After the Land Rover name began following the end of the Second World War, fewer cars out there have more recognisability than the Land Rover Series I, II, and III. Later on, the ubiquitous British off-road car would become updated and known as the Defender. Although the previous old-school Defender was never sold in North America after 1997 due to looming stricter safety regulations, it nevertheless enjoyed a very long model run elsewhere between 1983 and 2016. Today, decades later, the Defender has been revamped from the ground up and came back for the 2020 model year as a modern (safer!) take on an old classic. This week at Daddy’s Digest, we’ve got a 2022 Land Rover Defender 110 P300 S for a road test to see how the classic recipe has been elevated.
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Like the classic models, Defenders are available in two different length wheelbases – the 90 (two-door) and 110 (four-door). While the old Defender actually featured wheelbases close to 90 and 110 inches, the new one takes a little bit of artistic license, considering that the two and four-door models have wheelbases of 101.9 and 119.0 inches, respectively. Small technicalities aside, the 2022 Defender possesses a superbly striking design from all angles, and while it does stand out going down the road, it’s for all the right reasons. Expect plenty of compliments when driving one!
Although certain Land Rovers like the Range Rover can be equipped deeper into the six figures, the Defender 110 starts out life at $67,000 Canadian ($66,100 for the 90). If you like, you can still equip a Defender with a V8 engine that sails past the $128,000 mark, but by and large, the cheaper Defenders can still be just as charming. Standard features include full-time all-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case (high/low range), LED headlights and taillights, a full-size rear-mounted spare wheel, leather seats (heated up front), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Meridian premium audio.
Options on the test vehicle were kept reasonably in check, all things considered: Santorini Black paint was $950, a Black Exterior Package was $650 (with awesome looking black checker plate trim), and premium LED headlights were $450. Very few options were added to the interior, leaving more in the budget for off-road goodies and hardware: the Off-Road Package (120V AC plug socket, electronic active differential, all-terrain tires) was $1,360, Towing Package was $2,270, Cold Climate Package (heated windshield, washer jets, and headlight washers) was $550, and finally, an air suspension system was $1,620. All in all, the as-tested price hovered around the $80,000 mark – not exactly a small amount of money, but generally not too bad when considering the price of entry to the Land Rover brand.
Powering all Defender 110 P300 S models is a 2.0-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged inline-four making 296 horsepower (or 300 PS – also known as metric horsepower) and 295 pound-feet of torque. While a four-cylinder engine might appear to overwhelm the Defender’s 2,140 kilogram (4,717 pound) curb weight, in practice, a low torque peak between 1,500 and 4,500 RPM moves the Land Rover with reasonable authority; Land Rover states that the zero to 100KM/H sprint takes only 7.4 seconds. An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox offering, and makes smooth and quick work of shifting duty – it’s tuned just right no matter what. The higher-end models do have up to 525 horsepower out of a supercharged V8, but the Defender was never really built to be a rocket ship – for most drivers, the P300 powertrain will be plenty smooth and offer enough grunt for any and all driving conditions.
Drivers taking the Defender 110 off-road will have 291 millimetres (11.4 inches) of ground clearance available to them, and can also wade into up to 900 millimetres (35.4 inches) of water. The optional air suspension can be adjusted for height to provide extra flexibility, and the centre and rear differential are of the automatic locking type. The front axle relies on a brake-based vectoring system to improve traction. Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 rounds out the mechanical off-road versatility with automatic suspension and drivetrain adjustments based on terrain conditions. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 kilograms, or 7,716 pounds.
Where the new Defender deviates from the old one the most is going to be in the area of comfort and driving dynamics. Especially when equipped with the optional air suspension, the Defender is a superb pavement and highway cruiser. The ride is supple and yet it still feels like a rugged off-roader; it comes with little to none of the drawbacks of the very raw old model. Considering the fact that the platform is derived from products such as the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Sport, with the Defender drivers will get most of the refinement, a little less luxury, and a heaping extra portion of badassery.
The interior of the Defender 90 and 110 manage to pull off a no-nonsense design while still having some sense of being an upscale premium product. Materials and visual appeal are high points, and a series of exposed fasteners pay homage to the more down-to-earth classic. The digital gauge cluster is easy to read, and the unresponsive capacitive touch steering wheel controls seen on other Land Rover models is thankfully not present here. Knobs and buttons are plentiful when it comes to controlling heating and cooling, as well as the off-road functions. The 11.4-inch infotainment screen is clear and easy to read, and the interface has also been greatly improved from past years. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment.
For family use, the Defender’s standard five-passenger setup is plenty for those looking for two rows of seating. A super cool front-and-centre sixth passenger jump seat is optional, as is a two-passenger third row – you can only have one or the other, however, and expect the extra seats to have enough room for emergencies only. LATCH/ISOFIX anchors are easily accessible, and there’s enough rear-seat legroom such that a rear-facing infant bucket seat will not eat very much into the front passengers’ space.
Driver safety assist features on the 2022 Defender include automatic emergency braking, a blind spot monitoring system, a great 3D surround camera, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, and wade sensing. Interestingly enough, although it can be found as standard equipment on many cheaper cars, adaptive cruise control is a $1,200 option not equipped on the test vehicle.
More than just a pretty face, the 2022 Land Rover Defender 110 P300 S is a phenomenal driving machine that also happens to be on the relatively cheap side of the Land Rover family. While 67 (base) to 80 large (as-tested) in Canadian dollars isn’t exactly something that most people can afford, other mainstream sport utility vehicles can end up approaching this territory – including the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, and the Ford Bronco. The Defender is a nicer place to spend time in compared to the others, and it’s no slouch off-road, either. While it’s not the bare-bones simplistic model of the past, today’s Defender could be considered the coolest model in the Land Rover lineup.