- Doors and Seats
- Engine Power
- Ancap Safety
A wonderful diesel engine in its highest state of tune, under the bonnet of a pragmatic SE specification grade. This could easily be the pick of the Land Rover Defender range.
- Glorious, torquey and refined powertrain
- One of the crispiest infotainment displays getting around
- Impressively good on-road and off-road
- Options quickly crank up the price
- Canvas sunroof is quaint but pricey
- 20-inch wheels don’t suit off-road driving
Even though it’s the first all-new Defender in about 70 years, Land Rover hasn’t wasted any time giving the model-year 2022 Land Rover Defender a bit of a spruce-up with new specifications, powertrains and options.
And to get the lie of the land (rover), we’ve been behind the wheel of what could potentially be the pick of the range.
Not base model, nor excruciatingly overloaded, is the 2022 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300. While the two-door Defender 90 comes in with a lower starting price, our five-door Defender 110 model represents two jumps up from the base petrol-powered 110 P300 specification (which is priced from $81,890 plus on-road costs).
Priced from $101,950 before options and on-road costs, SE grade is the first specification to get access to the more powerful diesel engine. It’s called D300, and is an inline-six twin-turbo diesel that makes 220kW and 650Nm. All of your other engine options for the Defender 110 are petrol, including the soon-to-arrive P525 supercharged V8.
On first impressions, the Defender 110 SE seems to have a lot of the right boxes ticked: electric leather seats, centre console, matrix LED headlights, air suspension, rubber flooring throughout, premium cabin lighting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Land Rover has thrown in some optional extras in this case, which is enough to push the asking price to $121,540. Some would be a no-brainer for me (bigger infotainment display, off-road pack, tow hitch). But some others seem quite expensive (folding fabric roof, domestic plug socket, privacy glass, black contrast roof).
Safe to say, you can choose your own adventure in terms of options and budget. There are plenty of paths to take, and you’ll unfortunately be waiting up to nine months for your car to arrive.
|Key details||2022 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300|
|Price (MSRP)||$101,950 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Gondwana Stone|
|Options||Folding fabric roof – $4810
Three-zone climate control – $2410
Black contrast roof – $2170
Tow hitch receiver – $1430
ClearSight interior rear-view mirror – $1270
20-inch, 5-spoke wheels in satin dark grey – $1210
Off-road pack inc. torque vectoring & domestic plug socket – $1020
Privacy glass – $1000
Activity key – $910
12-way heated, electric memory front seats – $810
Cabin air ionisation with PM2.5 filter – $610
Wi-Fi enabled with data plan – $600
Rough-cut walnut veneer – $600
Black contrast signature graphic – $340
11.4-inch touchscreen – $210
Air quality sensor – $190
|Price as tested||$121,540 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Toyota LandCruiser | Nissan Patrol | Land Rover Discovery|
What’s most impressive about the inside of the Defender is that they’ve created something modern, unique and practical, but still carrying shades of inspiration from the old, cramped and tractor-like forebear. An open, minimalist (Land Rover likes the term ‘reductive’) dashboard is loaded with opportunities for storing you daily accoutrements.
Engineers and designers have kept a close eye on the details here as well, and haven’t left any spaces bare. The little slot next to the infotainment display is useful, as is the small spot on the driver’s side of the steering wheel.
While I might love the idea of the front-row jump seat for idyllic drives with kids in the front, I don’t think I could go past the centre console like we have here. It’s big, multi-layered and full of storage, and comes with some additional power outlets. In total, there are stacks of outlets in this car.
The electric seats in this model are comfortable and have a stack of adjustment, and the electric steering column adds a touch of (arguably unnecessary) luxury. We’d like to see seat venting for the price of the option, however, which is probably going to get more use in Australia overall than a heated seat.
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You’ll see a lot of neoprene-like material inside the Defender, on door cards, the centre console, and across the Jesus bar. It feels nice but shows up marks quickly. After my kids had their way with the Defender’s interior, I noted that the surfaces all wiped down easily with baby wipes back to clean. That’s a big plus for a family car.
Another good one for families and four-wheel drivers is the addition of well-designed and good quality rubber floor mats. Many would probably find rubber flooring in a $120,000 European SUV a misstep, but it’s a detail that speaks to the Defender’s roots as a raw utility vehicle. These floor mats are deep-dish – catching debris well – and securely mounted with push-on clips. They are easy to remove and shake out, or even hose off.
Buttons at the back help the Defender dip its bum for easier loading, and there are a handful of other features like hooks and tie-down points for helpful practicality.
Land Rover quotes 972L (wet) of storage space in the back, which sounds impressive. But if it were done against VDA methods of measurement, that number likely wouldn’t be as high. The hard plastics – with a tough chequer plate finish – help in the practicality stakes, as does the variety of additional storage spots around the place.
If you fold down the second row that wet number grows to 2277L. Once again, it’s not fair to directly compare this number to other measurements, but you’ve still got a large amount of available space on offer. The second-row seats don’t fold completely flat, but they do sport hard plastic covers on the back for being loading up.
|2022 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300|
|Boot volume||972L seats up / 2277L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
While the standard 10.0-inch infotainment display in a Land Rover Defender is great, I was taken aback by the improvement that came with the larger, optional 11.4-inch unit. I assumed it wouldn’t make much difference, but it’s quite impressive. Maybe it’s the slight curvature of the screen, or maybe it’s the brightness and crispness of the display. I don’t know, it’s just seriously nice.
There is plenty of power behind the screen as well. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – both of which can run wirelessly – the ability to connect multiple devices at once, plus digital radio and native navigation. The operating system is a cracker as well. It’s smooth and easy to use, balancing that trick of having plenty of functionality without feeling bogged down by the details.
While there are plenty of pixels for driver and passenger to dig through, it’s not the same ultra-techy experience as you’d find in a modern Mercedes-Benz or Audi. The digital instrument cluster mostly mimics analogue with its dials and readouts, but you can adjust this with things like full-screen mapping if you so desire.
Continuing the whole ‘antithesis of the forebear’ kind of theme, the new Defender is capable of software updates over the air. That means the car is connected to the internet, and can install software updates like your phone or computer does. It also has the ability to monitor the mechanical condition of the vehicle, and can call in an earlier service or dealer assistance when needed.
Naturally, the new Land Rover Defender takes a quantum leap forward when it comes to safety. While it makes do without a front centre airbag that is becoming increasingly commonplace on passenger cars and SUVs, the new Defender still managed a five-star ANCAP safety rating against stringent 2020 requirements.
There’s autonomous emergency braking (which includes junction, pedestrian and cyclist detection), blind-spot monitoring and assistance, a 360-degree surround-view camera (with wonderful image quality), clear exit monitor for occupants getting out, lane-keep assistance, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go), and parking assistance.
There is also something called rear collision monitor – which acts like a low-speed autonomous emergency braking in reverse – that operates in tandem with rear cross-traffic alert and includes steering support.
There’s a lot of driver assistance technology to dig through via the convex display. There are all manner of readouts and information, including a handy display of vehicle dimensions for when you’re tackling underground carparks. Don’t forget about the height-adjustable air suspension, so you can squeeze into spaces lower than 2.0m. Just.
A lot of the technology on board the Defender centres around off-road usage, with a variety of selectable off-road modes to choose from. Depending on how well-specified your vehicle is, you’ll get the more advanced Terrain Response 2 system that has a bit of extra technological firepower. On top of your typical off-road driving modes, you also get a configurable Terrain Response mode and Land Rover’s take on an off-road cruise control: All Terrain Progress Control.
In some respects, the Land Rover Defender can be seen as a good value proposition. It’s not a cheap vehicle by any stretch of the imagination. But considering how much vehicle and specification we’ve got here, in comparison to a Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series, then you could say that the Defender is better value for money.
Even with the large volume of options that have been thrown onto our test car – many of which you could happily live without – we are a long distance away from the top-spec LandCruiser GR Sport or Sahara ZX.
Nissan’s Patrol is much better value, yes. And it’s sporting few weaknesses through its petrol-only powertrain and driving experience. However, it also feels quite old in comparison to this Defender.
Of course, you can spend a lot more on a 2022 Land Rover Defender if you feel so inclined. Either on the long options list or opting for a higher specification, you can get something that starts with a ‘two’ easily enough. But for our money, this diesel feels like a comfortable fit for the Defender’s intended purpose.
Diesel power still makes sense for a vehicle of this size, keeping fuel consumption impressively low. This is especially the case on the highway, and you don’t seem to have much of a performance deficit. The 3.0-litre diesel engine – now the only diesel option in the Defender 110 range – sits not far behind Toyota’s larger 3.3-litre V6: 220kW/650Nm versus 227kW/700Nm.
And for those who prefer petrol propulsion, the P400 petrol 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six nearly exactly matches the naturally aspirated 5.6-litre V8 of the Nissan Patrol: 294kW/550Nm plays 298kW/560Nm.
|At a glance||2022 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Servicing costs||$2650 (5 years)|
Servicing costs $2650 over five years, and Land Rover’s warranty covers five years and unlimited kilometres.
Instead of having traditional service intervals, the Defender keeps an eye on operating hours, kilometres covered, your driving style and conditions to indicate when a service is due.
And while the claimed fuel economy is an impressive 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres, we didn’t match that. Perhaps we were too busy listening to six-in-a-row at higher revs, but we saw around 9.5L/100km from our time in the car.
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.9L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||9.5L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||89L|
Back when I first drove the Defender, engineers explained that although they had a thoroughly modern vehicle with plenty of electronic controls, they wanted the vehicle to imbibe a mechanical, connected feeling. The steering is electrically assisted, and the braking system doesn’t use a hydraulic master cylinder. Instead, it’s brake-by-wire using computer controls.
Rear and centre differentials are computer-controlled for variable locking and slip, and you’ve got height-adjustable air suspension and a very active traction-control system.
However, despite this onslaught of technology – the absolute antithesis of the original Defender – this new Defender does maintain a wonderful sense of ‘feel’ and engagement while driving. It’s a tricky thing to define and value, but it’s something my wife picked up on while driving. “It’s just so nice!” she remarked, a few times while punting around town.
And I agree. I won’t get tied up in knots trying to explain the feeling of the steering, body and brakes with vague and oblique words. I’ll just say that it’s a pleasure to drive.
Perhaps much less challenging to describe is the engine, which is a joy. Although not fast, there is enough power available to make the Defender feel positively brisk.
The 220kW and 650Nm outputs are stout numbers, no doubt. But don’t forget they have to shove nearly 2.5 tonnes’ worth of Slovakian-built British metal. And while there are plenty of examples of joyous and soulful V6s, this engine reminded me of how nice an inline six can really be.
This doesn’t bark or scream with any big delivery of decibels; it’s an impressively muted, smooth and refined diesel powertrain. The noise – both from the exhaust and the engine itself – is still quite pleasurable.
It’s an engine handled well by the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox matched by a typically long-travel accelerator pedal. And while the Defender maintains nice feeling of steering through corners, it can only hide the height and weight so long. Don’t drive it like you stole it, and you’ll find it quite enjoyable.
Off-road, it’s a bit of a different story. Not in terms of capability, because that is there in spades.
Although, the urban-focussed 20-inch wheels do let down the package overall for proper low-range bush driving. There just isn’t enough sidewall available, and the wheels are in the firing line for scratches and damage.
Where the real strength of the Defender comes through is in two important off-road disciplines: clearance and traction.
Jack the air suspension up to the off-road setting, and your available clearance goes from good to great. The wheels are already close to the outside corners, which eliminates big overhangs. The tyre diameter is quite large overall, and there aren’t any live axles underneath to get hung up on.
For reference’s sake, I reckon there is plenty more underbody clearance in this standard Defender than you would get on a traditional live-axle four-wheel drive with 35-inch tyres.
Next, traction. Articulation is decent, with the interlinked air suspension somewhat able to mimic live-axle flexing and keep wheels on the ground where possible. It’s not what you’d call slinky and long-travel, but it’s pretty good.
Where most of the strength comes from is in the electronic off-road smarts, and this is where that difference lies.
Whereas the driver feels engaged and intrinsic on-road, you can sometimes feel like a bystander when you are off-road. There are times you can sense that the Defender actively looks to disengage your participation because it knows better.
Getting the best out of the Defender off-road often involves a slow dose of momentum, steady throttle inputs, and a mite of patience as the Defender looks to find a way forward. Like Magnus Carlsen moving pawns, the Defender shuffles various amounts of torque between wheels as it looks to find the perfect attacking combination.
It’s perhaps not the choice for someone who wants to challenge themselves and their own driving skill, because the Defender is too smart and capable in its own right. But if your endgame is more about getting through the challenge – whether that is for reaching the idyllic campsite or just because you want to – then the Defender will likely do it. Just think about your choice of wheels and tyres first.
|Key details||2022 Land Rover Defender 110 SE D300|
|Engine||3.0-litre inline six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel|
|Power||220kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||650Nm @ 1500-2500rpm|
|Drive type||Permanent four-wheel drive, low-range transfer case|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||91.1kW/t|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
Little or none of the gloss has come off Land Rover’s most important – and now most popular – model since arriving in 2020. It’s a compelling mix of refinement, capability and practicality, and has the potential to be a wonderful family and adventure machine.
Unfortunately for those interested out there, a long waiting list has emerged from the limited supply of Defenders that Land Rover can bring to Australia. And to muddy the waters further, Land Rover has been tweaking the amount of specification and gear in its Defender grades as the company grapples with the limited supply of semiconductors.
It could be worth the wait, however. Because it seems to do the best job of straddling on-road refinement, proper off-road capability and everyday usability. And when compared against the new Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series, one could argue that it brings an element of value into the equation as well.