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2020 Land Rover Defender: First Look

  • The 2020 Land Rover Defender is the return of the icon.

  • It matches old-school cool with modern Land Rover styling.

  • There are a ton of customization options and accessories.

  • With great looks and strong capability, it’s likely to be a hit.

After a 22-year hiatus for the nameplate in our market, the 2020 Land Rover Defender is coming back. With an all-new, modernized design, the Defender aims to pair luxurious on-road performance with off-road capability.

It joins reimagined versions of the Jeep Wrangler and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as a retro-styled SUV built around a legacy of off-road prowess. With the reimagined Ford Bronco launching later this year, Land Rover is hoping that there’s room in between mainstream macho SUVs and posh off-roaders like the G-Wagen.

So far, it looks set for success. The design is fantastic, with a modern look that contains throwback references like the skylights in the roof. Land Rover’s also doubling down on accessories, with lots of ways to customize the brawny appearance of the SUV. Modern powertrain tech, lots of luxury features, an available front bench seat and optional third-row help to make the Defender a practical option, too.

Modern Looks, Old-School Cool

The Land Rover Defender is essentially the United Kingdom’s Jeep. A military vehicle that eventually became popular with farmers and backcountry dwellers, the Defender developed a reputation for go-anywhere capability. Decades later, Land Rover in the U.S. is better known for peddling the ultra-luxury Range Rover, a favorite among wealthy suburbanites and Hollywood Stars.

The new Defender seamlessly bridges those contrasting identities. The sleek front fascia and clean surfaces are distinctly modern Range Rover design bits, but available chunky steel wheels, heavy-duty roof racks, side-mounted external equipment cases and squared-off styling at the back all nod to the Defender’s utilitarian roots.

Much like the Jeep Wrangler, you can also get the Defender with two or four doors. The 2-door model is the Defender 90 while the 4-door is known as the Defender 110, with both names plucked from the old Defender’s nomenclature.

Both versions look stellar, but the chunky pillar on the rear window looks much more natural on the longer Defender 110.

Heavy Duty

The Land Rover Defender is built for tough situations, so Land Rover stressed the model’s capability. The Defender offers a low-range gearbox, a locking rear differential and extremely short overhangs that should make climbing over steep obstacles a cinch. It also offers Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which offers different off-road modes to help drivers navigate mud, rocks or snow.

U.S. buyers can choose between two powertrains. The base Defender gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 296 horsepower. If that’s not enough power, the Defender offers an inline-six-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system. Together, the engine and 48-volt hybrid system can produce 395 hp.

The sole transmission option is an 8-speed automatic from ZF, an extremely popular transmission used in dozens of models.

Inside the Defender

The Defender receives a new generation of infotainment, dubbed PIVI Pro. The system is a touch-based interface, accessed through a 10-in screen in the dashboard. PIVI Pro is designed to be slicker and more user-friendly than previous Land Rover infotainment systems, which have been criticized for slow responses and confounding menus. PIVI Pro also supports over-the-air updates, which means the software can be improved over time.

The interior design is also a departure from typical Land Rover interiors, with an upright dashboard and more hard buttons than recent Range Rovers. Seats can be trimmed in premium textiles or leather, while available open-pore wood trim classes up the cabin.

A standard Defender comes with five seats, but you can option a jump seat in the front row. Smaller than a normal seat, the $900 jump seat sits between the driver and passenger seat. When not in use, the jump seat folds down into an armrest and cupholder. The larger Defender 110 offers a small third row with two extra seats. The current configurator does not allow you to spec the third row with the jump seat, so the maximum seating capacity is seven.

When and How Much?

The Defender 110 arrives in spring 2020. Prices start at $49,900 for a base model, but the top-trim Defender 110 X kicks off at $80,900. The Defender 90 will go on sale later in 2020. Pricing for the 90 has yet to be announced.

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