2022 Land Rover Defender is an active lifestyle vehicle with a great off-road heritage.
It was a long time ago when off-road vehicles belong to off-road trails, mountains, rivers, or places far away from civilization. Today, they spend most of their lives on the pavement, or in a nightclub parking lot. 2022 Land Rover Defender is one of the few off-road vehicles that can do both.
Land Rover Defender is not just another off-road vehicle resurrected from the last century. It was the first choice as a military vehicle for many countries all around the world. It’s a utility vehicle that was built in 1948 and gained its name for the first time in 1990 as a nod to its service to the armed forces.
The new Defender was launched on September 10, 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and it was a big change considering this will be the first unibody-based Defender. This is the most significant change that Defender is no longer just an off-road vehicle that feels like farm equipment inside and out, now it is also aimed at a more upmarket segment.
Exterior and Interior
Of course, having a rich history means you need to keep the same design language, even though it is much more technologically advanced. From the front end, it looks very muscular with round-shaped daytime running lights to make it look similar to the original Defender’s headlights.
The boxy side profile gives the Defender a military vehicle look, even with modern design elements. Even though it looks more upscale, it still carries over small details that made the Defender look like a proper off-road machine. For instance, there are chequer plates on the hood, and huge fender flares.
You can always spec your Defender with off-road tires, but the sporty version with V8 comes with huge 22″ wheels. Our tester is the Carpathian Edition, which comes with glossy black wheels. They are not the ideal choice for off-roading as it comes with all-season tires.
As we move around to the back, it looks even more traditional than the front, the spare tire is mounted on the swing-out tailgate, which is quite rare nowadays. We know that only off-road-oriented SUVs come with a cargo area door that opens to the side, such as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Ford Bronco, and Jeep Wrangler.
Behind the steering wheel is a completely different experience, even if you are coming from another Land Rover product. Land Rover found a nice balance of utility and build quality without going over the top. There are lots of storage options and the visibility is excellent thanks to the boxy profile.
Land Rover used the right type of plastic trims in the Defender. Although there is only soft-touch plastic molding wrapped all around the dashboard, it looks high quality and sturdy at the same time. Happy to report that there is no fake wood or glossy black like some other premium entries.
As expected from a large utility vehicle, it has tons of rear legroom and headroom. The visibility is excellent for rear seat passengers, as you not only have a huge sunroof, but the Defender comes with iconic windows looking up, also called Safari window.
Boxy design also means it offers tons of cargo space. Our tester did not have the 3rd row, so it offers 34 cubic feet (962L) of cargo space behind the second row, and 78.8 cubic feet (2231L) with the back seats folded. The 3-row version has less overall cargo space when you fold down all seats.
It’s not just the overall space, but the Defender has a hard trunk floor which feels very rugged. You can also buy the optional cage for your pets, which makes it quite versatile. Though there is no 3rd-row seat, air conditioning settings can be adjusted for your pet.
Engine and Drivetrain
2022 Land Rover Defender comes with a few different engine options. Our tester has the most powerful P525 version, which is a 5.0L Supercharged V8 that pumps out 518 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm. Having a supercharger and large displacement means it has a flat torque curve and it just pulls at every RPM.
It comes with 8-speed torque-converted automatic transmission which is made by ZF. This automatic transmission is not only used in other Land Rover models, but there are several other manufacturers that use ZF 8-speed in different types of vehicles, and it is definitely a proven platform.
As expected, it sends power to all wheels all the time, and it comes with advanced off-road features. It has a locking rear and center differential which can be activated manually or by choosing different terrain modes. The Defender can be raised for river crossing or if you just need more ground clearance.
Driving Impressions and Features
You don’t find high-end luxury materials inside, as it is not meant for luxury. There are more plastic trims and a rugged feeling which represents off-road characteristics. It has soft-touch materials and leather where you touch the most, but for the rest of the dashboard and center stack, it is mostly plastic and rubber molding.
It’s impressive that Land Rover was able to make the interior look upscale despite using an excessive amount of plastic trims, and it feels very sturdy. Though overall noise level is higher for premium SUV standards. There are also creaking noises coming from the door seals from time to time. So if you are looking for the ultimate luxury, this is not for you.
Like other Land Rover models, it has a great driving position. You sit quite upright and can see everything going around you easily. I’m surprised to see the Defender comes with a steering wheel wrapped with Alcantara. For short drives, it feels quite nice but after a certain period of time, your hands get sweaty.
You can also change the digital cluster look and settings, which gives tons of flexibility. My favorite feature is that you can just see the navigation in the screen, or place it partially on the right side. You can also choose two dial, and one dial settings and customize them based on your liking.
Speaking of the digital cluster, the screen real estate is quite good. It comes with the same 11.4 inch infotainment system that you can also find in other Land Rover models, and it just looks great. The screen is big, the resolution is great, and most importantly it is easy to use especially once you get the hang of it.
Let’s talk about the drive. When you get behind the steering wheel, you realize how versatile the driving experience is. As a daily driver, it just rides quite smooth for a hardcore off-roader, but surprisingly there is a minimal amount of body roll. Having an air suspension helps a lot, as it can be adjusted based on the driving style and road condition.
We didn’t have a chance to take the Defender to the extreme off-road trail, as this is more of a performance version and all-season tires are not meant for extreme off-roading. You can always have an additional set of tires and rims for off-roading, and if you do that, even the performance version will be extremely capable on any surface thanks to the locking differentials.
My favorite off-roading feature that comes with the Defender is called Wade Sensing. If you do a lot of river crossing, the car will measure the depth of the river or water and will indicate how deep you can go, and will let you know if the water is getting too deep to continue.
The feature list is kind of a mixed bag. I’m surprised to see there is a blind spot warning for all passengers to avoid dooring cyclists or other vehicles. However, there are some features that I think it could have been better at this price range, Adaptive Cruise Control comes to mind. It is not as smooth as the competition, and there is no lane-centering feature.
Pricing and the Verdict
According to Land Rover, the new Defender is not targeting the G-Class, as it has a different purpose. It is not a luxury car meant for the suburbs. The Defender is intended to be actually used, and be driven on different types of terrain rather than being a celebrity toy, and they clearly built the Defender with that thought in mind.
Land Rover really did their homework with the new Defender. It is a strong contender in its class, as it is one of the few purpose-built utility vehicles that can be useful for different types of drivers. It can be heavily optioned and customized based on your lifestyle, it’s a great highway cruiser and a family hauler with great off-road heritage and almost no compromise except the price tag.
The base Defender starts at $61.000 CAD, which is a quite competitive price to start. However, if you want top-of-the-line features and more performance out of your Defender, the price goes all the way up to $150,000 CAD like our tester. That’s what makes the Defender a one-percenter vehicle or more of a status symbol.
For more details – please visit www.landrover.ca