2020 Land Rover Defender arrives in Frankfurt ready to take on the world

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this SUV from the swift completion of its appointed trail.


Andrew Hoyle/Roadshow

It’s been almost a year since Land Rover first announced that the Defender would return to the US after 21 years. Now, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the 2020 Land Rover Defender is ready to tackle terrain around the world.

The 2020 Defender represents a massive leap forward in styling, which makes sense, since the last-generation Defender stopped rolling off the line in 2016, its most major refresh occurring all the way back in 2012. It’s a radical departure from generations past. The new Defender is smoother and far more modern. Yet, at the same time, there’s more rectilinearity here than on any other modern Land Rover. The front grilles consist largely of slots, while the headlights and their running-light patterns look like a set of angry eyes. It’s like a little bulldog scowling at you.


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Straight lines carry the eyes from the front bumper to the back, where there’s more than a little traditional Defender design thrown into the mix. The back end is mostly straight, devoid of too many curves. It looks especially ready for off-roading, given the high-mounted spare wheel on the tailgate.

With the inlets and outlets nice and high, the Defender is mighty capable. Ground clearance is set at 8.5 inches for the two-door Defender 90 (8.6 for the four-door Defender 110) but selecting the car’s off-road-height setting bumps the figure up to 11.5 inches for both models. Both the 90 and 110 sport a 30.1-degree approach angle, which grows to 38 degrees at the vehicle’s off-road height. The departure angle is even better at 37.6 degrees for the 90 and 37.7 degrees for the 110, although both even out to 40 degrees at off-road height. The 90’s shorter wheelbase gives it the superior breakover angle at 24.2 degrees versus the 110’s 22 degrees. Both variants can tackle up to 35.4 inches of water.

The 2020 Defender can also tow. It’ll pull up to 8,201 pounds of braked load, although without those additional brakes, that number drops to 1,653 pounds.

The interior manages to look just as rugged as the exterior, thanks to a heavy dose of straight lines that are far more prominent than in other Land Rover vehicles. Depending on the vehicle spec, the front row gets either a big ol’ center console with plenty of space, or a convertible bench seat with a semipermanent center console. The latter is standard on the Defender 90’s First Edition trim and optional on the Defender 110, allowing up to three people to sit in the front row. The Defender 110, depending on configuration, can be had with seating for five, six or seven, the latter including two fold-down seats in the back. Like every other Land Rover product, there are a wide variety of materials available for the trim and seats, including a 30% wool blend for seating surfaces.

That four-spoke steering wheel has some classic cool to it.


Land Rover

As for powertrains, there are two. The base and S-trim Defender 110s wield a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 producing 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The Defender 90 and all other trims of the 110 (SE, HSE, X, First Edition) pack something a little more potent — a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 mild hybrid making 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the lineup, as is permanent four-wheel drive.

In terms of tech, the new Defender is loaded with it. Its new electronic architecture allows the vehicle to receive over-the-air updates across 14 different vehicle modules. It packs a new PIVI Pro infotainment system, too, with a centrally located 10-inch touchscreen that includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. What’s most interesting is that Land Rover claims the system has an “always-on” design, which will allow it to boot nearly immediately, even when starting the vehicle for the first time in a day, thanks to a built-in dedicated battery. That’s a big leap forward, considering we’ve dinged JLR in the past for systems that seem to take forever to boot.

The turn-by-turn navigation contains some interesting tricks, too. It can optimize routing based on driver inputs, even going so far as to cancel audio instructions when the vehicle is in a familiar location. The 12.3-inch gauge display can show 3D maps so the central touchscreen can be used for other purposes. There’s a new head-up display capable of showing videos, which will help highlight vehicle articulation during off-roading. If that wasn’t enough, there are cameras everywhere: A surround-view camera array is pretty standard these days, but the Defender also packs a rearview mirror that shows the view through the backup camera.

The 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 will go on sale in the spring, with the 90 to follow later in the year. The Defender 110 will start at $50,925 for the base trim, with the S rising to $54,375. If you want the mild-hybrid powertrain, though, pricing starts at $63,275 for the SE, topping out at $81,925 for the hot-to-trot X edition. Pricing for the Defender 90 will likely arrive closer to its actual release in 2020.

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Andrew Krok

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