn’t big enough to take them camping and Stretch Armstrong would struggle to install a baby in there. Buy the commercial version however and swap those back seats for a fully rubberised loadspace, plus the tax benefits, and you’ve got yourself a very canny and capable work vehicle for years to come.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six diesel
249PS (183kW) @ 4,000rpm
510Nm (420lb ft) @ 1,250rpm
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive, low ratio transfer case|
Reviewed by Henry Biggs