Land Rover Defender review – ride and handling

Its brilliance lies in off-road capability and on-road comfort, but it’s come at a cost of dynamism

Evo rating
  • Versatility; intelligent design; impressive new in-line six powertrains; character
  • Heavy; expensive; petrols are thirsty

Quite simply, the new Defender drives nothing like the old one, which some of you will be more than happy about, while others will head straight outside to hose out the interior of their ‘real’ Defender. But it’s 2021 and having a car that drove like it was designed to survive being dropped from a plane makes for a lovely piece of nostalgia, but not such a great car.

In the new Defender you’re driving a car that works on road as well as it does off it. It doesn’t lurch around or pitch itself into a corner or around a motorway slip road curve with the grace of an elephant on skates. It almost drives like a normal car.

There’s a suppleness to its ride quality that puts a Discovery 5 to shame and its body control is superior, too. It certainly responds to being hustled along better than the 5, and aside from the slightest evidence of vagueness from the steering around the dead ahead when the optional off-road tyres are fitted, you find yourself travelling quicker than expected.

The thump from the straight-six engines helps considerably here, neither troubled by the high kerb weight nor aerodynamics that probably raised a snigger from the wind tunnel operators. Its step-off from stationary is instant, the mid-range punchy and responsive beyond all expectations, and it even enjoys troubling the red line. Unlike its predecessor and so many of its ilk, it lets you set the pace rather than dictate it.

For those long road trips and too far away places that Defenders are drawn to, the road part will no longer be a chore. Your overriding impression of the new Defender is just how complete it feels. How nothing has been compromised or sacrificed and every need has been catered for. It will still crawl up a rock face or submerge itself in a bog and haul itself out the other end, but crucially it will no longer suck the life out of you when you need to travel any distance on a road.

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