Land Rover Defender

Editors' Review

The Land Rover Defender is a badass SUV, able to take your whole family and a pile of gear nearly anywhere. If this upscale SUV can't get you there, there probably isn't accessible by dry land or fordable waterways. Now, a shorter, even more capable version of this iconic British mountain goat is available, the truncated Defender 90, which takes all of the longer 110's go-anywhere capability, amplifies its already rugged good looks and wraps it all up in a more manageable package.

Overall, the Defender 90's body is about 17 inches shorter than the 110's and its wheelbase is abbreviated by nearly the same amount. These changes help give the vehicle a sportier, even more capable appearance. I adore the 110's styling but find the 90 even more seductive since it's a little trimmer, more in keeping with the original Defender that Land Rover kept in production for about 1,200 years. This SUV's maximum approach and departure angles (38 degrees and 40 degrees, respectively) are identical to the 110's, but since it's so much shorter, the breakover measurement is more favorable, topping out at 31 degrees compared to just 28. Ground clearance measures 11.5 inches for both variants and the maximum grade either Defender can ascend, descend or traverse is 45 degrees, a sphincter-puckering figure.

Defender 90s come standard with all-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case. Fancified models, such as the penultimate First Edition version I'm testing here, also feature an adjustable air suspension, adaptive dampers and Configurable Terrain Response, which allows you to tailor the vehicle's behavior to various surfaces, like mud, sand, rocks and more. (The available Terrain Response 2 system is even more advanced.) Off road, the 90 is an incredibly capable machine. The generous ground clearance means it can negotiate nasty surfaces without scraping its belly, plus the adjustable air suspenders provide a supple, well-controlled ride whether you're bombing over ruts or trolling your local strip mall.

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The Good ~ Unyielding structural stiffness ~ Retro yet modern styling ~ Supple ride quality ~ Off-road prowess

The Bad ~ Oddly shaped cargo space ~ Useless lane-keep assist ~ Ergonomic oddities

The Bottom Line Land Rover pretty much nailed it with the reborn Defender 90.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Media 8

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