Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’re aware that Land Rover recently rolled out an all-new Defender. This is monumental news given that the old Defender had been on sale largely unchanged for almost 40 years, and Land Rover appears to have hit the nail on the head with the vehicle’s redesign. What I was most pleasantly surprised by is how the new Defender will appeal to such a wide variety of buyers — namely, how Land Rover has positioned it to compete not just in the luxury segment, but with other mainstream enthusiast-oriented off-road SUVs as well. Here, I want to compare it to two of the leading rugged SUVs on sale today: the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, and one that isn’t even out yet: the all-new Ford Bronco.
For a look at a spreadsheet I made that lays all of this out in simple terms, click here.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the new Defender is how it’s priced. Sure, you can option one to over $100,000, putting it into Range Rover, BMW X5 and even Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen territory. But without the 6-cylinder engine, satin protective exterior film, leather interior, head-up displays, premium cabin lighting, center console refrigerator and everything else, you’ll be able to get a 2020 Defender 110 with all of the functional off-road bits and cool accessories — but none of the luxury stuff — for around $62,000. This is right around the price of a loaded Wrangler Rubicon. Expect a loaded Bronco to come in at around the same price as the Wrangler, while the old-school 4Runner TRD Pro comes in at about $10,000 less, but falls well short with regard to features. This is monumental news, especially given that refinement and build quality — at least on the surface — will undoubtedly be much higher in the Defender than in any of these other vehicles.
The base engine in the Defender aligns pretty well with the engines offered in each of these three competitors (there’s also an optional turbocharged V6). The Defender comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Wrangler’s main engine is a 3.6-liter V6 making 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while the 4Runner offers an ancient 4.0-liter V6 putting out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. Looking ahead to the Bronco, it’s fair to say it’ll likely launch with the same 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder found under the hood of the new Ranger. There’s a good chance that once official figures come out, the Defender’s base engine will be the leader of the pack here with regard to performance and fuel economy.
Unlike the other SUVs we’re looking at here, the new Defender is built on a unibody platform with a fully independent suspension similar to what underpins the Discovery. While this would appear to put it at a disadvantage, two things that keep the Defender competitive are its off-road geometry and its standard air suspension. Fully raised up, the Defender gains three inches of ground clearance relative to its default ride height for a total ground clearance of 11.5 inches — 0.7 inches taller than the Wrangler. This gives it approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees, respectively. The latter two figures are segment-leading, while the former — approach angle — is bested only by the Wrangler, which offers an impressive 44 degrees. For what it’s worth, the 4Runner’s angles are pretty weak by comparison, coming in at 33, 20 and 26 degrees. Obviously, it’s too early to tell with the Bronco.
Finally, on to off-roady features. The Defender comes standard with a locking center differential and a locking rear, although it appears that the rear locker will come on automatically only after the vehicle has sensed slip. This is less desirable than the button-activated rear locker you get on the Wrangler, 4Runner and presumably Bronco, as the Ranger and F-150 both come with a traditional rear locker. The Wrangler remains the only vehicle among this group with a front locker. The Defender also gets Land Rover’s Terrain Response System, along with hill-descent control — par for the course these days and comparable to the offerings of the competition.
On top of this, Land Rover offers loads of cool accessories with the new Defender, including a platform-style roof rack with a ladder, a snorkel-style air intake, very British-looking mud flaps, a winch and a detachable cargo carrier that mounts to the rear passenger-side window, great for carrying helmets or muddy boots or whatever other outdoor gear you may not want to have riding with you in the cabin. Land Rover has made it so buyers can get an overland-ready Defender straight from the dealership, which can’t be said for Jeep or Toyota.
Altogether, the new Defender was bound to be exciting regardless, but Land Rover’s decisions with regard to pricing and packaging make it clear that the company is targeting enthusiast buyers with the new Defender, allowing it to be cross shopped with everything from the G-Wagen down to the rough-and-ready Wrangler. While $62,000 isn’t exactly pennies, compared to the competition, the Defender is a pretty great value. Find a Land Rover Defender for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.