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Test drive: Land Rover Defender 90 P300 X Dynamic SE

LLM motoring editor Lisa Curtiss reviews the Land Rover Defender 90 P300 X Dynamic SE, perhaps the most in-demand car on sale right now in the UK.

By Lisa Curtiss  |  April 29, 2022
Land Rover Defender 90

Unmistakable, iconic, loved worldwide, Land Rover’s Defender has been blazing an award-winning trail on and off road for over 70 years. The appreciation continues with its various recent incarnations and it remains the all-terrain model to beat for many.

Despite being no stranger to driving Defenders for years, it’s always a treat to get behind the wheel. And great to see the new Defender isn’t a diluted down polite cousin of its hallowed predecessors but is still as tough as old boots and snow, mud and ruts ready as ever.

Visual appeal

Land Rover Defender 90 front view

Our model on test was the Defender 90 P300 X Dynamic SE resplendent in rather tasteful Tasman Blue Metallic with black accents and an Ebony interior. The distinctive upright boxy silhouette of the earlier models is still evident, albeit given more size, substance and muscularity – it would be unforgivable after all, to pay no design homage to the beloved originals.

On the driveway it’s much larger and wider than you might imagine, with wide apart wheels, high bonnet and roof line and plenty of ground clearance meaning you almost need a step to stand on to enter the cabin! This of course makes for a great command driving position, where you’ve excellent views of the terrain ahead.

The front of the cabin is remarkably spacious, with ample space between driver and front passenger. Our only slight gripes are that being only a three door vehicle which is high off the ground, it’s a bit of a reach, scramble and squeeze to get into the rear, and the boot with the seats up is surprisingly small.

Interior charm

Land Rover Defender 90 interiors

These niggles aside, there is much to commend, including the addition of creature comforts in the cabin, durability of materials, raft of technology and connectivity.

Our X Dynamic SE model on test (£53,930 On The Road) came with a whole two column A4 sheet of features – something you’re more likely to find on a luxury sportscar spec, than a premium SUV with utilitarian heritage. There are too many items to list here, but highlights are heated, electric, power fold door mirrors with approach lights and auto-dimming, Windsor leather with steel cut premium textile, 14-way heated and cooled electric memory front seats with four-way manual headrests, an excellent 3D surround camera and 360-degree parking aid, sliding panoramic roof, orange brake callipers, Head Up Display, Terrain Response 2 and more, much more.

High tech

Land Rover Defender 90 technology

Tech-wise, this really is a thoroughly modern SUV. There’s a wealth of infotainment, driving aid and safety features as standard and extras. As standard for the Dynamic SE you’ve the 3D surround camera mentioned, Smartphone Pack, Connected Navigation Pro, Lane Keep Assist, Emergency Breaking, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Speed Limiter etc, and the the X spec on test features the likes of Configurable Terrain Response and the Driver Assist Pack which includes Blind Spot Assist, Clear Exit Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Collision Monitor and Rear Traffic Monitor.

To drive the New Defender feels robust, protective and tough. It’s a car you really feel safe in.

Out on the road

Land Rover Defender 90 on the road

This is where the magical transformation is really evident too. I’m sure I could be forgiven for saying the older models were a little rough and ready to drive on road, with little noise insulation and weren’t perhaps the best choice for long, fast motorway jaunts.

This new model is a revelation. Smooth, relatively quiet, well-powered, balanced and pretty nippy too thanks to its P300, 2.0L 300hp, 400Nm petrol engine with AWDAUTO (RDE2). The 0-62 sprint can be tackled in just 6.7 seconds, and on to 119mph. Economy isn’t great, but for this size and weight of vehicle, at up to 22.7mpg combined, not bad either. There is now an efficient plug-in hybrid to choose with pretty impressive eco-stats.

Matchless all-terrain capability

Land Rover Defender 90 in water

Off-road, the new Defender remains unconquered. Its admirable breadth of capability raises the threshold for off-road ruggedness and on-road comfort. Underpinned by Land Rover’s strong D7x aluminium platform – the brand’s stiffest ever body structure – advanced all-terrain technologies and state-of-the-art powertrains deliver unstoppable capability. Its carefully honed handling delivers a rewarding drive and first-class long-haul comfort across all terrains, and the experts at Euro NCAP have given Defender a maximum five-star safety rating.

A choice of advanced Ingenium petrol and cleaner diesel engines ensure Defender has the power, control and efficiency for any environment, while a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain provides silent EV-only progress of up to 27 miles. In addition, a powerful supercharged petrol V8 new levels of performance and driver engagement to the Defender family.

State-of-the art technology ensures Defender delivers 21st century connectivity. Its next-generation Electrical Vehicle Architecture (EVA2) works in conjunction with Software Over the Air (SOTA) to ensure Defender is always connected and always up to date. Intuitive Pivi Pro infotainment features a simple menu structure and allows the most commonly used functions to be accessed directly from the home screen, while the easily customised layouts require 50 per cent fewer inputs than before.

The Defender family now encompasses the Defender 90 and Defender 110, as well as the 90 and 110 Hard Top commercial variants, while the new 525PS Defender V8 combines characteristic Land Rover capability with incredible performance and bespoke chassis settings for heightened driver engagement. Since its launch, Defender has won more than 50 global accolades, including Top Gear’s 2020 Car of the Year, Motortrend’s 2021 SUV of the year and Autocar’s Best SUV 2020.

For more information on this remarkable vehicle, visit Land Rover.