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2020 Land Rover Defender 110 First Edition Review By Larry Nutson

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2020 Land Rover Defender 110
First Edition

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Land Rover brand was created from a drawing on a beach in 1947. Since that time Land Rover has been the choice of adventurers and expedition leaders around the world for more than 70 years.

Land Rover has now brought the world an entirely new Defender model. The previous-generation Defender first appeared in 1983 and was sold in the United States from 1993 to 1997.

Land Rovers are all about off-road capability. The Defender is the ultimate in off-road capability from Land Rover. Whether it be mud, snow, sand, rocks, water or whatever, the Defender is equipped with what you need to keep going. To wit: a height-adjustable air suspension, a Wade Sensing system that measures water depth, a power winch, a twin-speed transfer box, Configurable Terrain Response, Locking Center Differential, Active Rear and Locking Differential and low-speed crawl control.

The Defender is completely redesigned and features an all-new architecture with an aluminum unibody design and 4-wheel independent suspension. Gone is the traditional body-on-frame and solid axle setup. The new Defender is purposeful, rugged and unique in its style and design.

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The Defender was introduced for 2020 in a 4-door version “110” trim with a 118 .9-inch wheelbase and seating for five. An optional third-row seat increases seating to seven. A front-seat center jump seat is optional to increase seating to six, but it cannot be had in combination with the third row seat.

For 2021 a 2-door version “90” trim with a 101.9-inch wheelbase and seating for six will also be available. The sixth seat is added with the center jump seat that allows three-abreast seating in the front.

trims are available: Defender, Defender S, Defender SE, Defender HSE, Defender X and Defender First Edition. Four accessory packages are also offered: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban.

Two engines are available. The Defender and Defender S have a 296-hp turbocharged 2.0-L 4-cylinder. Defender SE, HSE, X and First Edition have a 395-hp conventional twin-scroll turbocharged and 48-volt electric supercharged 3.0-L inline six with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Both engines are mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic with a twin-speed transfer box and 4X4 permanent four-wheel drive.

A maximum payload of up to 1,984-lbs., static roof load of up to 661-lbs., dynamic roof load of 370-lbs., towing capacity of 8,201-lbs and wading depth of up to 35.4-inches plus 34.6 cu.ft. of rear cargo space combine to provide for lots of adventures.

The 21st Century has brought a lot of new technology and the new Defender has it all. A new ‘PIVI Pro’ infotainment system features an intuitive interface, software over-the-air updates, 10-inch touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A full array of advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) features is offered. A head-up display, rear camera mirror, 3D surround view camera, and 360-degree parking aid are also available.

2020 Defender pricing starts at $49,900 and climbs to $80,900 plus a $1,350 destination charge. Check out

For my Chicago-based drive experience I drove the First Edition trim with a base price of $68,650. Options on this Defender included Explorer Pack ($4,800), third row seats ($1,200), three zone climate control ($1,075), tow hitch receiver ($650), off-road tires ($350), 60:40 load through rear seats with center arm rest ($100), cabin air ionization ($100), air quality sensor ($75), premium interior protection/storage pack ($700) and basic rear seat convenience pack ($140). All this brought the bottom line to $79,190 including destination charge.

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The Explorer Pack includes mud flaps, matte black 110 hood decal, spare wheel cover, wheel arch protection, raised air intake, expedition roof rack and exterior side-mounted gear carrier.

My drive with the new Defender didn’t take me on any off-road excursion. It was limited to some snow-covered Chicago streets and a road trip east to southeast Michigan and back. The Defender with its compact 187.3 in. exterior is easy to maneuver in a densely populated city. Note however the rear cargo door mounted spare wheel/tire assembly adds 10.3 in., for a total of 197.6 in.

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The rear cargo door is side hinged which is easy to use out in the wide-open spaces. If you happen to be parallel parked there may be an issue with a vehicle parked to the rear.

There is plenty of good response and all around performance, better than expected, from the 3.0-L engine and 8-speed automatic. Zero to 60 mph is in 5.8 seconds.

EPA lab-test ratings for the 3.0-L are 19 combined mpg with 17 city mpg and 22 highway mpg. With the Defender’s 23.8 gal. fuel tank there’s, in theory, more than 500 miles of driving range.

I didn’t quite get the fuel economy I anticipated in my trip across Michigan. I can attribute that, though, to the higher prevailing speeds on the interstate. The Defender averaged 16 mpg on that trip.

I’ll note the First Edition I drove was equipped with a raised air intake, expedition roof rack and exterior side-mounted gear carrier as well as off-road tires. I think all of these had a negative impact on fuel consumption. I also noted a lot of wind noise which is also not surprising considering the roof rack and raised air intake mounted to the driver side A-pillar. On a positive note, the off-road tires were much more quiet than I would have guessed.

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Overall the interior is comfortable with decent room in the front cabin and plenty of storage. The tall 8.5 in. ground clearance makes for a climb up---but well worth having if you are hitting the trails. The air suspension allows for an increase in ground clearance to 11.5 inches. The tall height makes for good forward visibility.

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The Defender has a rugged look both in and out. Both my wife and adult daughter asked if I would own one. Under the right circumstances, yes. Perhaps I should become a gentleman farmer!

Noteworthy is the Land Rover Defender has been named the 2021 Motor Trend SUV of the Year.

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy