When the 2020 Land Rover Defender broke cover online in 2019, I was very skeptical of its design. Although it was big and boxy, it didn’t look as traditional as the original off-roader. But after seeing it in person at the Los Angeles Auto Show (remember those?), my opinion changed completely. The SUV stayed true to its heritage, and it added cool elements to modernize it. My skepticism then turned to its drive. „Previous Defenders were bouncy and uncomfortable; this will probably be like that, too,“ I thought. Boy, did it prove me wrong again. The Defender manages to deliver amazing off-road capability without sacrificing a smooth ride. We were so impressed with its ride, design, and performance that we named it our 2021 SUV of the Year, shredding any skepticism left in me.
After decades of being absent in America, the Defender returns better than ever. A two-door 90 series will soon be on U.S. soil, joining the 110 series four-door. Before lockdowns and physical distancing measures, we traveled to Namibia to drive the Defender off-road. This time, we drove the 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 primarily on the pavement and took it to the track to learn about its on-road ride, performance, and handling numbers.
2020 Land Rover Defender: Its Performance
Drive the Land Rover Defender for a couple of miles, and you’ll immediately notice how big it is. Especially in California, where lanes and parking spaces appear to be tighter than in Texas, the Defender feels immense. It’s tall and wide, but it responds well to throttle input. The 3.0-liter electric supercharged and turbocharged inline-six is responsible for sending 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Those numbers sound like a lot for an off-road-oriented SUV, and they are. But given the size of the Defender and that it’s available as a three-row vehicle, you need something powerful to pull its 5,719 pounds.
The six-cylinder engine propels the Defender from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which is pretty quick for an SUV its size (not to mention one that’s a serious off-roader). The quarter-mile run was completed in 14.9 seconds at 93.2 mph, and it took 30.1 seconds at 0.54 g to run our figure-eight test. Although it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara with the 3.6-liter V-6 completed the task in 6.9 seconds. Similarly, a 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro got to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, while a 2019 Mercedes-Benz G 550 powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 beat all of them in 5.4 seconds.