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2021 Land Rover Defender - Review by Larry Nutson

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

British Empire Legend

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

A few weeks back I had my first spin in the new Land Rover Defender. As things go, I got to take another.

This not-quite back-to-back drive in the new Defender is akin to an actual in-person media new vehicle introduction program where engine variations and different trims are available for driving. In today’s world of Covid-19, programs like these are on hold, for the most part.

My first drive was in the Defender 110 First Edition trim. This time around it’s the 110 SE trim.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

For 2021 the Defender 110 is joined by the short wheelbase Defender 90. The three-door 90 seats five or six with an available front center seat. The five-door 110 has the option of five, six or 5+2 seating.

The 110 First Edition I drove was offered only for 2020. New for 2021 Model Year is the Defender X-Dynamic, bridging the gap between Defender and Defender X with a tough exterior look and unique interior fittings to set it apart from the rest of the lineup. The Defender X-Dynamic can be enhanced further with a choice of S, SE and HSE trims.

Two engines are available. The turbocharged four-cylinder P300 engine and the six-cylinder P400 Mild-Hybrid (MHEV) powertrain.

The Defender and Defender S are fitted with the P300 296-hp turbocharged 2.0-L 4-cylinder. Defender SE, HSE and X have the P400 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.

The Defender X features a gloss black inset contrast hood along with gloss black claddings. Also unique are front and rear skid pans and other detailed exterior parts coated in a Starlight Satin finish. The Defender X-Dynamic blends gloss painted Narvik Black exterior door and wheelarch cladding with Silicon Satin skid pans.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside the new Defender X-Dynamic features unique materials. Highly durable Robustec material is found on the seats and console finisher. Robustec is a protective and hard-wearing material inspired by textiles used in extreme outdoor activities and is used inside the Defender on areas that are subject to heightened wear.

The Defender 90 is priced at $46,100 to start and tops out at $80,500. The Defender 110 starts at $50,500 and climbs to $83,000. Destination and delivery charge is an additional $1,350.

The Defender 110 SE in my most recent drive was actually a 2020 model. But, it’s unchanged for 2021 except for a modest price bump from $62,250 to $62,700. Options equipped on this SE brought the total price to $71,025.

During my time with the 110 SE my driving was mostly of the local, at-home type doing the usual daily household needs combined with a few highway trips to nearby destinations. Overall, the 4-door Defender is easy to live with and proves very convenient on a daily basis. The side hinged rear cargo door is actually fairly easy and convenient to use. We Americans probably would have preferred that it open on the curb/passenger side. But we should consider the Defender’s British pedigree and their driving on the left side of the road.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I didn’t quite get the fuel economy I anticipated in my first Defender drive. That was due to colder weather and lots of higher speed highway miles. That changed with this most recent drive with averages around 19 mpg, which matches the EPA combined mpg rating.

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Wind noise on the SE was also much reduced and quite, as you would expect. The First Edition I drove was equipped with a raised air intake, expedition roof rack and exterior side-mounted gear carrier which created a lot of aero turbulence and wind noise.

Land Rovers are all about off-road capability. The Defender is the ultimate in off-road capability from Land Rover. More information and details can be found at

Here’s the link to my previous review with more details on the features and equipment on the new Defender.

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

And just recently MotorWeek gave the new Defender its Driver’s Choice Award for the Best Midsize Utility. MotorWeek said, “Where the fun ends in most utilities, is right where the Defender hits its stride.”

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy