Quickies: Meeting The Defender in Wichita

Remember that little mention of the 2020 Land Rover Defender that was in the Mid-Continent Road Trip?

You would think I would not ignore that vehicle. However, it is really hard to ignore. 

Before I was ready to do this piece, a little off-roader decided to take over the news cycle. You probably heard of it. It was a trio of Fords called the Bronco. 

While all of the attention shone on Dearborn, the Defender seemed like it was shoved off into the shadows. 

Let me tell you about the return of the Land Rover Defender.

It piqued my interest, thanks to a few videos on YouTube. Both Mat Watson of Carwow.co.uk and Rory Reid of AutoTrader.co.uk gave me a better picture of this very important vehicle from the purveyors of British off road vehicles. What I learned was not only how capable the new Defender will be. I also gathered how much this vehicle will be compared to the 2-door and 4-door Broncos. 

I want set aside the Fords for a moment and focus on the Defender. Because, I was really looking forward to seeing it and giving my first touches and sitting. The bonus was actually driving it. 

The Defender was developed on its own spin-off of Jaguar Land Rover’s D7 architecture. The goal of the new Defender was to break from tradition of its lineage going back to 1948, while still true to its mission as an off roading SUV. 

The result is a mix of modern and classic elements – actually more modern than anything. The boxy design for both the short (90) and long (110) wheelbase is a nod to the original Defender in various respects. 

However, you can see where Tata and JLR was going with their icon. Some have said that there’s too much of a nod to the rest of the Land Rover lineup with some Range Rover touches included. I don’t about you, but the Defender 110 I was checking out had a lot of cool elements that would bring its intended customer – a well-heeled adventurer with an active lifestyle addiction – to its charms. 

The 110 is very upright and slab-sided. The stance looked ready to bypass the Kansas Turnpike and into the Flint Hills. The roof is not removable, but perhaps it is best. This one is designed to protect its occupants instead of letting them hang out on the trail. 

Step inside the Defender and it is a mix of few impressions. What is like is the quality of the interior – as expected in a Land Rover/Range Rover vehicle. However, I felt that it was perhaps a bit too posh, despite some utilitarian nods on the instrument panel. 

One issue I had was trying to locate some of the controls for the Terrain Response system, as well as other function in the center stack area. The climate controls were located too low for me to operate competently. I also needed some time to truly understand JLR’s infotainment system. A true learning curve is needed to fully comprehend the Defender. 

The seats were very comfortable. Though I’d expect those seats to be in a Discovery or Discovery Sport and not a Defender. Room is very good in both the first- and second-row seats of the 110 with excellent access for all doors. Some models will feature two more seats in the extreme rear of the Defender 110. I can also see that cargo space is very good for overlanding gear or for a lot of luggage to the resort. 

Power from our 110 SE P400 example came from a 395-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. This engine is actually a mild hybrid, with some 48-volt electrification in the driveline. This engine is connected to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels through a two-speed transfer case. 

All of this combined resulted in one conclusion about the driveline: This thing wanted to fly. I mean, it was ready to pounce on some off road course somewhere. Oklahoma, maybe? Maybe the P400 is the driveline to get instead of the standard four-cylinder turbocharged engine on the Defender and Defender S. 

My time behind the wheel was short and restricted to a certain area near the dealership. From what I gathered, the Defender offered a smooth ride with excellent maneuverability. The steering and braking system really felt on point in various ways. I can imagine what the Defender will be like when taken off the highway. Heck, even on the highway. 

Pricing for the Defender lineup in the USA will start from $49,990. I did not catch the actual price of the 110 SE P400 I sampled. That model actually starts from $62,250.

We are really in a renaissance of off road vehicles these days. The Land Rover Defender should truly be considered, but I would definitely look at pricing before getting one. But, for the price, I can say that it is really worth it. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Jaguar Land Rover of Wichita

All photos by Randy Stern

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