IT'S a vehicle launch that has divided the nation: Will Land Rover's new Defender be an effete pretender to a rugged history, or will it be fit for purpose with a modern twist?

The Scottish Farmer:

That this icon of motoring history has caused such debate is testament to the affection it has been held in, especially within farming communities where it was seen as a necessity and not just an add-on to the daily business of farming. It doubles as a people carrier, sheep transport, medicine cabinet, tow wagon and feed bin – nothing else has quite come close to its practicality.

The instantly recognisable old design went out of production in 2016. So it's been a long four years where farmers have got used to 'something else'. Will they flock back to the new, technologically-packed version? That's what we hoped to find out recently at its Scottish launch centred around the Land Rover Experience centre, at Butterstone Loch, near Dunkeld.

For a start, though, it's important to recognise that farming's long-serving domestic is now built in Slovakia and not at the Solihull base that produced it for many decades. Outwardly, there is the silhouette there of Defenders gone, but to me it looked a bit more like the old Isuzu Trooper, with its similar side-hinged rear tailgate and externally-mounted spare wheel.

The Scottish Farmer:

The aluminium body of this modern take on an old classic hides beneath it an array of technological warfare designed to take on the toughest terrain. Its predecessor was legendary in this respect, but it was mainly all mechanical – blood and guts that, for the most part, could be fixed by nothing more than a shifting spanner and a three pound hammer! This was the main reason why a large proportion of Land Rovers are actually still around and why, in its 67 years of being sold, more than 2m of them were bought for work in all continents of the world.

The headline is that the Defender 110 – which was available first – has a range of seating arrangements and four distinct accessory packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban) and has recently been joined by a smaller Defender 90 and more utilitarian commercial models of both 90 and 110 sizes. There's even a plug-in electric vehicle just announced – who'd have thought it?

The Scottish Farmer:

For the moment, the 110 model is the one dominating the forecourts and it has a maximum payload of up to 900kg, a static roof load of up to 300kg and a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes, which is on a par with its predecessors.

As far as off-road capability goes, it is actually well ahead of the old timers, with better angles of approach and departure, plus a wading depth of up to 900mm, which is streets ahead and with circuitry designed to handle it too as the electrical system is tested to IP67 standard meaning it should be able to be submerged in water for up to an hour without damage.

On the 110 test model, there was no need to change gear, or switch to low box, or engage the diffs. It did it all for you thanks to the Terrain Response system which has been naturalised from others in the Land Rover stable.

The choices are all there before you and you can either manually toggle in what you need, or simply use the touch screen to change the driving mode. 'Mud and ruts', 'snow and ice', 'sand', and even 'wade'? – they are all there and more to tickle the tonsils of the engine and eight-speed auto gearbox to suit what you need, not what you think you'll need.

Of course, there is an option to switch most of the electronic fripperies off and use your own ability – but why would you when you have the likes of Hill Launch Assist and Hill Hold, so that the vehicle is prevented from rolling back on inclines, leaving you to focus solely on driving.

In the original Defender, you could lock the central differential manually using the high/low gear selector, but in the new Defender, drivers prevent cross-axle slip using the Centre Slip Limited and Centre 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. Four individual profiles can be saved, so different drivers can activate their own settings.

The Scottish Farmer:

All this technology is accessed via the next-gen Pivi Pro software in the centrally-mounted 10-inch touchscreen. You also have to get used to (depending on the model) the rear camera eye view as transmitted to your rear view 'mirror'. No more checking if your hair is straight, or your lippy is on ... you can't see ought but what's actually out the back.

Inside the cabin, there are some nice takes on the little shelves and storage that have been used over the years in the older models to house a veritable array of animal health products, syringes, wrenches and the inevitable fag packet upon which your farm management strategies are written down for future reference. A bit of the stripped-back personality of the original Defender has been embraced by structural elements and fixings that are usually hidden from view, exposed to emphasise simplicity and practicality.

While not having the bench seating arrangement of the 'originals', there's a passing nod to this with an optional central front ‘jump’ seat, which can provide three-abreast seating in the front like early Land Rovers.

As a result, the Defender 110 offers five, six or 5-plus-2 seating configurations, with a loadspace behind the second-row seats of up to 1075 litres and as much as 2380-litres when the second row is folded – almost van-like. And even the new 90 version can also accommodate six occupants.

The Scottish Farmer:

While it's not quite the hose-through cabin of old, user-friendly features include rubberised flooring and a wipe clean interior. An optional folding fabric roof provides an open-top feel and allows passengers in the second-row of the 110 to stand up for the full safari view.

It's all atop the purpose-engineered D7x architecture that is 95% new and based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction. It is three times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, ideal for the fully independent air, or coil sprung suspension.

The test vehicle had air sprung suspension (passive coils are the lower specification), which really transforms the 4x4’s on-road handling and provides an off-road ride height 75mm, while an additional 70mm of lift means the air system can raise the body by a maximum of 145mm when needed. 'Elegant Arrival' automatically lowers the body by 50mm to aid access for old codgers like me!

It is all a perfect match for Terrain Response and the automatic gearbox, while a clever use of technology, for instance, is the ClearSight Ground View system which helps drivers by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen. A useful extra set of eyes for when hitting really tough terrain, especially when rocks and boulders could potentially damage the underside.

Power on the test vehicles came from the more powerful of two four-cylinder diesels, the D240 (the D200 is the baby oil burner), while there's also the petrol four-cylinder P300 and the more powerful six-cylinder P400, matched to mild hybrid electric technology. Roughly speaking, the nomenclature is a give away on the power outputs, but here's a selling point – both diesels will get quite close to averaging 35mpg-plus.

The D200 will do the 0-60mph run in 9.9 seconds, while the more powerful D240 does that in 8.7 seconds – just try that in your old standard Defender. The P300 petrol will go from 0-60mph in just 7.7 seconds.

For the practicalities of modern life, there are plenty of USB and 12-volt supply points around the vehicle. In the load area there's even a three-pin 230V domestic socket also available.


In many ways Land Rover were on a hiding to nothing when they announced the discontinuation of the 'old' Defender and mechanicals. There is no doubt that changing an icon is one of the hardest tricks in the automotive book, but changes needed to be made to ensure that the Defender was fit to meet emission targets and move into the modern time frame.

This is an estimable attempt to make that change – and you won't have to pop a rib pulling the hand-brake on. It is a fine vehicle, packed with electronics that make driving it a dawdle, both on and off-road. But therein lies the rub. Electronics and rough terrain, plus an agricultural 'atmosphere' (think slurry, muck and dust) can be a fickle mix. Just how robust the electronics and its various sensors will be over time remains the BIG question mark.

On the face of it, though, this is a well engineered vehicle capable of great things. In 30 years time, we will fully judge just how great it is when parts of it are held together by fence wire and binder twine!

Commercials launched for 2021 model year

The Defender's take on versatile commercials are the Hard Top versions on more practical body designs in 90 and 110 bodies, which have 1355 and 2059 litres of cargo space, respectively

To go with its practicality, its flexible load area features full rubber floor coverings, lashing points, hooks, lockable underfloor storage and a full bulkhead partition for security and safety. The passenger compartment is limited to two occupants, or three for those fitted with the optional jump seat.

The Scottish Farmer:

Available from now, the Defender 90 Hard Top starts at from £35,820 OTR (ex-VAT) while the 110 is from £43,012.

There are clever lockable underfloor storage solutions and a secure bulkhead partition. The load area is illuminated by interior lighting that's five times brighter than the standard passenger model and allows you to view the fact that the 110 can accommodate a standard Euro Pallet, via the wide-opening tailgate.

The 90 will have a payload of 670kg, while the 110 can have 778-800kg, depending on the engine and spec' pack). Both are equipped as standard with independent coil-sprung suspension, though the more advanced air suspension is an option on the 110.

The Scottish Farmer:

They also have the torque back-up and power afforded by in-line six cylinder engines. The Defender 90 only gets the D200 engine, but the 110 commercial has a choice of the D250, or D300 diesels – delivering 247bhp and 297bhp, respectively. These all use the eight-speed automatic transmission – you don't get a manual gear choice.

Again, there will be a Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) version, where the 48-volt system harvests energy usually lost when slowing down and stores it in a battery under the rear floor. This is then used for torque assistance during stop/start driving.

Defender 110 Hard Top has four spec's – Defender, S, SE and HSE – but they all still have the state-of-the-art Pivi Pro touchscreen infotainment set-up to control all major vehicle functions. A comprehensive set of assistance systems can include Land Rover’s 3D surround camera system for all-round visualisation to help loading, but for an uncompromised view, ClearSight rear view camera provides an uninterrupted view of the rear of the vehicle at the flick of a switch. Great for hitching a trailer etc.