The term “icon” gets thrown around far too easily and often these days, but Land Rover has suitably earned that status.
The Defender name may only go back to 1990, but the original Land Rover Series I’s history began all the way back in 1948. Originally built to be a barebones, go-anywhere four-wheel-drive vehicle, the off-roader’s traditional, utilitarian body-on-frame construction has been replaced with new unibody designs that offer better road manners and more creature comforts. Also available in two-door configuration, we tested the four-door 2022 Land Rover Defender in P300S trim.
In a sea of SUVs that are virtually indistinguishable from one another, the 2022 Land Rover Defender stands out on its own in a manner that is somehow both retro and modern. Paying homage to the past, new models retain the nostalgia of their lineage through subtle design details inside and out, but with softer edges and higher-quality materials. Subtle nods to the past include the hood inserts, upper rear windows, and taillights. The interior is clean and uncluttered, its design almost Scandinavian through its use of exposed hardware and a focus on function.
The Defender gets impressive LED lighting all around as well as a headlight-levelling system. Adaptive cruise control is offered but was not equipped on our test model. It did however feature blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and automatic emergency braking, as well as a government-mandated back-up camera.
The Defender gets a host of welcome amenities as standard fare, such as dual-zone climate control, wireless charging, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interfaces. The standard infotainment system gets a 10-inch touchscreen mated to a six-speaker stereo; however, our tester was equipped with the upgraded 11.4-inch screen and premium surround-sound stereo. The model we tested didn’t have a sunroof, but a large panoramic version is offered.
Our tester was also equipped with three-zone climate control, a tow hitch receiver, camera-based rearview mirror, full-size spare, and a wading function that senses water submersion and displays the depth on the head unit. The system automatically reacts to the situation by locking the driveline, softening throttle response, and recirculating cabin air, all of which allow it to traverse a depth of 900 mm (35.4 in).
User Friendliness: 8/10
Compared to the unnecessarily complex technology and functions of many luxury vehicles these days, the Defender’s interior is a breath of fresh air. The gearshift lever is easily within reach and simple to operate, which isn’t always the case. Buttons are big and chunky, which make them easy to use while driving or wearing gloves. It has a surprisingly tight turning radius, and its many camera views allow it to navigate tight trails or confined parking garages with ease. The cabin offers an abundance of storage space, and a selection of plugs for occupants to charge their devices. The full-size spare mounted on the back does impact visibility, but the optional digital rearview mirror ($500) solves that challenge by projecting a live look at what’s behind the vehicle in place of a traditional mirror.
A head-up display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster provide adequate information that’s easy to read while driving, day or night. The 11.4-inch infotainment touchscreen offers a responsive and intuitive experience, with one exception: the configurable terrain functions feel like an afterthought. In order to access eco and off-road driving modes, you need to push a discreet button located within the HVAC controls, then use the driver-side temperature knob to scroll through the options that pop up at the bottom of the screen. Quickly. Otherwise, they disappear after several seconds. It’s a very strange and unnecessarily convoluted setup.
The four-door Defender 110 seats five adults comfortably, and has loads of headroom in both the front and rear. The two-door Defender 90 isn’t quite as useful, but it makes up for those shortcomings with an undeniable cool factor.
There’s lots of storage space in the doors, dash, and centre console area, while the more than ample cargo capacity is increased by lowering the 40/20/40 split-folding rear folding seats. The 3,500-kg (7,716-lb) towing capacity of the P300 is enough to tow a decent-sized boat or car on a trailer. There are lots of additional functional features that can be added (for a price), such as a snorkel, rear ladder rack, or roof rack. Turning radius and 3D cameras, along with plentiful side visibility, make for easy parking.
Interior materials feel high in quality, albeit functional and well put together. The P300’s seats are supportive and ergonomic. Adjustments are made through a combination of manual and electric controls. Reclining rear seats are offered as an option. Tilt and telescopic steering are also adjusted manually. The cabin is well insulated, with ever so subtle road noise at elevated highway speeds, which can be attributed to the rugged treads on 18-inch off-road tires more than anything else.
Heated steering wheel and three-stage heated seats warmed up quickly on cold days, but it took a little longer for the four-cylinder powerplant to generate enough heat for the cabin through the multi-zone climate control. Suspension felt more on the firm side, which some may not appreciate in a premium SUV with a premium price tag.
The Defender offers three engine options, including a turbocharged four-cylinder, an inline six-cylinder with a mild hybrid system, and a supercharged V8. The 2.0L turbocharged mill in our tester is rated at 296 hp at 5,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque that’s on tap at as low as 1,500 rpm, so it always feels like it is at your disposal. The 2,140-kg (4,718-lb) SUV is capable of travelling from zero to 100 km/h in a claimed 7.4 seconds, which is more than respectable given its size and engine displacement. Throttle calibrations provide immediate pedal response and offer more than acceptable acceleration in the mid- and upper ranges. The eight-speed automatic transmission offers smooth shifts, and moving the shifter to manual mode offers the ability to hold gears longer for faster acceleration.
A 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system is available on the higher trim P400, which is good for 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. That extra oomph also ups the towing capacity to 3,720 kg (8,200 lb). If that’s not enough for you, a supercharged 5.0L V8 with 525 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque was made available for 2022 that’s supposedly able to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in only 5.4 seconds.
Driving Feel: 9/10
During my time behind the wheel of a Land Rover 110 from the 1980s, I would have drawn closer comparisons to brands like John Deere or Case rather than the likes of Jeep or Mercedes-Benz. Retaining its iconic presence, the new-generation Defender is still built for off-road duty but has become far more civilized in the process. It is rugged and capable yet polished, somewhat sporty even. Acceleration, braking, and steering inputs are surprisingly responsive. Throttle inputs while using eco mode are predictably spongier.
Unlike other large off-road-focused SUVs, its suspension doesn’t wallow in corners, and it actually handles well thanks, in part, to the optional air suspension at all four corners. Approach and departure angles, along with 291 mm (11.5 in) of ground clearance (at its highest setting), help its capability off-road. As do the electronic active differential with torque vectoring and off-road tires included in the $1,360 Extra Duty pack. Hill descent control and a selection of off-road modes are also on hand to better handle loose surfaces or challenging terrain. Our tester also had the upgraded Advanced Off-Road Capability pack ($850), which includes Terrain Response 2, All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), and Configurable Terrain Response functions.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
The Defender P300’s 2.0L four-cylinder is rated at 14.2 L/100 km in the city and 11.7 on the highway for a combined value of 13.0, which is within a hair of the V8-equipped Mercedes-Benz G 550’s rating of 13.1 L/100 km. Both the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler equipped with four-cylinder engines achieve better fuel economy than the Defender. During my time with the vehicle, I observed 14.3 L/100 km on the trip computer under real-world conditions, which simulated daily commutes and a weekend getaway while making use of eco mode and the ignition stop-start function. The Defender P400 comes with an inline-six-cylinder engine, but its mild hybrid system allows it to achieve better fuel economy than the P300’s four-cylinder, with a combined rating of 12.3 L/100 km.
The $67,300 sticker price before tax but including an $1,800 freight charge may not initially scream value at first glance, but capable SUVs don’t come cheap, and even the entry-level trim provides a great deal of content for the money. Materials and the powertrain offer a tangible feeling of robust quality, letting you know that you got something of substance in exchange for your hard-earned cash. Base engine choices often feel like a compromise, but the four-cylinder provides more than enough power and refinement for the needs of most drivers, although fuel economy does suffer. Option packages add up quickly, so you can pick and choose which features are most important to fit within your budget.
The needs of SUV owners have evolved beyond simply utility. Many of the most capable vehicles on the road are purchased merely as status symbols and will never venture off the beaten path. The 2022 Land Rover Defender is more than merely a badge and has much to offer both on- and off-road. It is more civilized and polished than a Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, or Ford Bronco, and is half the price of a Mercedes G-Class. It takes a lot for an SUV to win me over, but the Defender 110 is a vehicle I could see myself happily owning.
|Peak Horsepower||296 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||295 lb-ft @ 1,500–4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||14.2 / 11.7 / 13.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||786 / 1,875 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2022 Land Rover Defender 110 P300S|
|Price as Tested||$76,320|
$8,920 – Santorini Black paint, $950; $, Advanced Off-road Capability Pack, $850; Extra Duty Pack, $1,360; 11.4-inch Touchscreen, $140; Loadspace Stowage Rails, $150; Air Suspension Pack, $1,620; Three Zone Climate Control, $1,100; Air Quality Sensing, $100; Cabin Air Ionization filter $250; Tow hitch receiver, $700; ClearSight Rearview Mirror, $500; Black Pack, $650; Cold Climate Package, $550