Those who knew Land Rover and its storied history would also know that the new Defender had plenty to live up to.
After a year on the road, the Defender 110 — now on sale in over 100 countries around the world — has proven itself to be one of the best land cruiser and off-roader in the market today (full review here). It’s already collected over 50 global accolades to date, including Top Gear’s 2020 Car of the Year and 2021 World Car Design of the Year, and has become the benchmark for which other 4X4s strive to meet.
Despite mixed reactions initially, Land Rover has reported that the new Defender has been incredibly well received by both conquest and loyal customers. These are the same people who have been patiently waiting for an update of the icon, and with high expectations too. So popular in fact, that the British marque has already delivered 1,390 Defenders to customers in the Asia Pacific in FY20-21.
What really swayed naysayers ultimately was the way the new car thoughtfully incorporated its heritage into its design, regardless of specs, colours, and materials. Which made it doubly exciting for us when we finally got the chance to see if its shorter wheel-based brother, the Land Rover Defender 90, would live up to the reputation despite being smaller, lighter, and only sporting three doors. Read on for the review, and other exclusive insights about the region’s preferences for this car.
Now, unlike many die-hard Land Rover fans, we didn’t need to warm up too much to the look of the 110. It looked rugged enough to earn the Defender name, while being modern enough to still fit the bill for most city buyers. If you enjoyed the boxiness of the original Defender though, the new 90 is the closest-looking model you’ll get.
You’ll also get colour options that span from a stealthy black to a muted Gondwana Stone, but Land Rover has revealed that it’s most requested colour for Singapore and Asia Pacific is Pangea Green, and it’s easy to see why. The earthy metallic green — inspired and named after the ancient supercontinent — is fitting for what the Defender was originally built to do: conquer terrains with ease.
Everyone knows how great the old Defender was off road, but the new Defender 90 needed to excel at both city and countryside driving, and for the most part, it does.
The one we took for a spin was the P300, equipped with a 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and coil springs, which really makes this the closest model you can get to the original as most new models come equipped with air-suspension. Interestingly though, Land Rover has revealed that the P300HSE remains to be the best-selling Defender spec in Singapore and Asia Pacific, and about 36 percent of all Defenders sold in the region were fitted with the Ingenium i6 powertrain.
Because it’s quite a tall and heavy car, we thought the small engine wouldn’t have enough grunt to get the defender going at motorway speeds even in this shorter wheel-base layout. It had, however, plenty enough grunt, and fitted the 90 perfectly.
The Land Rover Defender 90 really is a tale of two vehicles. On road, it’s excellent for city driving because because 1) it’s easier to park than it’s bigger brother and 2) it has a better turning radius. The only thing that we noticed during the driving experience was the sway you sometimes get from having a shorter wheelbase, kind of like experiencing small swells on a boat.
That being said, the SUV really does keep its promise of being an excellent off-roader. While the approach and departure angles are the same as the 110, the break-over angle is improved. The Terrain Response traction control system is still one of — if not the best — in the business. And although the Defender I drove did not have the rear-locking differential equipped, in all but the most extreme terrain, the centre auto-locking differential would be more than enough.
In understanding that not one adventure is the same, Land Rover has a number of Packs that can be had with both the 90 and 110. The Urban Pack and Loadspace Rubber Mat were sold with every Defender in Singapore, although another accessory that proved to be popular here was the Fixed Side Steps, which made getting in and out of this massive car much easier.
To cement the car’s effortless functionality and iconic looks, popular accessories like the Raised Air Intake, Wheel Arch Protection, and Classic Mudflap were also popular choices for those looking to upgrade their Defender into the ultimate 4×4 of their dreams.
Look further beyond Singapore though, and you’ll find that it was the Explorer Pack that came out top in Asia Pacific. Although the most expensive, this pack is perfect for the explorer who always chooses the path less trodden (or driven, in this case), and includes an Expedition Roof Rack, an Exterior Side-mounted Gear Carrier, and all the popular accessories mentioned above.
Regional customers who didn’t want any lifestyle pack didn’t go home with a bare Defender though; many still ticked off the Side Steps and Spare Wheel Cover option for practical and aesthetic reasons. If all these optional treats aren’t doing it for you though, we recommend the coolest iteration of them all: the Land Rover Defender V8 Bond Edition. The limited edition version is inspired by vehicles on screen in No Time To Die, and is an exclusive take on the most powerful production Defender ever made.
The next obvious difference between this and the 110 is that while the latter can hold up to seven seats, this one will only oblige five. This is more than enough space if you’re a couple or a small family, but if you’re planning on a bigger tribe, the 110 is definitely your better option.
The interiors are largely similar as well, except in place of the optional mini fridge is a three-seat option at the front, another option to be had with the car. This not only adds practicality, but will also make you the coolest driver in the universe to kids. Yes, an adult could still sit in the middle seat, but if you have longer legs it’ll definitely be a little cramped.
The rest of the interior came equipped with many of the top-of-the-range options including the Meridian Sound System 400W with 10 speakers plus subwoofer, as well as the ClearSight interior rear view mirror, which is extremely useful if you had the front middle seat up.
The second row of seats in the 90 is very spacious, and it is back here where you’ll fully grasp the size of the SUV. Three adults can sit back there very comfortably no matter the length of the journey, so you won’t have to worry during long road trips. The rear seats can be folded down; however unlike the Defender 110, you might need to decide whether you want to carry luggage or people as the boot is much smaller here.
But like with the other Defender, the real MVP of the driving experience was the Pivi Pro infotainment system. The system — designed to be faster, more intuitive, and logical — is user-friendly for anyone, whether you’re a savvy Millennial or tech-illiterate Boomer.
Access to 90 percent of commonly used functions from the touch-screen display only requires a maximum of two clicks, so we never had to fumble for navigation, music, or connectivity, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of cars today. This might also be why it won the SmartBest award for best infotainment system last year, and that customer satisfaction scores were 10 times better than previous generations of infotainment.
Which brings us back to our earlier point of the Defender 90 being a tale of two vehicles. It’s a great city SUV that’s perfect for day trips and off-roading, but if you’re into over landing or longer road trips with the family, this car will oblige without complaint.
Whichever you choose, expect the Defender to be an eager-to-please 4×4 that will be suitable for all adventures, whether it’s getting rough and dirty in mud trails across the border, or cruising down highways in the city. If you wanted an unforgettable time, this car will be your best companion.
Find out more about the new Land Rover Defender here.