The new Defender Hybrid is the fastest Defender ever
Two very different kinds of new Land Rover Defenders have joined what is rapidly becoming a huge range, book-ending the reborn 4x4 line-up at opposite ends of the power, performance and price spectrum.
At the top is the new Defender P400e, a long-wheelbase luxury flagship with the plug-in hybrid drivetrain from the Range Rover. The 130mph all-terrain five/six-seater comes with every bell and whistle the most sybaritic (or adventurous) of families could desire, plus a conscience-salving electric side, and costs from £64,800.
And at the bottom of the range for almost half that price is a version that many will be drawn to, reflecting as it does a more traditional Defender focus on toughness and durability. Reviving a name first used in the 1950s, it’s the Defender Hard Top. Yes it’s officially a commercial vehicle but don’t let that put you off, as CVs go this is dead cool and anyway if it’s a business purchase you can reclaim the vat. Without the tax, the 90 Hard Top costs from £35,820.
If Defender to you means primarily a working tool with hose-out interior, lashing points, masses of space and big towing ability (up to 3.5 tonnes) then this is the Defender for you. It comes with all the important features for which the transformative new model has been acclaimed, including of course its go-anywhere ability, but without back seats and with blanked-off rear side windows (or “signage panels”).
You can get it in three-door 90 form or (from £43,012 excluding VAT) with the extended wheelbase five-door 110 body, and either can be equipped with a jump seat up front making it a three-seater. Behind the full-height cargo bulkhead, the 90 offers 1,355 litres of space, the 110 2,059 litres, plus there are lockable stowage bins under the completely flat floor. The Hard Top’s load area is accessed via a side-hinged rear tailgate which is large enough for a standard Euro pallet to pass through. Payloads are from 670kg.
The 2020 Hard Top is the work of Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations whose chief Michael van der Sande says it is a no-nonsense vehicle that will “take whatever is thrown at it, or in it.”
The Hard Top in either wheelbase can be had with the latest Ingenium straight-six diesel engine in D200, D250 or D300 forms, and all come with eight-speed automatic transmission and Terrain Response all-wheel-drive. Standard is steel coil sprung suspension but the 110 can be optioned with the firm’s air suspension.
There are of course lots more options and ways to personalise the Hard Top with extensive accessories and option packs on top of spec levels that parallel regular Defenders with
S, SE and HSE trims. Note, though, that all come with features unheard of in its illustrious predecessor such as online connectivity and driver assistance systems including 3D surround camera system to help with reversing and off-road manoeuvring.
One thing you can’t get in the Hard Top is a P400e version – that is reserved for the new flagship model. This is definitely not a commercial vehicle. The first-ever plug-in hybrid Defender gets a drivetrain familiar from other Land Rovers, a combination of 300PS 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and 140PS electric motor, for benefits that extend across the board.
Here is a Defender that’s quick, with 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 130mph; a Defender that’s clean, with CO2 emissions of 74g/km; one that can drive for up to 27 miles on electric power alone; and also a Defender whose instant-torque electric motor can even enhance the Defender’s already impressive off-road ability. Land Rover says driving it in low-range electric mode brings a new dimension to off-road adventures.
It all comes at a hefty price but you do get 20-inch alloys, air suspension, charging cables that allow both home-charging or fast-charging (80 per cent capacity in 30 minutes), five or six seats and all manner of comfort, convenience and connectivity features – along with the rather more traditional Defender attributes of extreme off-road talent and ability to tow a caravan, boat or horsebox up to three tonnes.
Hybrid or Hard Top? They are very different but both are true to the new Defender and evidence of Land Rover’s determination to establish the reborn model’s wide breadth of capability with new customers and diehard Defender fans alike.
The line-up has also been boosted by the arrival in showrooms of the 90 model, delayed because of the pandemic, and enhanced with the fitment of torquier new mild-hybrid Ingenium diesel engines, topped by a new D300 version with 300PS and 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds. There are also new options (folding fabric roof anyone?), new option packs and colour and trim choices, and an additional Defender X-Dynamic model with body and interior makeover.
For work, rest or play, it seems there is now a Defender to suit. Land Rover must certainly be hoping so.