2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition

Motor Trend SUV of the year 2021 North America
By Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
September 10, 2021 Updated: September 10, 2021

For more than 70 years, Land Rover has been designing and making automobiles. Distinguished technology and design have been the two key areas for Land Rover engineers.

Defender is powered by a 3.0-liter MHEV six-cylinder gasoline engine that is capable of providing up to 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque.

Besides the engine, the drivetrain consists of electric power steering assist, an eight-speed automatic transmission with twin-speed transfer box, all-wheel drive, and Terrain Response with selectable driving modes. Off-road mode allows all kinds of driving possibility.

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Going off-road. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

Fuel economy was proclaimed to be 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for a combined average of 19 mpg. Yet, I averaged 15 mpg for my week of driving.

Defender 90 is compact and has a shorter wheelbase than the Defender 110, but its all-terrain technology redefines adventure and possibility.

Defender 90 has three doors, and is capable of seating six with a small front seat console that folds up into a jump seat. Using this extra front seat does sacrifice some front cabin storage space.

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Center console folds up into a jump seat. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

When folded, the console seat allows two cup holders. Unfortunately they are much too small to hold and secure anything bigger than 12 ounces.

Don’t let Defender’s rich good looks fool you on its working prowess. It has a maximum payload of up to 1,984 pounds and a max towing capacity of 7,700 pounds. The roof can hold a load of up to 260 pounds. And it can do so wading depth up to 35.4 inches. These stats combine to make Defender the “ultimate for overland adventure.”

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Getting ready for an adventure. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

Imagine the positive impact Defender could have had helping folks in the path of Hurricane Ida.

The two best technologies providing comfort and driving enjoyment were the two-zone climate control air, and the 400-Watt Median Sound System featuring SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

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In the driver’s seat. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

The climate control proved itself to be excellent as temperatures in Texas during this time were well over the 100-degree mark.

My Defender was painted a Pangea Green with a full Ebony interior, rolling along on 20-inch wheels (with spare tire). The black roof rails help to carry the cargo weight mentioned earlier. An available folding fabric roof is an intriguing substitute for the conventional glass moonroof.

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A clean and handsome front. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

Premium LED headlights with Signature Daytime Running Lights, fog lights, and rain sensing front and rear wipers are part of Defender’s helpful features.

There are over twenty safety and security features. 3D Surround Camera with ClearSight Ground View, 360-degree Parking Aid, perimeter alarm, rear traffic monitor, and Clear Exit Monitor were my favorites.

Defender is handsome and rugged looking outside, while presenting an attractive and elegant interior. The 10-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system with navigation is command central for a big chunk of the essential day-to-day tasks.

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The center console with Pivi Pro infotainment system. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

Power-adjustable leather/textile front seats with lumbar support and memory, and power-adjustable leather steering wheel accompany the Interactive Driver Display, adding additional tech and comfort features.

Rear visibility is not good. Portions of the full-size spare attached to the tailgate extends upward into the rear window, contributing to a reduced rear visibility together with the tall backseat head rests.

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The back with a full-size spare. (Courtesy of Land Rover)

Defender performs quite nicely on the urban landscape, showing class and luxury. But it’s on the back roads and off-road terrain that Defender excels, and not at the expense of comfort or technology.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price starts at $64,100.

4 years 50,000 miles New Vehicle Limited Warranty
6 years/unlimited mileage Corrosion Perforation Warranty
4 years/150,000 miles Roadside Assistance

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this newspaper or durhlcaussey@gmail.com.