The 2021 Land Rover Defender is a reimagined icon of legendary off-road prowess meets understated British luxury. It’s a tall order as the original Defender represents, for many, the pinnacle of old-school cool. But I would argue Land Rover has pulled it off by presenting what is, at a glance, obviously a Defender that’s married to the best manufacturing and tech available in the 21st century. The new truck has a tremendous array of models, features and personalization options. Let’s a have a look.
The Defender is built on a new, all-aluminum monocoque architecture known internally as D7x. Though it departs from the previous body-on-frame structure, it claims to be the stiffest Land Rover ever. Another modern update is a fully independent suspension with an optional air feature. This new platform brings forward the classic short front and rear overhangs to ensure legit off road chops. You’ll also find nearly a foot of ground clearance and close to three feet of water fording capability. (!)
Under the hood – which can of course be optioned with a snorkel – is the choice of two engines. A turbocharged inline-4 putting out 296 horses or a turbo and supercharged inline-6 with hybrid assist for 395 hp. Both motors are mated to an 8-speed automatic plus a two-speed transfer case and full-time 4WD. Thanks to the strength of the structure and powertrain, you can tow 8201 pounds and load the roof with up to 370 pounds of gear. Wilderness ready!
Customers can opt for two-door “90” or four-door “110” configuration, a nod to the past. The Alpine roof windows let you know who the manufacturer is while the vertical front and rear design speaks directly to Defender fans. And let’s not forget the side-hinged tailgate with an externally mounted spare. Again, Land Rover pulling at the retro-heartstrings. Colors like Pangea Green, 19” wheels and clean slab sides give the new Defender a strong, purposeful aspect.
That inherent ruggedness continues inside with the exposed magnesium structural cross car beam. The integrated grab handles literally give you a feel for the Defender’s strength. All that toughness can be wrapped in supple leather contrasted with durable textile in high wear locations. Rough-cut walnut veneer, heated and cooled seating and a panoramic sunroof are the luxury touches expected from a Land Rover. Not to mention the available 14-speaker Meridian sounds system.
You’ll also find the latest in connectivity via Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) updates and Land Rover’s PIVI Pro infotainment suite. You can access all this tech on the 12.3” interactive digital gauge cluster and 10” central touchscreen. SOTA updates mean the 3D maps you can navigate in the gauge cluster are always fresh along with a host of other real-time vehicle benefits. PIVI Pro can be paired with the Online Pack and Wi-Fi for music streaming, weather updates and ease of device usage. There is also a Heads Up Display plus wireless charging and Apple/Android integration.
On the driver assistance front, Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection is standard. As is Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure Warning. The ClearSight RearView feature switches the rearview mirror to a digital feed of what’s behind you. A nifty off-road driver assistance feature is the ClearSight GroundView that renders the hood transparent so you can see those hidden areas out front while crawling along rocks.
Overall, the 2021 Land Rover Defender is a tremendous SUV with solid driving dynamics on-road and true off-road ability to boot. The design is refreshing and the interior pulls together the latest tech plus selectable driving modes and air suspension. On the downside, the brakes are tricky and the Defender has a high step in height. As well, the key fob leaves some questions unanswered and there are long term reliability questions with Land Rover. For more thoughts on the new Defender, please check out the video above. Drivers Only ranks the 2021 Land Rover Defender 104, please click here to see where it ranks amongst its peers: Best Midsize Luxury SUVS for 2020 & 2021.
Front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5- 6- or 7-passenger passenger, 4-door wagon
16-valve DOHC 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4: 296 hp, 295 lb-ft
24-valve DOHC 3.0-liter, turbocharged + supercharged inline-6: 395 hp, 406 lb-ft
2-speed transfer case
Wheelbase: 101.9-119.0 in
L/W/H: 180.4-197.6/78.6/77.4-77.5 in
Curb Weight: 4850-5200 lb
0-60 mph: 5.7-7.6 sec
¼ mile: 14.2-15.9 sec
Top speed: 119-129 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY