Land Rover Defender 2021: Observations after 1 day of driving

Out on the open road, the Defender comes into its own. It munches miles like no one’s business.

Driving the Land Rover Defender 2.0L Petrol Automatic

The Defender is an imposing vehicle, one which you have to climb into, even though the air suspension lowers the access height automatically. It’s a vehicle which you see and want a big powerful engine under the hood, which will take you anywhere you want to go. Well, in this particular car, we’ve got a 2.0L turbo-petrol with 296 BHP and 400 Nm which feels just about sufficient, but it still does take you wherever you want to go. It’s one of those vehicles which makes you instantly feel like the king of the road, the same sort of feeling that you get in a G-Wagen. A part of it has to do with the butch body styling, a part of it with the high seating position and commanding view – it’s the whole package of the Defender that makes you feel indestructible.

Starting up the tame 2.0L turbo petrol, you barely feel a shiver and will have to look at the tacho to know it’s on. While driving though, make no mistake, the engine just about gets the Defender moving and in the city. One has to adapt to a relaxed driving style. Inside the city, the Defender does its job silently. With the good sound insulation and with the silent engine, it’s a peaceful place to be in. Pottering around locally, with slow-moving traffic, one feels at ease driving the car. Even though the actual size is camouflaged by the styling, judgment isn’t an issue thanks to the good visibility and the Defender is easy to maneuver even in thick traffic. But the moment there is a gap and you want to get on the move and close it, that is when the powertrain disappoints. By the time you have kicked down and the engine has got into the mid-range to give you some sort of a push, it’s too late. This can be frustrating at times, and it doesn’t help one bit that the 8-speed gearbox feels a bit confused like in the XE. While in the XE, the smaller size and relatively better power to weight ratio with the same engine somewhat hide the defects in the gearbox tuning, in the Defender, it can be annoying.

Out on the open road, the Defender comes into its own. It munches miles like no one’s business. And with the pliant ride, good insulation and comfortable seating, one doesn’t feel tired even after driving for hours at a stretch. Due to my height, I do get some amount of body pain after driving 5 or 6 hours. But in this SUV, when I got out, I was surprised to feel relaxed and normal. The 2.0L manages to get you along on the highway, and cruising at motorway speeds is no issue at all as long as one is not in a tearing hurry. Though on our highways, considering we have to slow down every now and then for the odd person blocking the right lane, etc., it is then that you really have to string the engine to get the Defender back up to cruising speed. With a larger engine, this will be far, far better. To really get anywhere quick though, you’ve got to make the engine give all it’s got. Flat out, it’s not bad at all. The engine makes a pleasant sound while being pushed, but once you look at the speedometer, you realise that you haven’t really gotten anywhere. Basically, the small turbo petrol is good for relaxed driving. Even for performing some overtakes, you have to be very liberal with the A pedal. The brakes are powerful and the pedal feel is good. They managed to bring the car down from speeds effortlessly whenever needed and didn’t fade even after hard driving. They are obviously meant for bigger engined and faster Defenders, and on this, they were more than what’s needed.

Many were surprised that LR gave the Defender air suspension, considering its hardcore offroad credentials and the need for it to take abuse. But, I believe the air suspension has been heavily updated and revised and will get the job done. The suspension is something I really loved about the Defender – the way it eats up the roads. Smaller bumps in the city are taken without one even feeling them inside and the larger bumps for which we would have to slow down in most cars, just make the Defender roll slightly from left to right. The suspension is comfortable & pliant and does its job silently. And that too with 20″ wheels!! I think it’s a great contributor to the effortless way the car munches miles. It just feels tough. High-speed stability is surprisingly good, and the Defender even holds its line in the corners as long as the driver isn’t being too crazy with the tall SUV. One has the flexibility of adjusting the height from regular mode, to a lower access height, to a high offroad mode which provides a maximum clearance of 291 mm and some good approach and departure angles (for the few who will actually bother to take it offroad). What is also surprising is the aplomb with which the suspension handled the offroad trails I managed to take the Defender on. I was absolutely comfortable inside.

All in all, the Defender is a special car. It’s one which can be used as a daily driver that’s comfortable to drive in the city, it’s good to cruise on the highway and covers distances with ease, and it can manage to take quite a beating off paved roads. Apart from that, with the road presence and brand value, it’s got appeal for sure. Just make sure to get a 6-cylinder engine at the very least, although the 2.0P will do for most regular non-enthusiasts.

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