For myriad reasons (mostly regulatory), the unmistakable Land Rover Defender has not been sold in the United States since 1997. The new U.S.-legit 2020 Defender, however, proves the wait was well worth it—in spades.
Although Land Rover Defenders were sold in other countries through 2016, it feels like the company took a bold new approach to reinventing the legendary off-roader for its re-entry into the U.S. market this year. Some would have stayed with the vehicle’s classic DNA, but Land Rover went for a thoroughly modern, clean look while still delivering the off-road capabilities fans expect. Plus, the 2020 Defender is offered in four distinct “accessory packs,” with the appropriate gear and extras: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban. From $49,900, landroverusa.com
In the Details
While the interior screams an almost military degree of robustness, luxury touches abound via optional leather and wood accents; a hinged rear door and a protected external spare communicate the Defender’s ongoing rugged nature; the new minimalist geometric design is carried through to the rear of the vehicle.
While the clean lines and minimalist appearance are new, the Defender is instantly recognizable by its short front and rear overhangs, which help the vehicle approach and maneuver rocks and other obstructions without damaging the body.
Fascia and Headlamps
A minimal geometric design vibe creates a modern mood, but the sheer simplicity and functionality of the elements communicate an artful yet tough stance.
U.S. customers can choose between turbo-charged four-cylinder or six-cylinder mild-hybrid powertrains that produce 296 and 395 horses, respectively. Both engines are paired with a smooth ZF transmission.
The new Defender is loaded with state-of-the-art tech you would never expect on a vehicle designed to trot off into the hinterlands: software-over-the-air updating; a touch-screen PIVI Pro infotainment system; an online pack for music, weather and calendar info; and more.
Another nod to the original DNA of the Defender, the driving position is still very high and upright, giving a commanding view of the road—or an equally commanding view of the “not road”—you’re traversing.
Probably one of the more compelling new settings is a wading program that not only presets the vehicle for water-fording, but also increases ride height, closes external venting and automatically lightly engages the brakes when you’ve crossed water to help clean and dry the discs and pads.