If you’re the type of person who wants a tough and capable off-roader but with a bit more luxury than a Jeep, the 2022 Land Rover Defender may be your answer. This new generation was updated in 2020 to still have the off-road capabilities but without feeling utilitarian as the older generations. So does it live up to its heritage? Keep reading to find out.
Engine – The Land Rover Defender is available with three engines; a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder, a turbocharged 3.0L inline-6, or a 5.0L supercharged V8. This demo vehicle has the turbocharged inline-6 engine that produces 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque (295 kW & 550 Nm). This engine allows the 2,168 kg (4,780 lbs) Defender to accelerate from a stop to 100 km/h in around 6 seconds, according to Land Rover. That is quite impressive for such a big vehicle and it caught me a bit off guard when putting my foot down on the throttle pedal for the first time. The engine reacts immediately and catapults the SUV as though it’s being shot out of a cannon.
However, when you’re behaving like a civilized person, the engine is quiet and it doesn’t need to rev all that much. When accelerating from a stop at a reasonable pace to keep up with traffic, the rpm needle doesn’t need to climb past 2,500. On highways, the engine is spinning at just over 1,000 rpms; it’s idling.
Fuel Economy – Helping the engine with the fast response and fuel economy is a 48-volt mild hybrid system. This will not allow the Defender to drive on electricity alone but it will aid with fuel economy… a bit. Officially the Defender 90 P400 is rated for 13.5 L/100km (17.4 MPG) in a city and 10.8 L/100km (21.8 MPG) on a highway. I managed to average 12.6 L/100km (18.7 MPG) during my time with the SUV.
Transmission – Swapping cogs is an 8-speed automatic transmission. This is sourced by ZF which makes some of the best 8-speed automatics in the world. This 8-speed is no different. Shifts are smooth and relatively quick. The programming was not designed to allow for lightning fast shifts like in BMW M vehicles but for an SUV like this, they’re reasonably quick enough.
Braking – The Defender uses large fixed calipers on the front axle with 14.3-inch discs. They provide most of the braking force required to stop this nearly 2.2 ton SUV. The brake pedal allows for easy and smooth modulation with a firm feel throughout.
Handling – On paved roads, the Land Rover Defender leans through corners and when braking. However, it’s not too excessive. It doesn’t feel as though the SUV will tip over if you take a corner too aggressively. The steering is sharp although quite numb feeling, especially on center. Thankfully, you do not have to continuously provide minute inputs to keep the SUV going in a straight line like the Jeep Gladiator.
Off the beaten path, the Defender has a lot of tools it can call on to keep the SUV moving through the rough stuff. It has a 2-speed transfer case, a locking center differential, fully independent multi-link suspension, available air suspension, underbody protection and Terrain Response 2 off-road modes. You can select the appropriate off-road drive mode to the condition or, if equipped with the Advanced Off-Road capability package, the Terrain Response 2 can automatically detect the terrain and adjust various vehicle parameters accordingly. The SUV can also maintain a set speed when off-roading with the All Terrain Control program. It’s like cruise control but for slow speed off-roading.
With the air suspension, the Defender 90 has an approach angle of 37.5°, a departure angle of 40° and a breakover angle of 30.7°. Maximum ride height with the air suspension is 11.4-inches and the water wading depth is 35.4-inches. Maximum towing with the inline-6 engine is 7,700 lbs.
Ride Comfort – With the air suspension, the Land Rover Defender is a comfortable SUV. On paved roads, bumps are easily soaked up by the air shocks. Same goes for off-road driving. The ride is exceptional of the type of vehicle this is.
Interior Space – The Land Rover Defender can be had as a 90 series (2-door), 110-series (4-door), or a 130-series (4-door with 3-rows of seats). In this 90-series, the amount of occupant space is very good. The front seats are spacious and getting in and out is relatively easy thanks to the grab handles on the dashboard. Visibility is also good out the front and side. You sit about as high up as in a full-size pickup truck. However, the blind zones are pretty big due to the thick B-pillar and the optional cargo box on the passenger side. Rear visibility is good but for an unobstructed view, the Defender has a rear camera mirror.
Getting into the back seats is easy but it’ll test your patience. The front seats have buttons to electronically slide them forwards or backwards but these motors are just as slow as the ones in the Mercedes GLS SUV. Pressing the button to slide the seat forward requires just one push. But to slide the seat back requires holding onto the button otherwise it doesn’t move back. Happily once you are finally in the back seats, they are spacious even for tall adults.
The trunk is predictably on the small side in the Defender 90. It has just 297 L (10.5 cu-ft) of space behind the rear seats and 1,263 L (44.6 cu-ft) with the rear seats folded. Bear in mind, there is a step between the floor of the trunk and the folded rear seats.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The inline-6 engine is pretty quiet on day-to-day drives. Road noise from the off-road tires is also well subdued into the cabin. It’s wind noise that is the biggest culprit to cabin noises. Primarily from the roof rack and the side mounted storage bin. Without these optional features, I suspect that the Defender would be a bit quieter but some wind noise can still be heard from the mirrors.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P400 starts at $79,800 CAD. As equipped, it came to $94,520 CAD. Unfortunately, the price has increased for the 2023 Land Rover Defender. The 90-series P400 now starts at $82,750 CAD ($66,100 USD)and can easily go into the 6-figure range with all of the options that are available on it. Speaking of which, this is the most customizable Land Rover vehicle ever made. There are hundreds of options and accessories with thousands or millions of combinations. So you’ll be hard pressed to find another Defender in the exact same specification.
Gadgets – For an almost 6-figure vehicle, the Defender is equipped as it should be. The usual luxury features of heated seats, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control, Meridian audio system, wireless phone charging, keyless entry & push button start, wireless Apple CarPlay & wireless Android Auto are all there, among other features.
Optional features include the panoramic sunroof or a folding fabric roof, various wheel designs, a heated windshield with heated washer jets, heated rear seats, the aforementioned air suspension with adaptive dampers, a three-zone climate control system, a head up display, and a vast majority of accessories and other little design touches to customize the Defender to your liking.
Interior Design – The interior has been thoroughly modernized in the 2022 Defender. A lot of the buttons and knobs are from the JLR parts shelf and have a good quality feel. The infotainment system touchscreen is beautiful to look at while the infotainment system itself takes some getting used to. After a little while, the infotainment is relatively straight forward.
A lot of the materials in the cabin were designed to be tough and easy to clean. The floor mats can be pulled out and the floor can be hosed down should it get muddy. The lower plastics are tough to withstand multiple bashings of heavy boots and the upper materials feel durable and as though they’ll last a long while before breaking or tearing.
Exterior Design – Though the Defender is still a box on wheels, it’s much more curvaceous than the previous generation. The body panels are smooth with no sharp edges. It has a design that is all its own. No other Range Rover, or any other SUV for that matter, looks like the Defender. It is quickly and easily recognizable.
Safety – In base form, the 2022 Land Rover Defender has nearly every safety feature that is available on this SUV. Lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, blind spot sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and even surround view cameras, are all standard. The only option is adaptive cruise control.
Warranty – Like all other Land Rover vehicles, the 2022 Defender is covered by a 4 year / 80,000 km new vehicle limited warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on U.S.A. warranty, click here.
Conclusion – In the end, the new Defender retains its off-road prowess and adds some that the previous generations didn’t have. It also feels like a modern Land Rover product, not quite on the same level as the full-size Range Rover but definitely more luxurious and refined feeling than the Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco. Also, because this is one of the most customizable Land Rover products on sale, you can have a Defender that is a mall crawler or one that is a rock crawler. The choice is yours. So with this new generation Defender, you can have the family SUV and the off-roader all in one.
Thank you to Land Rover Canada for providing the vehicle. www.LandRover.ca