Five things you need to know about the all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender

ByPaul HorrellSeptember 10, 2019
Five things you need to know about the all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender

Following a last-minute leak, the all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender has finally been revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and here are the five things we think you need to know about it.

The all-new Land Rover Defender has been revealed today at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but it’ll be a long-drawn roll-out of variants across the remainder of the year and into next year too. The first model out the door is the five-door which is largely akin to the 110 Defender although it’s actually 119-inches long.

But that’s not all that’s different, the new Defender gets a brand-new platform and is utterly and entirely different to the vehicle it replaces in every single way. Yes, there’ll be those who tut-tut at the thing as a more rugged looking Discovery, but according to Land Rover, 95 percent of the Defender is unique.

The first Defender to arrive in Australia will be the 110 variant which will go on-sale here in June next year (2020) with the 90 arriving in late 2020. Indicative pricing is $70,000+ORCs for the Defender 110. No doubt you’ll be sick to the back teeth with Defender coverage before the year is out but, for now, here are the five things (more like 50) you absolutely need to know about the new Land Rover Defender.

It’s new. And pretty much unique

The old Defender was just that. Old. Way too old to be adapted or modernised. The new one shares that 4×4’s spirit of adventure, but no parts with it. No live axles or separate chassis here. It uses a new aluminium monocoque, with fully independent suspension – and in both those crucial areas the parts are 95 percent unique to the Defender (the platform is called D7x).

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Oh, and the old names live on. The three-door is called 90. The five-door is 110. Its wheelbase is 3022mm (90mm longer than a Discovery). Not 110 inches then, but 119 inches. It’s a big vehicle, more than five-metres long including the rear-mount spare wheel.

Inside, the cab is modular, with the option of traditional three-abreast front, for a total of eight seats. It’s also got loads of technology, some of which has been seen on other Land Rovers and Range Rovers. Some, especially in the connected infotainment and displays, is a step ahead from that. Hope it’s reliable.

As to the look of the thing, the Defender (like the Wrangler, G-Wagen, and Jimny) takes a glance over its shoulder. You will recognise it as a Landie, no question. But it’s also a fully modern shape. No panels are flat, because flat metal soon goes wavy. It’s oval in plan, the wheel-arches are subtly flared, and the nose pays attention to drag reduction.

Here’s how Land Rover’s chief crayon twirler, Gerry McGovern describes it: “The new Defender is respectful of its past but is not harnessed by it. This is a new Defender for a New Age. Its unique personality is accentuated by its distinctive silhouette and optimum proportions, which make it both highly desirable and seriously capable – a visually compelling 4×4 that wears its design and engineering integrity with uncompromised commitment”.

There’ll be quite a few options available as we go along too, like a full-length fabric folding roof first on Defender 90 and Defender 110 in 2020. And the Defender is the first Land Rover to be offered with a factory-fit satin wrap to protect the paintwork. The PU-based wrap is a applied over the paintwork but can be removed at any time “for the highest performance in extreme conditions”.

Night-and-day better on-road, but it’s claimed to be handier off-road than ever

Under the new body is double-wishbone front suspension and integral-link independent rear. That brings huge improvements in cornering and ride on sealed and unsealed roads. But it doesn’t make it a mere crossover. Land Rover has built and tested the chassis parts for vastly more strength than even a Discovery. And it’s got 500mm maximum wheel articulation.

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Initial 110 models get air suspension with all the usual tricks: kneeling for access and trailer hitching, raising up to 145mm extra for off-road. The 90s due in a few months come with coils as base spec.

So do the Commercial versions, due next year (2020). These have panels in place of the rear side glass, and steel wheels. That should give some cred as a work vehicle, albeit a high-priced and sophisticated one. And that cred should of course brush off to the consumer versions.

The air-sprung one has ground clearance of 291mm. Approach and departure angles are 38 and 40 degrees. It can wade to 900mm and the front and rear overhangs measure 845mm and 891mm respectively. The recovery points are safe for a 6.5-tonne snatch load, and the cost-optional winch is good for 4.5 tonnes of pull. Payload is 900kg, and maximum brakes towing limit the expected 3500kg. The eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and so’s a low box and permanent four-wheel drive.

Electronic assistance includes automatic Terrain Response programmes. But via the centre screen you can also zone in your own settings (up to four) for throttle response, gearbox programming, traction control, steering weight and both the centre and rear locking diffs. The new Defender is also the first Land Rover to feature a Wade function which automatically switches the air to recirculate, locks the driveline and adjusts the suspension into its highest setting. When exiting Wade function, the system will drag the brakes momentarily to dry them. More than that all electrical connections are IP67 rated, meaning they can be submerged in up to one-metre of freshwater for an hour without damage; the battery sits under the driver’s seat on right-hand drive models.

‘Clearsight’ is Land Rover’s system for relaying a camera view of what’s under the front bumper to the centre-dash screen. More cameras cover the whole 360-degree perimeter. Another cost-option, the new high-res HUD, can display off-road angles and info. And the autonomous emergency braking system has been tweaked for off-road performance too, with reaction time down to 150 milliseconds as opposed to 300 milliseconds on a conventional set-up.

It’s smartly turned out inside, but super-useful with it

The 110 has five seats, and the options of one in the centre of the front row, and another two in the third row. Those last two aren’t much good for anyone older than early teens, mind. And even Land Rover admits the centre-front one is a jump seat.

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If you don’t want the third front seat the other configuration is an extended console with big modular storage. In the boot a set of gear securing rails is optional, and onto them you can fix a lockable strongbox. The Defender 110 will offer 5+2 seating which is marketing-speak for an occasional-use seven-seater. With the third-row seats used there’s 464 litres of storage space (or 646L on five-seat models), fold the third-row seats and there’s 916 litres of storage space (1075L on five-seat models) and up to 2233 litres with the second-row seats folded (or 2380 litres on five-seat models).

The cabin equipment and furniture are an almost unimaginable distance from the original. The luxury seats come in a huge choice of trims, and you’ll find wood deco in some configurations. But the floor remains a rubberised material and the sills are flush, so you can brush or even hose it out. The carpets are clip-in sections.

Twin screens fill the dash, as standard. They premier LR’s next-generation infotainment system, called Pivi Pro. A 5G capable connection is built in, and the system features over-the-air updates for maps and software. Wifi? Phone mirroring? Inductive device charging? Yeah, all of that.

For long road trips, driver assist systems include radar cruise control, lane keeping, blind-spot monitoring and the rest of today’s road-car norms.

It’s powerful but somewhat eco-aware

At global launch there are two petrol engines, a four-cylinder with 220kW and a new straight-six giving 294kW and 550Nm of torque from 2000-5000rpm. The six has both a conventional turbo and a 48V motor-powered supercharger. The 48V system also allows mild-hybrid operation. Result is acceleration potential of 6.4sec from 0-100km/h and a WLTP consumption of 9.6L/100km.

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There are also two four-cylinder diesels, at 147kW and 430Nm of torque and 177kW and 430Nm of torque from 1400rpm, both of them rated at an impressive 7.6L/100km on the WLTP cycle. Next year a petrol plug-in-hybrid version goes on sale in some countries, allowing commuter-length trips in pure electric drive. All versions have an eight-speed auto box as well as the two-speed transfer case. Fuel tank measures 83.5 and 88.5 litres depending on the variant and the AdBlue tank is 20.7 litres.

Options and accessories are wide ranging and novel

The factory custom options can hugely change the visual character of the new Defender. Schemes for paint, wheels (18- to 22-inch) and body protection that range from smart British country fashion to a dark urban look, to something more prepared for the outback. There’s even a matte paint wrap, which isn’t only super-trendy in certain circles but is also claimed to be highly protective. We’ll see if it can shrug off bush pinstripes.

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Land Rover doesn’t want to concede all the profitable accessories business to the aftermarket. So, there’s a big range, lots of them cleverly integrated. Many come in packs to simplify ordering, and the one you’ll want is called Explorer. It brings a snorkel, lightweight 26kg expedition roof rack and exterior side-mounted gear carrier, plus wheel-arch extensions and mudflaps, with the option to add front A-bar and bash plate, and a folding ladder to get you up to the roof (when the gear carriers aren’t fitted), where you can add a specially designed quick-fold roof tent. The Defender offers a dynamic roof load limit of 168kg (26kg less because of the roof rack) and a static roof load limit of 300kg.

Those side-mount gear carriers are neat boxes like motorbike panniers, mounted on the floating pillars behind the back doors on one or both sides. They’re handy for all sorts of wet or mucky kit. The winch is a 4500kg item with 40m of synthetic rope and radio remote control from 45m away. Other exterior add-ons include side tubes and steps. A small shower can clean your gear or dog, though the reservoir is probably too little to do a whole human (6.5 litres). Of course, there are any number of interior mats and protection sets, and a luggage separation fence.