2021 Land Rover Defender Yearlong Review: The Arrival

It’s just a fact of life: Some vehicles are in higher demand than others. That holds true in the broader market and also in our long-term fleet. I couldn’t give away my previous long-termer, the Mazda CX-30, to a fellow staffer in need of wheels. That won’t be the case with my newest one. Within days of its arrival, colleagues flooded me with requests to borrow it for road trips to Alaska, camping expeditions to national parks, and to “just put miles on it.” Welcome to the MotorTrend Garage, 2021 Land Rover Defender 110 P400 SE. It’s going to be a busy year for you.

Our new Defender 110—our 2021 SUV of the Year—should be well outfitted for a year of commuting, road-tripping, off-roading, exploring, and, well, “miles.” We requested a lightly optioned Defender 110 P300 base model, which features a 296-hp 2.0-liter twin-turbo I-4 and 19-inch steel wheels, but Land Rover reps politely told us we’d have to spec a slightly ritzier six-cylinder model instead. Twist our arms.

We kept with the spirit of the base model we requested for our Defender 110 P400 SE build. Its fairly extensive list of standard features includes an air suspension, 20-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, two-zone climate control, a digital instrument cluster, and a 10.0-inch infotainment system featuring Land Rover’s latest PIVI Pro operating system (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility). Power comes courtesy of a 3.0-liter electrically supercharged and turbocharged I-6 producing 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The base price for our Defender 110 is $64,050.

Although it’s quite easy to go nuts on the Defender’s option sheet, we focused our attention on features that would improve its off-road capability. We started with the Off-Road package ($1,550), which adds auto-locking differentials, brake-based torque vectoring, all-terrain tires, and a 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area. Next we added the Advanced Off-Road Capability package ($750), which includes Land Rover’s latest off-road software, Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control. Then we turned our attention to the exterior. We opted for Tasman Blue paint with a black-contrast roof ($710 and $1,000, respectively) and the Explorer package ($4,900), which includes a snorkel, an expedition-ready roof rack, a side-mounted gear carrier, fender flares, mud flaps, and a black-contrast hood graphic. We rounded our Defender out by opting for a beefy front skidplate ($1,000) and the front jump seat ($1,000), giving our two-row Land Rover room for six in a pinch. Total out-the-door price is $74,960 for our Slovakian-built overlander. Pricey, but in retrospect maybe we should have spent even more and added heated seats (which ought to be standard on a vehicle at this price point), the onboard air compressor, a roof ladder, and a rooftop tent. Perhaps we’ll raid Land Rover’s extensive Defender accessories catalog in the near future.

In the meantime, the Defender has quickly racked up miles in the MT fleet. It has already spent time exploring both the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley, gone camping in California’s Mojave and Arizona’s Sonoran Deserts, and played rescue rig at SUV of the Year. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a busy year.

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