The Land Rover Defender is back. While the faithful have bemoaned the disappearance of this last link to Land Rover authenticity since 2016, the company has been quietly toiling away on a reboot of the classic model.
The old Defender was deemed unsafe in the U.S. and retired in the late-1990s; the European version ran into a safety snag on that continent that made it obsolete across the pond as well. The redesign was necessary for the Defender to go on.
The 2020 model year revision arrived this week and, while it has lost the stubbornly classic utilitarian looks that made it a favorite of the backcountry gold-card crowd, it has gained a slick sophistication that’s attractive without losing the muscular no-problem optimism that buyers look for in the model. And its pricing as an entry-level Land Rover may make it a top seller.
The old Defender was that most covert of yuppie rigs: it could absolutely pass muster for taskmaster street cred. As pleasingly urbane as the new version looks, some buyers enamored of what the old design represented are going to be disappointed.
But, when all is said and done, it’s hard to not be entranced by this car’s literate design language. The four-door has a lot to say, especially in profile, where a cosmetic flourish between pillars manages the nifty illusion of making the rear—otherwise a paragon of brevity—appear extended.
The 2020 redesign’s engine is a 296-HP 2L 4-cylinder that produces 295 lb-ft of torque, making it one efficient little number—proven out by the 8,200-pound towing capacity. And it will ride far more comfortably than ye olde Defender, too, as this new iteration boasts 4-way independent suspension, and the upper crust Land Rover’s advanced 4WD system. The cabin looks classic Defender, though, with bolted-in wood accents and a not-too-creature-comforting aesthetic.
The 2020 Defender—in both 2- and 4-door versions—will be available in the second quarter of next year. Pricing begins at around $50K.