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The 2020 Land Rover Defender is a 21st century take on a 4×4 icon

too posh? — Next year there’s even going to be a plug-in hybrid version. Jonathan M. Gitlin – Sep 12, 2019 1:18 pm UTC This is the 2020 Land Rover Defender, which goes on sale next spring starting at $49,900. Jonathan Gitlin Unlike the old Defender, which dates back to 1948, this is a thoroughly…

too posh? —

Next year there’s even going to be a plug-in hybrid version.


  • This is the 2020 Land Rover Defender, which goes on sale next spring starting at $49,900.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • Unlike the old Defender, which dates back to 1948, this is a thoroughly modern affair, with a light-but-stiff aluminum monocoque chassis.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • The Defender comes in two sizes: 90 and 110.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • In addition to passenger Defenders, Land Rover had some more utilitarian ones on its stand at Frankfurt.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • The Defender gets these non-slip diamond plate bits on its hood.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • I love these steel wheels.


    Jonathan Gitlin

  • Driving up a slope in Moab. This legit terrifies me.


    Land Rover

  • Winter testing in Arjeplog.


    Land Rover

  • Tesla might only have just joined the Nürburgring industry pool, but Jaguar Land Rover has tested its cars there for a long time.


    Land Rover

  • if you liked this tech in Range Rovers you’ll love it in the Defender.


    Land Rover

  • Among its strengths is an ability to ford water up to 35.4 inches (about 0.9 meters) deep.


    Land Rover

  • There’s an optional middle seat available for the front row.


    Land Rover

  • Wood trim is an option.


    Land Rover

  • Or you could go with an Endor forest moon theme.


    Land Rover

  • A 2,573-piece LEGO Technic Defender will be available on October 1st.


    Land Rover

  • I am including this photo because I think it’s adorable.


    Land Rover

FRANKFURT, GERMANY—The original Land Rover didn’t invent the 4×4—that honor surely belongs to the WWII Jeep—but it is almost synonymous with the term. Inspired by the Jeep, the first Land Rovers went on sale in 1948, being (very) slowly updated over the years thorough Series I-III, then as the Land Rover 90 and 110, then as the Defender, which finally went out of production in January 2016. Along the way, despite its agricultural roots and barest nod towards things like driver comfort or ergonomics, the Defender gained a reputation for being able to go just about anywhere, which helps explain why used examples are now so ludicrously expensive here in the US. Land Rover is obviously not unaware of this fact, because it’s gone and designed a brand new Defender, which made its public debut at this year’s Frankfurt auto show.

If you were expecting a traditional body-on-frame design, think again. This Defender, like its Range Rover cousins, is now an aluminum monocoque chassis, something that Land Rover says is three times stiffer than anything else the brand has built until now. Like the old, antediluvian 4×4 it replaces, the new one comes in two sizes; the 90 and 110, numbers which used to refer to the number of inches in the wheelbase. (In fact the 90 has a 102-inch/2,588mm wheelbase, and the 110 has 119-inch/3,026mm wheelbase.) If you want a 90 you’re limited to a single engine—a mild hybrid 395hp (295kW) turbocharged 3.0L inline six—but the bigger Defender can also be optioned with a 296hp (220kW) 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Both engines are gasoline-powered; there’s no diesel planned but next year a plug-in hybrid will join the range.

The drivetrain options will also be a little unfamiliar to fans of the venerable and ancient Landy. Forget about a simple manual gearbox; all new Defenders will use ZF’s excellent 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission. But it does have permanent four-wheel drive, a twin-speed transfer case, and can be specced with locking center and rear differentials as well as Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response electronic off-road driver aid.

Despite these modern underpinnings, Land Rover says the new Defender is just as capable as the old one off-road, as evinced by some of the photos in the gallery above. Ground clearance is 11.5 inches (291mm), and Land Rover says the Defender 110 has approach, breakover, and departure angles of 38˚, 28˚, and 40˚. On top of that, it can ford at depths of up to 35.4 inches (900mm) and can tow up to 8,201lbs (3,720kg).

To my eyes it’s not an unattractive machine. But you can definitely tell it’s the work of chief designer Gerry McGovern, what with all those rounded edges. (Dare I say it, Mercedes-Benz did a more successful stying job bringing its prehistoric 4×4 into the digital age.) On the inside things are much posher than any Defender of the past. There’s a digital main instrument panel and the touchscreen infotainment system runs a newer OS than current Range Rovers. Up front there’s an optional third seat between the driver and where you’d normally find the front passenger, which means the Defender 90 can seat six, with the Defender 110 coming in five, six, or 5+2 layouts.

The Defender 110 goes on sale in the US in spring 2020, starting at $49,900 for the 2.0L, and $62,250 for the 3.0L mild hybrid. Sales of the Defender 90 will follow later that year.

Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin

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