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Land Rover Defender 2023 review: 110 P400 75th Anniversary - off-road test

The latest-generation Land Rover Defender has won ample praise (even from die-hard fans of the old Defender), it’s garnered a stack of awards around the world, and it’s also managed to sell pretty bloody well, don’t worry about that.

To commemorate a huge Land Rover milestone – 75 years since the original Landie, the Series I, was released – JLR has made available 75 of its 75th anniversary Defenders in Australia – 25 Defender 90s and 50 Defender 110s. 

Our test vehicle is a 110, but is this limited-edition Landie actually worth it’s more than $150 grand price-tag?

Read on.

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The limited-edition Defenders are based on the high-spec HSE variant and are available in the three-door 90 body style, or the five-door 110 body style. 

Our test vehicle is the 110 and has a recommended retail price of $156,157, excluding on-road costs. 

Each special Defender is a P400 MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle), so they have a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine, supported by a small electric motor.

The limited-edition 75th anniversary Defender has a RRP of $156,157, excluding on-road costs. (Image: Marcus Craft)

The limited-edition 75th anniversary Defender has a RRP of $156,157, excluding on-road costs. (Image: Marcus Craft)

As you’d expect, the standard features list for this 75th Limited Edition is humongous, however, for the sake of brevity, we’ll list only some of the more notable items, which include a 11.4-inch 'Pivi Pro' multi-media system, 3D surround camera, configurable 'Terrain Response' system, Meridian sound system, Matrix LED front lighting, a head-up display, a wireless device charger, as well as 14-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, cooling and memory, a sliding panoramic glass sunroof and three-zone climate control. 

The 75th Limited Edition features a 11.4-inch 'Pivi Pro' multi-media system. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th Limited Edition features a 11.4-inch 'Pivi Pro' multi-media system. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Elements specific to the 75th anniversary edition include an exterior paint finish of 'Grasmere Green', as well as 20-inch alloy wheels in the same colour, with matching centre caps.

There is also a ‘75 years’ graphic, 'Ceres Silver' bumpers and privacy glass. Inside, the Cross Car Beam is finished in brushed Grasmere Green powder coat, the interior is Ebony and there are “Ebony grained leather seat facings”, according to JLR.

Defender buyers may, of course, option up their vehicle with a plethora of accessories and packs, which include grouped accessories to suit your specific lifestyle, i.e. 'Adventure', 'Explorer', 'Country' or 'Urban'.

The 75th anniversary edition include an exterior paint finish of 'Grasmere Green', as well as 20-inch alloy wheels in the same colour, with matching centre caps. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th anniversary edition include an exterior paint finish of 'Grasmere Green', as well as 20-inch alloy wheels in the same colour, with matching centre caps. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

The new Defender manages to balance the distinctive shape and spirit of the old-school Defender with the new-generation’s style and presence – and the striking Grasmere Green exterior of this 75th anniversary variant and its interior touches all complement that blend.

This is unmistakably a Defender but one that’s been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, whacked in the face and torso by modern styling cues, while still retaining the heart of adventure these Landies have always been renowned for.

The 75th Limited Edition is a balance of old-school and new-generation Defender. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th Limited Edition is a balance of old-school and new-generation Defender. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Just one thing about this special-edition Defender, though. The Grasmere Green is certainly an eye-catching colour, but that’s a ‘for better or worse’ scenario.

Mostly worse – for me anyway – because I noticed that during my time in this Landie I received quite a lot of annoyed eye-rolls from other drivers and passengers in traffic and I reckon the polarising colour was the culprit – or maybe they were just eye-rolling at me?

No matter, because if you can afford one of these I don’t think you’ll be at all concerned about what other people think of you…

The Grasmere Green is certainly an eye-catching colour. (Image: Marcus Craft) The Grasmere Green is certainly an eye-catching colour. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

Beyond the subtle colour treatment, the interior remains as it is in the HSE variant on which this special edition is based.

In other words, the cabin has a premium look and feel about it, without sacrificing anything in terms of how practical everything is.

It’s a pleasant mix of durable life-friendly materials – carpet mats and soft-touch surfaces – and stylish touches, such as a metal Defender-stamped section in front of the front passenger. 

The leather steering wheel and shifter are standard, but a premium non-leather wheel is a no-cost option. 

The Defender's cabin layout is user-friendly with all controls easy to locate and operate. (Image: Marcus Craft) The Defender's cabin layout is user-friendly with all controls easy to locate and operate. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Just one example of where JLR gets attention to detail in the Defender so right is the small hard-rubber textured patches on the back of the steering wheel, where your fingertips naturally rest when you’re driving.

It’s those kinds of seemingly minor additions – as well as grippy cargo-area floor surfaces and the like – that add worthwhile tactile elements to the overall Defender package.

Overall, cabin layout is user-friendly with all controls easy to locate and operate.

Storage spaces include a deep centre console, glove box, twin cupholders in between driver and passenger, sunglass storage, door pockets, and shallow spaces peppered around for your pocket gear.

Second-row passengers have access to air-vent controls and USB charge points in the rear of the centre console. (Image: Marcus Craft) Second-row passengers have access to air-vent controls and USB charge points in the rear of the centre console. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Charge points include USBs up front, and a wireless charging tray.

The driver and front passenger get plenty of room and amenities and those behind them also fare well with adequate room for everyone. 

All seats are very comfortable (can this really be a Defender?) and the front seats are 14-way power-adjustable with heating, cooling and memory.

The second row – a 40/20/40 folding configuration – is heated and has a centre armrest. Second-row passengers have access to air-vent controls and USB charge points in the rear of the centre console.

The 75th Anniversary edition's rear cargo area has cargo-restraint points and a sliding cover. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th Anniversary edition's rear cargo area has cargo-restraint points and a sliding cover. (Image: Marcus Craft)

The rear cargo area seems a bit small in this five-seater, although it offers a listed 1075 litres. With the second row folded down, there is a claimed 2380 litres of space. It has cargo-restraint points.

That area has a sliding cover which conceals your valuables from the prying eyes of nefarious types.

Obviously, there is a lot more to admire here for those who love the interiors of prestige cars, but rather than spending my precious time fondling leather accents or going ‘ohhhh-ahhhh’ over a sunroof or the warming qualities of a heated seat, I like to actually drive. 

And drive I did.

The 75th Anniversary edition offers 1075 litres of boot capacity. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th Anniversary edition offers 1075 litres of boot capacity. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

As mentioned earlier, this Defender is a P400 MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle), so it has a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, supported by a small electric motor.

That engine produces 294kW at 5500-6500rpm and 550Nm at 2000-5000rpm and it’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission

The P400 MHEV has a 48-volt lithium-ion battery, aimed at reducing engine load and fuel consumption, and it has a 7.0kW electric supercharger aimed at minimising turbo lag.

The Defender has permanent all-wheel drive and a dual-range transfer case with high- and low-range 4WD.

The 75th Anniversary edition Defender has a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. (Image: Marcus Craft) The 75th Anniversary edition Defender has a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. (Image: Marcus Craft)

It has a comprehensive suite of driver-assist tech, including Land Rover’s 'Terrain Response 2' system, with switchable modes such as 'Grass/Gravel/Snow', 'Sand', 'Mud and Ruts', and 'Rock Crawl'. 

That system optimises throttle response, engine outputs, transmission shifts and diff control to best suit the terrain. It also has centre and rear diff locks.

Our test vehicle also has Land Rover's configurable terrain response system (giving the driver the ability to select and save powertrain, traction and diff settings for off-road driving) and a wade program, which increases air-suspension ride height and closes off the climate control vents to reduce the ingress of moisture in the air.

This Defender has an official 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.0 seconds, and I can confirm that this has plenty of punch off the mark and when overtaking on open roads. It has a listed maximum speed of 191km/h.

Our test vehicle has Land Rover's configurable terrain response system. (Image: Marcus Craft) Our test vehicle has Land Rover's configurable terrain response system. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Driving – What's it like to drive?

The Defender’s 75th anniversary touches are all cosmetic which is fine because, as is, this Landie is surprisingly impressive on-road, and supremely effective off-road.

This 110 variant is 5018mm long (including the rear-mounted spare tyre), 2008mm wide and 1972mm high with a 3022mm-long wheelbase.

It has a turning circle of 12.8m and a kerb weight is 2297kg

So, it’s not a small vehicle, but it never feels unwieldy to drive and it even manages to consistently feel lively and dynamic.

The Defender has a real planted feel on the road; it’s composed and very comfortable, no matter how hard you drive it. 

It’s also quiet. Very quiet, and oh-so-refined, with noise, vibration and harshness levels having been subdued to almost nothing.

The new Defender’s cabin is a pleasantly cocooned space, in which you feel insulated from the world around you. There is a bit of wind rush around the Defender’s wing mirrors, but nothing atrocious. 

Throttle response is crisp, and the 3.0-litre petrol’s 294kW and 550Nm are readily available for a punchy standing-start, or to safely and smoothly overtake another vehicle on the highway – or during low-range 4WDing, but more about that later*.

The Defender has a real planted feel on the road; it’s composed and very comfortable. (Image: Marcus Craft) The Defender has a real planted feel on the road; it’s composed and very comfortable. (Image: Marcus Craft)

(* Okay, if you can’t wait, skip ahead to read about the off-road section of this test.)

The eight-speed automatic transmission is very cluey – it’s smarter than you and me – but I found the shifter’s size (stubby) and position (just under the multimedia system’s touchscreen) a bit annoying to work with as I preferred to use Sport/manual mode, sometimes requiring quick shifts up or down.

Road-holding is tremendous, especially considering previous Defenders were about as composed as wonky tractors, and comfort levels are exceptional for something that was once considered a form of punishment to travel in.

Our test vehicle was on 20-inch rims and 255/60 R20 Goodyear Wrangler ‘all-terrain adventure’ tyres and those are perfectly fine for driving on blacktop.

However, they became quickly gummed up with clay and mud during our 4WD testing phase, but more about that soon.

So, how does it perform off-road? Very well, thank you very much. It does what older Defenders can do – and more. And it does it all with supreme levels of comfort and composure – something that can’t be said of older Defenders.

In terms of off-road measures, the Defender has a claimed 228mm-291mm of ground clearance (courtesy of height-adjustable air suspension) and a wading depth of 900mm (again, with the benefit of the air suspension).

If the Defender’s under-carriage hits dirt, the air suspension automatically applies an emergency 75mm of extra height.

The new Defender is very capable, and comfortably so, but it feels a little bit too clinical and calculated in its execution. (Image: Marcus Craft) The new Defender is very capable, and comfortably so, but it feels a little bit too clinical and calculated in its execution. (Image: Marcus Craft)

This Defender has approach, ramp (breakover) and departure angles of 38 degrees, 28 degrees, and 40 degrees, respectively.

So, it well and truly ticks all of those boxes.

On the dirt-track drive to our 4WD testing and proving ground the Defender demonstrated, as it has before, that it’s able to master and make bearable pretty much any road or track surface, no matter what sort of terrible condition that terrain is in.

This Landie was always stable and planted on the track, with plenty of the credit for that going to a robust monocoque chassis, as well as a multi-link set-up and fully independent air suspension, which as a combination works supremely well to smooth out surface imperfections at all speeds. 

Ride and handling at speed through deep-rutted and potholed sections of dirt road was impressively smooth and composed.

With the air suspension raised to off-road height and tyre pressures dropped to 26 psi, we were ready to put the Defender through its paces.

For those of you who haven’t seen any of my videos or read any of my yarns, our testing site offers more than enough of a challenge to push any standard 4WD to the limits of its reasonable use. I’ve even seen modified vehicles struggle on some of our set-piece challenges.

The terrain here is a mix of steep rocky hill-climbs, slippery descents, mud-holes and water-crossings and, depending on the weather, it can either be seriously challenging or pretty bloody dangerous.

This Landie was always stable and planted on the track. (Image: Marcus Craft) This Landie was always stable and planted on the track. (Image: Marcus Craft)

No need for any concern though because the Defender did everything asked of it – and did it all with relaxed ease. I’ve driven an all-conquering 90 at this test site before and the 110 this time was just as impressive.

Steering has a light but precise feel about it at low speeds and that's crucial for such a big vehicle during low-range 4WDing, especially when picking your right line on challenges or manoeuvring along tight, twisted tracks.

There’s plenty of low-down torque from the petrol engine and in low-range that’s evenly applied.

The Pivi touchscreen system is the new Defender’s command centre and, using it, you’re able to cycle through the terrain response programs, you can set driving modes, and essentially operate everything. 

It's generally easy enough to use, but it is a bit tricky to operate on the move – and that’s one of the few niggles I have about this Defender.

The terrain response system, which enables the driver to dial through driving modes, including Mud and Ruts, and Rock Crawl is a clever set-up and would certainly feel out of place in an old-school Defender.

You can calibrate the system’s responses – acceleration, traction sensitivity, and diff control – to suit your driving style and the terrain you’re traversing.

The tread of the Defender’s Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tyres, as mentioned earlier, swiftly became gummed up with sloppy mud and we lost a fair bit in terms of reliable traction from that rubber on the rock surfaces we moved to straight after driving through a series of shallow mud-holes.

This Defender has approach, ramp (breakover) and departure angles of 38 degrees, 28 degrees, and 40 degrees, respectively. (Image: Marcus Craft) This Defender has approach, ramp (breakover) and departure angles of 38 degrees, 28 degrees, and 40 degrees, respectively. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Wheel travel is decent with the Defender able to get useable flex out of that multi-link set-up and air suspension combo.

Another of my very few gripes about the Defender is the fact that while all of the off-road-focussed driver-assist tech, especially terrain response, is so seamlessly effective – it’s almost too good for its own good.

As the driver I almost feel removed from the experience of tackling the terrain I’m on.

Driving this doesn't feel like such a visceral experience as it does in the Defenders of old, or even as hands-on as it does when driving off-road in rebooted old-school 4WDs, such as the Suzuki Jimny, or the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The new Defender is very capable, and comfortably so, but it feels a little bit too clinical and calculated in its execution.

In terms of its potential as a towing platform, the Defender has a claimed maximum unbraked trailer capacity of 750kg and a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg.

It has a maximum roof load of 300kg. GVM (gross vehicle mass) is 3165kg and GCM (gross combined mass) is 6665kg.

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.9L/100km (on the combined cycle), and we recorded actual fuel consumption on test of 11L/100km.

The Defender has a 90-litre tank so, going by that fuel-consumption figure, you could reasonably expect a driving range of just under 800km on a full tank, factoring in a safe-distance buffer of 20km; 818km without the buffer.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

The Defender range has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing conducted in 2020.

It has a stack of safety gear as standard and driver-assist tech includes AEB, adaptive cruise control, driver condition monitor, blind spot assist, lane keep assist, forward traffic detection, a 3D surround camera, 360-degree parking aid, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, and more.

It also has tech that comes in useful for on- and off-road tourers including its ‘transparent’ bonnet view, wade sensing, tyre pressure monitoring system, and tow hitch assist.

It has three top tethers for child seats across the second row and ISOFIX points on the outboard positions only.

The Defender range has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing conducted in 2020. (Image: Marcus Craft) The Defender range has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing conducted in 2020. (Image: Marcus Craft)

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

The Land Rover Defender in its current form is a revelation in terms of, well, everything. The 110 is refined, sure-footed and comfortable on-road and it’s more capable off-road than ever before – and assuredly so.

It’s wholeheartedly embraced positive change – in terms of creature comforts, driveability and safety – and has lost none of the traditional Defender spirit.

The new Defender has managed to satisfy (placate?) die-hard fans and it’s attracted a whole bunch of new ones at the same time.

The 75th anniversary treatment doesn’t add anything of substance to the Defender package, but it doesn’t need to – that’s not the point – and to Landie lovers it’s all cream on top. 

$156,157

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Adventure score

4.2/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

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