What Customers Want
To be perfectly honest with you, something with “Defender” spelled out on the tailgate isn't something I thought would ever end up in my garage for a few days to review.
The reasoning is two-fold and simple. The first is that the Defender probably exceeds even the Range Rover as the most coveted of all Land Rovers; the D sells itself. The second is that the previous distributor never activated any units for review because every vehicle is technically expensive inventory for sale. Bringing in a Defender from the UK to the Philippines is an expensive proposition, and we can't blame them for that.
So that was the reality, but the new distributor of Jaguar and Land Rover is going about it differently. They're activating practically their whole lineup so we can experience what the brand is capable of, and that's why there's a new generation Defender 110 sitting outside, ready to be driven.
The new Defender, however, hasn't been met with the enthusiasm that Land Rover would have wanted. In the same way that Porsche purists grabbed pitchforks and gathered like an angry mob at the sight of the Cayenne when it first launched, Land Rover purists also weren't so thrilled at the sight of a modern Defender. Here's the thing though: I don't think Solihull was aiming for them with the new D. But more on that later.
The version they sent us is the D110 and not the D90, with the numbers being a throwback to the wheelbase and the number of doors of the classic models: 110” (sometimes 127”) with 5 doors and 90” (technically 92.9”) with 3 doors, respectively. They kept that nomenclature for the new generation, even though the wheelbase on the D110 is already at 119” or 3022 millimeters. Even the D90 already has a 101.9” wheelbase or 2587mm.
The D110 is unmistakably upright as a proper Defender would be; this was patterned after one of the most classic 4x4s in history after all. In pictures, the Defender doesn't look all that big or impressive, or commanding. But when you walk up to it for the first time, that all goes away. From the curb, it looks mighty even though LR rounded off the edges and didn't use any pop rivets.
I particularly like the color scheme with all those black exterior elements, decals, and details that give a great contrast to the paint. Land Rover calls the color Gondwana Stone but I'd rather just call it Flat Dark Earth even though it's glossy. If you like firearms and militaria, there's a good chance you'll know what that is.
Stylish as the Defender may be, this is still all about function particularly for off-road. Land Rover kept the overhangs to a minimum, and that's to enhance the approach and departure angles of the vehicle. As it stands, this Defender has an approach angle of 30.1 degrees and a departure angle of 37.7 degrees. Even the way the spare is fitted to the tailgate factors into that; LR positioned it rather high so as not to affect the departure angle. The ground clearance is set at 218 millimeters, but we'll discuss that later.
This Defender also comes fitted with the Explorer pack which is why it comes with the decals on the hood (or bonnet), the Expedition roof rack (rated for 132 kg), and extra wheel arch protection. The Explorer pack also comes with a lockable external compartment just aft of the C-pillar on the passenger side. This 24-liter box allows for storage of things you don't want to bring into your vehicle like muddy boots or as the English would call it: Wellingtons. How apt.
The sense of functionality and purpose extends inside. While the interior may seem premium (and indeed it is) Land Rover knows that the interior is going to get dirty and thus selected materials that are easy to clean. Many of the surfaces do not have polished metal but are coated in hard-wearing paint. The plastics appear very durable and seem to be fastened by a variety of large and exposed Torx-type bolts. It seems Land Rover anticipated that the Defender will have to do some river (or flood) crossings so instead of carpets, you get rubber flooring and mats. Simple, but purposeful.
Finding a good seating position is easy, and once settled in the Defender, it surprisingly proved to be a natural fit. I like the steering wheel, the positioning of the controls, and the overall hardiness of the interior. Everything feels solidly built; there doesn't seem to be much in the way of creaking when you hold on to any of the handles to steady yourself.
The instrument cluster is nice and easy to ready, and that touchscreen on the center stack is very clear. I do like that Land Rover opted not to go for the dual-screen system they have in other JLR models; while nice, I do find that to be a bit much. So instead of the lower screen to control climate and other functions, LR went for a control panel with actual buttons. In my opinion, it just makes more sense that way.
For audio, this one comes with Meridian speakers; always crisp and the bass is fantastic. For charging, there are a variety of ports be it USB, USB-C, or 12-volt outlets for your needs. You can even charge in the back seat which is also a nice place to be in. There are even the classic Defender windows on the ceiling and roof; those are called Alpine windows.
Being that the spare is mounted on the tailgate means it swings out and doesn't tilt up like many SUVs; you'll have to factor that in whenever you park at a supermarket or a mall. As with the cabin, the boot is meant to be easy to clean. There is no third row on the D110, but in other markets, there appears to be an option for a third row.
The loadspace does seem high, which is why there is a control panel that lets the operator lower the rear for easier loading. That's the magic of the air suspension. You can also load up on the roof rack, and use that extendable ladder to get up there. Just don't forget to securely tie down whatever you put up there because there aren't any side rails; it's more like a flat rack and not a basket.
You'd expect something as big as this D110 to be powered by a gasoline (er, petrol) V8 or maybe even a 3.0-liter V6 diesel. That's the expectation given the size of the SUV and the length of the hood (okay, bonnet), but no. What LR put under that hood is a relatively tiny 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
But don't underestimate it. Some engines of that size are already producing 500 Nm of torque with 200 PS, but what JLR went for with the Ingenium is a bit more balance. They tuned the engine to produce 240 PS and slightly lower 430 Nm of torque. The max torque does come in at a very early 1400 rpm. And they matched the engine with an 8-speed automatic. And yes, it has four-wheel drive.
If you're just going around town and using the Defender as a daily driven SUV, then you'll really enjoy it. The drivetrain is quite responsive to throttle inputs, and the gearbox kicks down quickly to give you the acceleration your right foot wants. At full throttle, I was getting 0-100 km/h times of 9.8 seconds. Pretty good for its size and weight; the Defender does tip the scales at over 2,300 kilos. In town, I was getting 9.0 kilometers per liter at an average of 23 km/h. On the highway that went up to 15.2 km/l.
Despite the dimensions and a reputation and marketing centered around toughness, the Defender drives like a very comfortable, confident, and refined SUV. Those are things that you couldn't expect of the predecessor model. While there are many systems that we can point to, the real explanation is that the Defender is a truly modern SUV now, and really incomparable fundamentally to the classic generation of SUVs.
For one, the Defender is a unibody and not body-on-frame. The other is the suspension: this Defender has independent suspension on all four corners. This isn't a front/rear solid axle affair like older SUVs such as the Patrol (Y61 or older), the Land Cruiser (80 Series or older), and the classic Defender. That construction and the suspension system make it very different and definitely more comfortable on the road because going over a bump on one side does not affect the other.
The suspension system is an interesting one to talk about because this comes with the air suspension system. On the front shocks, there's an air spring on top of the damper, while in the back the air spring acts on the lower control arm directly. This gives you several benefits, the first of which is the ability to set the ride quality to your liking. If you set it to sport mode, the suspension will stiffen up to give better roll control around a bend. If you set it to normal mode, then you'll find that the tall Defender will wallow a bit. It's not too much, but it's there.
The other benefit of the air suspension is that you can set the ground clearance. In normal mode you have about 218 mm of clearance; that doesn't sound like much by SUV standards, but there it is. You can lower the Defender to make getting in easier, or you can raise it up to a maximum of 297mm. Just be aware that the extra height is best used only for off-roading to clear obstacles or to go up steep slopes or ramps. While it looks cool to have the Defender jacked up like that, you won't want to drive around our roads with it that high because the suspension arms are already extended. It will not be a comfortable drive or ride.
The major key selling point of the Defender will be the off-road capability, of course, chief of which -at least in the local setting- will be the fording depth. As it stands, the Defender 110 can cross up to 900mm of water. Hopefully, you won't have to push that to the limit; there's actually a system that warns you if you're approaching the maximum depth. This particular D110 also has a snorkel on the driver side A-pillar raises up the intake by quite a bit.
I had intended to take the Defender off-road, but the timing just coincided with the onset of stricter quarantine restrictions. Getting out was a bit tricky at the time, so off-roading on the lahar beds or in the hills to the east of the Metro were out of the question. We'll have to save that for another time to test out the off-road qualities of the new D, including the latest version of the Terrain Response system.
I can't help but be impressed by what Land Rover did with the Defender because they effectively took it into the new century. SUV customers want more comfort, more technology, more refinement, more functionality, more connectivity, and -uh- many more. That's what Land Rover delivered, and they packaged it in a Defender that -by all accounts- still has a lot of the many great capabilities despite the compromises of independent suspension (e.g. axle articulation). The bigger chunk of customers today aren't looking for all-conquering off-road capability at the expense of on-road manners. They're looking for an all-around car that just so happens to have the exceptional off-road capability.
So yeah, at PHP 6.51 million, I quite like the Defender 110 D240 with the Explorer Pack and the new 110 in general. And it seems a lot of customers do too, judging by the number I see on our roads.