“Climb ev’ry mountain, ford ev’ry stream, follow ev’ry rainbow, ‘till you find your dream,” or so sings Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. The song is meant to energize Maria, played by the indomitable Julie Andrews, and prepare her for the journey she’s about to embark on. Little did the screenwriters know that the song would perfectly encapsulate the all-new and hotly-anticipated 2020 Land Rover Defender. It’s time to climb ev’ry mountain.
Though Ford would like you to believe the F-Series dominates the 4x4 segment, and Mercedes-Benz the G-Class, Land Rover’s Defender is the undisputed king of the 4x4s. Through thick and thin, in the outback, the wilds of Africa, traversing the poles, and penetrating the Amazon’s interior, the Land Rover Defender has been the vehicle of choice since it’s introduction 70 years ago. And though over its life it saw numerous updates and revisions, the classic overlander was getting too old to be allowed to continue. With ceding the crown out of the question, Land Rover has started from scratch with the new Defender and built something worthy of the nameplate.
Underneath the purposely short front and rear overhangs lies an all-new all-aluminum chassis, dubbed the D7x platform. According to Land Rover, “To retain the famous Defender silhouette, [and] accommodate a family of body styles and support the latest range of powertrains, the Land Rover brand developed the new all-aluminum D7x platform. It has the unique combination of practicality, flexibility, and capability expected from a 4x4 wearing the Defender name and doesn’t share a single body-in-white panel with another Land Rover model.” As such, at launch, the Defender will be able to be had in either two- or four-door configurations, which retain the 90 and 110 names respectively.
Part and parcel with the Defender nameplate is ruggedness. As such, the Defender has nearly an inch higher body position to enable the SUV to go over all obstacles. Land Rover also ensured that the Defender’s battery and cooling were located in spots where they were less likely to be punctured or damaged off-roading. Further, the Defender can hit a 38-degree slope approaching, a 28-degree breakover, and a 40-degree departure angle. Permanent four-wheel drive, with a twin-speed transfer box and fully independent suspension adds to the Land Rover’s off-roading credentials.
Land Rover also states that “In the original Defender model, drivers could lock the central differential manually using the high-to- low range gear selector. In the new Defender, drivers can prevent cross-axle slip using the Center Slip Limited and Center and Rear Slip Limited options on the central touchscreen controller. In addition, there is a choice of three settings for the throttle and gearbox response, steering and traction control, allowing experienced off-roaders and all-terrain novices to tailor the vehicle set-up to suit their requirements.”
For the ford ev’ry stream crowd, the new Defender is the first Land Rover to come equipped as standard with the company’s Wade Sensing function. Land Rover says that Wade Sensing will remap the throttle response, set the HVAC system to “recirculate cabin air,” and “locks the driveline and adjusts the ride height to its off-road setting.” As such, these systems give the Defender the ability to wade up to 35.4-inches.
To ensure that the Defender is the most capable and utilitarian SUV for those ends of the Earth that require it to be, Land Rover gave the SUV the capability of towing up to 8,201 pounds. More impressive, and of particular interest to those overlanders who like to sleep on their car’s roof, the Defender has a maximum roof load of 370 pounds. For those wishing to go a step further, Land Rover will offer four accessory packs; there’s an Explorer’s Pack, which comes with a lightweight Expedition Roof Rack, side-mounted gear carriers, better wheel arch protection, and a specific spare wheel cover; the Adventure Pack comes a portable pressurized water reservoir for showering needs, a trunk-mounted air compressor, the same side-mounted gear carriers, and a removable 6.3-gallon seat backpack; there’s also a Country Pack and Urban pack for less rigorous tasks and are little more than exterior cladding.
Powering the Defender, at least in the United States, will be two engines. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 296 horsepower and is capable of sending the Defender to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. A more potent hybrid and turbocharged six-cylinder engine is also available. The 48V mild-hybrid engine produces 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque with 60 handled in 6.1 seconds. Both engines, according to the manufacturer, are coupled to an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission. As mentioned, there’s also a twin-speed transfer box with low-range ratios for better off-road capability.
Inside, the Defender was designed to be both functional, well-tailored, and as it’s a Land Rover, plush. “Within, we strived to harness the Defender model’s profound spirit of boundless adventure,” says Alan Sheppard, Director of Interior Design, adding, “A comfortable interior which is at once impeccably handsome for the discerning, shrewd in functionality and prudently qualified in anticipation of any adversity.” With that ethos, Land Rover kept much of what made the original Defender so popular, including debuting the new Defender with the much-beloved jump seat situated between the driver and passenger.
Both the Defender 90 and 110 body styles will be available with the jump seat, while the larger 110 will be able to accommodate five, six, or seven individuals depending on the configuration. With the jump seat selected, the smaller, two-door Defender 90 can fit up to six people, though the standard fitment is for five. Defender 90 customers can also select the full-length Folding Fabric Roof which allows for “the full safari experience.”
There will also be a number of selectable durable materials, which make going out into the badlands or swamplands a sinch to clean up after your trek is completed. Like the current generation of Range Rovers, Land Rovers, and Jaguars, the Defender will get touch-screens with haptic feedback, as well as being equipped with a Head-Up Display. Inside those screens are Land Rover’s host of driving modes, HVAC controls, and multi-media controls. The new Defender is also the first Land Rover to be fit with the new Over-The-Air updateable PIVI Pro infotainment system. According to Land Rover, 14 of the Defender’s systems can be updated through an OTA update and will allow customers to download their own data remotely.
As you’d expect with any off-road ready, or really any new vehicle, the Defender is loaded with cameras to assist parking, off-road inclinations, and surveilling your neighboring car along the parkway. It also comes with Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Contro, Rear Pre-Collision Monitor, Rear Traffic Monitor, Clear Exit Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Condition Monitoring, and front and rear Parking Aids. Land Rover will also sell you either a six-, 10-, or 14-speaker stereo system produced by Meridian which delivers 180W, 400W, or 700Ws respectively.
As for cost, Land Rover is aiming to make the Defender a mass-market vehicle. The first Defender available will be in the United States in the Defender 110 body style, which will start at $49,900 for the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and go on sale in the spring of 2020. The Defender 110 equipped with the mild-hybrid turbocharged six-cylinder will start at $62,250. As for the short-wheelbase Defender 90, that will go on sale later in 2020. Pricing hasn’t yet been released.
“The new Defender is respectful of its past but is not harnessed by it,” says Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer. “This is a new Defender for a New Age. Its unique personality is accentuated by its distinctive silhouette and optimum proportions, which make it both highly desirable and seriously capable – a visually compelling 4x4 that wears its design and engineering integrity with uncompromised commitment.”