All you need to know about the 2021 Land Rover Defender

Will 2021 Land Rover Defender strike a chord with the people or will it strike out?


Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Thu 4 Mar 2021, 5:30 PM

Remember those old nature documentaries shot in the wilderness of the Sahara! Rugged vehicles like Land Rover Defender were the ones that got these filmmakers to these remote destinations.

The Defender has been around for a long time. The Series 1, which was first put into production in 1948, is seen as the Willys Jeep equivalent from across the pond. It was just a box on wheels with aluminium sheet metal draped over it. Even in the generations that followed, the brick silhouette was never altered, and they remained as tough as nails, while some conveniences were added. These were mostly charming vehicles. Then, after 67 years of building over two million Defender vehicles, Land Rover called off the production in 2016.

But the story continues! For 2021, they have resurrected the nameplate and advertised its go-anywhere attitude once again. Will this new and presumably sophisticated ride deliver what purists’ expect or is it just a pretend Defender? .

My first impression of the all-new model — code named L663— was that it looked like a reskinned Discovery, which is a handsome machine. However, when reviving an icon, designers take on the task of embedding that resonance with historic models and from a styling perspective, we see the new Defender as a partly missed opportunity. The squareness of the profile has been maintained. Great! But the front fascia is a real disconnect from the original, while at the rear end with the four squares lights — a supposed throwback at its predecessor — is also a miss. And that quirky body-colour floating square on the C-pillar should have stayed on the drawing board. Perhaps, the designer Gerry McGovern can defend the Defender a tad better.

Where the Defender is winning is in the design (not to be confused with styling). All exterior lamps are powered by luminous LEDs. The intricately perforated bumper may have lost a tad in approach angle but provides better pedestrian safety. And options like the electric winch upfront with its 4,536 kg capacity with a reach of 45 metres come real handy off road. The bonnet is flanked by textured plastic surfaces that allows one to stand on it without scratching the paint in order to set up tent up on the Defender’s roof. Do mind the 300 kg weight allowance when static and 118 kg limit on the move. It has an easily accessible spare tyre on the tailgate, but the latter swings the wrong way, except in Britain and India — countries with right-hand drive. The shark fin antenna also houses a camera which gives the driver a clearer view of the rear, in addition to the view off the rear mirror, which is marred by headrests and the spare tyre. Also, at the rear is an electrically retractable tow hook that allows it to haul a massive 3500 kg. Overall, it is all clever design.

Let’s talk interiors! The predecessor’s cabin was functional and the seating arrangement was such the driver’s shoulder was squashed against the door. This one is more accommodating. There are also a couple of seating configurations available. The centre console is designed to accommodate a slim middle seat and with the currently-available 110 long wheelbase version, you can get a third row.

The overall cabin aesthetic is signature ‘Land Rover’, with geometric shapes and straight lines. It works. But the exposed screws downgrade this luxury SUV into a rugged 4x4. Expectedly, you have leather-upholstered seats, mixed with a resilient fabric and soft rubberised surfaces on the doors and dashboard.

Keeping things contemporary are the 12.3-inch screen instrument cluster and 10-inch centre console screen. Both give access to a host of information, including incline angle, ride height, etc. The latter takes it a step further, by showcasing the party piece — an innovative 360 camera that makes the car viewable from all angles. And since this SUV is to serve a modern family with more devices than heads, it comes with multiple USB, USB-C and 12V outlets all over.

Depending on the trim, you get the turbocharged efforts of a 2.0 or 3.0-litre gasoline engine. The 300 bhp version gets to 100 kmph from a standstill in 7.4 seconds and the faster 400 bhp version does it in a brisk 6.1 seconds. The shorter 90 variant is still quicker. Keep in mind that the least powerful version here makes more than twice the power of the predecessor. And if you were worried that Defender no longer has the body-on-frame chassis with solid axles, Land Rover wants to reassure its customers that new chassis with its aluminium monocoque is three times stiffer than before.

Allowing to put that power down efficiently, whether on tarmac, sand, mud or rock or gravel is an Intelligent AWD System which can deliver variable torque to each wheel. The mandated 2-speed transfer box is also there to help you out. The Defender will even swim past streams and swamps, thanks to available air suspension that can raise wading depth to 900mm.

The bottom line is, we do fancy the all-new Defender… on paper. But we shall reserve our final judgement after pitting against rivals like the Wrangler. And only time will tell whether it can overcome shoddy fit-and-finish and reliability issues.

The price is another matter. The market yearns for an affordable all-out 4x4, something Defender was and the new one could have been, but isn’t. Maybe there is a stripped-down version coming?

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