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  • Supreme off-road capability, huge load space, towing capacity, iconic 4x4
  • Lousy ergonomics, probably past its \'use by\' date

6 / 10

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon 2.4-litre, four-cylinder common-rail diesel, six-speed manual gearbox, 90kW/360Nm: $48,990 (Manufacturer’s List Price)

Location: Newnes Forest Road, near Lithgow, NSW

Physically, it might look identical to how it did 63 years ago when Maurice Wilks’s idea of a ‘go anywhere’ 4×4 was first launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show as the Land Rover, but make no mistake: the latest Defender 110 can still go head-to-head with a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Apart from a can of coke, which has been around for more than 150 years in some form or another, the iconic Land Rover Defender (as it has been known since 1990) is easily one of the most globally recognised products in the world today, with well over two million sold across every corner of the globe.

It’s also one of the most versatile vehicles in the world with literally hundreds of applications from a simple farming appendage to highly specialised military roles. The Land Rover Defender is indeed a formidable bit of off-road kit and highly respected by both civilians and military personnel alike.

About the only thing that seemed to change from model to model on the Land Rover through the years was the spare wheel; it either went on the bonnet or the rear tailgate. These days the spare is on the Defender’s tailgate, most likely for safety reasons. It’s not that it blocks any forward view though, at least not with Land Rover’s unique ‘Command Position’, which allows the driver to sit deep into the vehicle while at the same time offering the driver and passengers an unencumbered forward view of the road ahead.

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

The Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon is an enormously large vehicle and driving it around town can be a rather daunting experience for uninitiated. That’s especially so when attempting to parallel park on a busy street with a queue of impatient drivers waiting to get by.

It’s not exactly ideal for shopping centre car parks either, despite the van-like load space in the back of this thing. I myself nearly got caught out, but something tweaked as I was heading towards the ‘maximum height 2.0 metres’ sign (Defender 110 and 130 are all of 2.021 metres tall). Of course, it was no problem in the outside car park, except of course, for its 4.639 metre (130 is 5.170 m) length!

However, I doubt these particular issues are much of a concern to most Defender 110 buyers, most of whom would be using them for their intended off-road capabilities and all round robustness.

That’s certainly the point of our road test this week: to match exactly the same trails as the Wrangler Rubicon we tested a couple of months ago. Only this time, the trails around Lithgow’s Zig Zag railway have seen a lot more rain.

It’s also worth noting that the standard tyres on the Defender 110 are Continental ContiCrossContact all-terrain, which are rated for equal performance on-road and off-road.

About the last thing I expected to collect from Land Rover Australia was a Fuji White Defender 110. Do they realise that we’re taking this thing off-road?

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

There’s actually something kind of cool about driving a white Tomb Raider-mobile around Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I know it’s the latest edition but the Defender feels 100 per cent retro, given the model’s timeless profile.

It’s been a while since we’ve had the pleasure of climbing aboard a Defender and let me tell you, it’s a bit like climbing into a truck, only there’s no grab handle on the driver’s side, so you just have to use the steering wheel to hoist yourself up into this cabin.

It’s utilitarian design over beauty in the Defender, and that’s been the case throughout its 63-year existence, but it’s considerably more contemporary that it was prior to 2007, before something of an interior make-over occurred. One or two modules have been styled off those in the Discovery, so that it would at least look like something from the 20th century, never mind the 21st century.

For starters, there are power windows up front, a modern instrument cluster and a proper analogue clock (Range Rover style), cup holders and air conditioning. That’s about the extent of the luxury kit – if you can call it that.

However, the front and rear seats are reasonably well bolstered and actually quite comfortable, even after a few hundred kilometres behind the wheel.

As you would expect in a off-roader of these gargantuan proportions, there’s no shortage of load space behind the rear seats, especially as this test vehicle is not fitted with the optional third row seating. Don’t expect door pockets either; they’ve been replaced by what must be the largest centre console storage box ever designed for a passenger vehicle, which can consume 14 litres.

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

Ergonomics is where the Defender falls down (understatement of the decade), with precious little space (none actually) to rest your right arm when sitting on a straight stretch of motorway for an hour or two. There are only a few millimetres between the outer rim of the steering wheel and the vertical door trim. It’s like trying to eat a meal when you’re sandwiched between two larger passengers on a Jetstar flight. Ergonomically challenged is one way of describing the experience.

That said, for all its flaws, and there are plenty, at least in an urban operating environment, the Defender 110 is actually quite a civilised and manageable vehicle on the open road.

The torquey 2.4-litre diesel mated to the six-speed manual transmission is a good marriage. First and second gear ratios are typically short, but there’s 315Nm available from just 1500rpm through to 2700rpm. Peak torque of 360Nm kicks in from 2000rpm and you’ve got 90 per cent of peak torque from 2100rpm to 4350rpm. That means plenty of low-down pulling power up and down the ratio range. You’ll need to man-handle the shifter a little, and the clutch requires a decent old shove, but it’s certainly nothing to be afraid of – in fact, you’ll enjoy it after a while.

There’s absolutely no problem accelerating away at the lights and keeping up with the traffic flow either, and once you’re into sixth, the big Defender is happy to sit there all day and consume just 9.4L/100km (tested and confirmed).

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

While it’s no Range Rover in the NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) department, it’s exceedingly quieter than the previous generation Defender with it’s TD5 diesel powerplant.

When all’s said and done though, the Defender is an off-road pure-bred, with a corrosion-free aluminium body and a big reputation. Just how big, we were about to find out.

Inland from the Zig Zag Railway near Lithgow, in NSW, things can get pretty rough. There are long trails of deep ruts with steep descents and climbs in and out of the quarries. The last time we were here with the Rubicon there was little cause for concern, but there’s a lot more mud around today and the Defender doesn’t have a detachable front sway bar like the Jeep.

The fact is it doesn’t need it. Put the vehicle in neutral, engage low range and off we go up what looks like a very nasty climb through the mud and ruts.

Within no time at all the Defender has at least two wheels in the air as we attack and conquer this trail stupidly easy, despite the added degree of difficulty with the wet clay-like conditions.

It doesn’t seem to matter how deep or how wet the ruts are, the Defender simply hammers them, and all in relative comfort. We’ve gone up and down this trail several times and it’s the same story, like a knife through butter. It’s simply not challenging enough for this vehicle.

Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review
Land Rover Defender Review

Further up the trail there’s some seriously thick mud and pools of water, but again, with the correct speed and revs, the Defender is literally unstoppable.

The climb up to the quarry is steep, only this time it’s saturated. If anything might present a problem today, it would be this section, or the muddy pools inside the quarry itself. Into second and it’s straight up the quarry wall without any loss of traction whatsoever.

There is a lot more water today and making it out to the small sand bar in the pool seemed like a long shot given we had tested the surface under the water and it was super soft and quite deep.

Again, in second gear, the Defender had no trouble through the mud.

You may think these off-road tracks were too easy a test for the Defender 110, but that’s just not correct. This has been a hardcore test in anyone’s terms and the Defender has preformed as well as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, but in far more demanding conditions due to the weather on this occasion.

Sixty-three years old and the Land Rover Defender is still pretty much unstoppable in an off-road environment. Talk about the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Land Rover has recently released photos of its all-new Defender Concept called the Land Rover DC100. If looks are anything to go by, and if it can perform off-road like the current Defender, then Land Rover should start building it tomorrow.

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Land Rover Defender Review
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  • Nath746

    Brilliant car

    • bjmcallister

      (A)(R)obert McEniry, president of Mitsubishi Australia.

  • Y

    If I were to buy a serious offroader, it’s got to have rear diff lock at least.

    • Alex

      I think the next best thing to this and a Wrangler is the Patrol, Passenger car comfort and the same or better offroad ability.

      • Tomas79

        I’d put the Landcruiser 70, and 76, as well the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the G-Wagon in the more capable category as they all come with front and back diff locks. I would put nice Patrol in the same Category as the Landrover.

        • AR

          The Land Rover is an icon and it’s cool. But if I were to buy one in this category, I’d get a Land Cruiser 70 series, comes with snorkel, diff locks and V8 diesel powah for $50-60k. The other good alternative is the Mitsi Challenger, ladder frame chassis, rear/centre diff locks standard on the LS/XLS, traction control, DSC, good ground clearance, 131KW turbo diesel, based on the tough Triton ute chassis and from $39K drive away.

          • Harry

            which one is 50-60k? I saw the workmate cab chassis for 58k, but all the rest were 60+.

          • AR

            The base model, should be the Workmate. $50 something k.

          • AR


            Body 5 door 5 seat WAGON
            Engine 8 cylinder Diesel Intercooled Turbo 4.5L (4461cc)

          • Phil

            @AR, Diff locks are not standard on the “2011 TOYOTA LANDCRUISER VDJ76R MY10 WORKMATE”.

          • AR

            @Phil. Yeah you’re right. It’s optional extra for the front and rear lockers. I guess it’s a few hundreds $$ for each end. Anyone buying this class of vehicle should tick that box. It gets locking centre diff and rear LSD though.

          • Harry

            Redbook has that one as $59,140 without on road costs – so yeah, 50 something k

          • AR

            Just get a Challenger. It’s already lifted, centre/rear diff locks, traction control, 131KW turbo diesel. Ready for fun for $39k (no rear diff lock) or $40k (with rear diff lock) drive away no more to pay. Plenty of spare parts around too as the Triton is the second or third highest selling ute with 500-800 units a month.

        • nihil

          What an arbitrary and meaningless distinction. Rear difflocks are an option. If you simply ‘must’ have difflock on the front get an ARB installed, it’s no more expensive than the difflock OPTIONAL EXTRAS on Toyota’s.

          You also may want to consider the implications of the vehicles you mention requiring diff locks to achieve the Defenders capability with open diffs.
          What’s with you Toyo-zealots and your insecurities?

        • nihil


          “Oh, another toyota knocking troll”
          Seriously?! Who’s the troll?
          Have I ever specifically come to a Toyota review to spout the superiority of Land Rover? Umm no.. Yet here you are extolling the alleged virtues of Toyota in a Defender review.

          As I said rear lockers are an option on Defenders.
          Your only argument is that Toyota offer a front locker and Land Rover don’t. A moot point I would say, as per my previous comment.

          Only in your Toyota marketing inspired imagination do Toyos “completely smash” Land Rovers “out of the water”. Whatever that means.
          I suppose you also believe the Toyota marketing myth (oops, I mean outright lie)that suggests that it was Toyota that built the Snowy River Scheme.

          As for your remark of judging vehicles, with your clear bias against Land Rovers perhaps it is you that should learn not judge a vehicles capability by it’s badge.

        • Bert Drystone

          as someone who drives off road professionally I agree that the Wrangler Rubicon, G-Wagon are in the same class. However the 70 series is nowhere to be found. Both of the other’s have lockers and coil suspension which gives much better off road axle articulation. The combination of lockers and axle articulation gives off road performance. The leaf spring design on the 70 series is tough but it also leads to no traction in many scenarios, particularly on rough lose rocky terrain where they tend to topple or be at very dangerous angles.

          The defenders strength is that they have sacrificed almost all on road capability for off road ground traction without lockers. The gear ratio’s are completely crazy for on road driving. I found myself constantly changing gears to maintain the turbo boost on the defender, but when you get in the mud the ratios all make sense. In all the 70, 80, 100 and 200 series LC’s that I have owned or driven none of them come close to the traction that the defender comes with standard (all compared minus lockers). Add a pair of ARB Air Lockers to the defender and you still have cash in the bank compared to a Land Cruiser (like for like defender 110 wagon vs 70 series GLX). You won’t guzzle fuel like the Rubicon Petrol and you have about 100k saved over the g-wagon.

          There are many video demonstrations comparing the traction capabilities of the various cars stock to stock. The take home is if you want to drive on road at motor way speeds in somewhat more comfort then the others make more sense. If you want something different that is superb off road get the Defender.

          p.s. full disclosure my current personal daily drive is a defender 110. My work car is a 70 series. Previously it has been a g-wagon professional.

    • Harry

      fit one – ARB sell them. what the defender has that all the others mentioned don’t is the superior clearance, approach and departure angles etc

      • AR

        That’s an option. Got to fit an air compressor as well. $2k, $3k all up?

        • Harry

          defender costs 45-49k, 70 series wagon costs 63k – in fact all the others mentioned cost signifcantly more, except the Rubicon, 42k. I prefer the defender. I don’t know about the Challenger, but I haven’t heard people compare it in the same group before.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

      No you don’t. The Defender proves that is complete rubbish. Centre Diff Lock and Rear LSD gets the job done with ease.

      • TenFour

        Not quite Anthony – Defender has open diffs, with a lockable centre diff (as it’s permanent 4wd). ETC makes up the difference, braking individual wheels with 4-channel ABS sensors to maintain traction.

        A common upgrade for Defenders used for muddy hillclimbing is an ARB air locker. Traction control is helpful for the majority though. :)

        • AR

          Y and TenFour are right about rear diff lock / air locker / axle lock. BTW this is not an offroad website so it is to be expected :)

  • RSI

    There should be a picture of the Land Rover Defender next to the word “Respect” in the dictionary.

  • Wd

    Wish I lived somewhere that I could justify getting one!

  • Gunner

    Isn’t the Defender coming out with a 2.2L engine in the next couple of months? I’m wondering why this car is being reviewed now, just before an update.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

      Because we haven’t reviewed the 110 previously. Not quite sure when Australia will get the 2.2 litre diesel, no word of that yet from Land Rover Australia.

      • Gunner

        Thanks for the response. Great review, as always.

  • FrugalOne

    No, this has NOTHING to do with the S1 oil leaking Landy of 63 years ago, that’s a total nonsense comment Anthony , NOT ONE PART is interchangeable with this current Defender

    Anyway this is a obsolete powertrain, and about to be phased out, replaced with the 2.2 from the Jaguar

    Buy a baseline Nissan Patrol, just as ruggered, a GENERATION better built, more reliable and dealers everywhere

    Same sort of coin, and can be used daily

    • AR

      I’d get a Patrol in a flash if it didn’t have the 3.0L “Grenade” Renault turbo diesel engine.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

      Frugal you really need to read the review properly rather than charging off the grid and stalling.

      I said, “Physically, it might look identical to how it did 63 years ago when Maurice Wilks’s idea of a ‘go anywhere’ 4×4 was first launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show as the Land Rover, but make no mistake: the latest Defender 110 can still go head-to-head with a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.” Nowhere did I say that the Land Rover today was identical to the first S1 Land Rover.

      • FrugalOne

        Me bad!, as per the Defender did not “stall”, have anti-stall fitted [which works rubbish going down steep hills]

        Still rather a JEEP or Patrol, till the all-new Defender comes out.

        Good photos, like to see them doing hard-core 4×4 not just on the footpath


        I agree with Frugal One

  • TenFour

    The best parts of owning a Defender are:
    * the only car with no lips on the edges of the doors; the floor is flush so you can hose / brush the mud out in a jiffy!
    * Land Rovers wave, stop and help each other both in the bush and out on the road. You’d be surprised at the friends you make around the world if you own a Landy
    * they endear themselves to you and your family. A Defender becomes a pet that just keeps working harder and harder for you. We’re always finding new jobs for ours!
    * there’s no carpet anywhere. Wet dog in the back? No problem, it just brushes out if you park on a hill.
    * it uses less fuel than my colleague’s Camry
    * every drive in it, however mundane, feels like you’re embarking on an adventure. Not many cars give you that special feeling!
    * a new one is much cheaper than the equivalent LC 5 door, and a/c is standard.
    * the load space is about twice as big as a Wrangler Unlimited, and there’s no pesky soft top bit taking up space

  • Old Dog

    I’ve been looking for a new 4b since i drowned my last one a few weeks ago and test drove a 110 last night, check CA and low ‘n behold you’ve put up a review. The timing couldn’t have been better.

    I actually really liked the ‘fender, but its the ergonomics that make possibly too hard to live with, especially with the long distances we travel in oz. The peddle area is quite narrow and there’s no foot rest, and no room for one, to rest your left leg you need to put it under the clutch. No cruise so your right leg never gets a rest, but there are aftermarket options. Also the steering wheel isn’t tilt adjustable, and for me to get remotely comfortable i needed to sit quite close to the wheel, and thus very upright. You really feel like an old lorry driver driving the thing. It certainly doesn’t feel like your driving a civilian ‘SUV”, more like you’re driving a 2 tonne pantech truck, and i guess thats because you basically are. It probably feels less out of place on the open road though.

    It really gives the impression that the vehicle will out last you if treat it right. Its the kind of vehicle that you don’t buy on a whim or because you like the look of it, but you buy it because in 20 years it will still be chugging along faithfully doing whatever you ask of it.

    I jumped out of it and straight into a wrangler unlimited, and it may as well have been a maybach. Shed loads of power, infinitely more comfortable (crappy auto though). A much much more modern feeling vehicle. But I think you’d be sick of all the plastic in about a year or two. Although they might be considered competitors they couldn’t actually be any more different.

    • nihil

      “It really gives the impression that the vehicle will out last you if treat it right”.
      I learned to drive, and got through High School and University with a 1949 Series 1 Land Rover. It was already 45 when I bought it and it had already had a hard life. I thrashed it like any other P-plater and it never failed me, ever. Agreed about the spartan, awkward interiors, but hell if you think a Defender is unrefined don’t try a Series 1 😛
      A excellent resource if you are still considering buying a Land Rover is AULRO, the guys on that forum will tell you straight up the long term pros and cons of Land Rover ownership.
      Good luck with whichever brand you choose!

      • charger

        Im restoring albiet very slowly a 1949 S1 and a 1950 S1 My first car was a 1975 S3 that i restored as a 15 year old with my Dad i still have it and still drive it for all the same reasons that Old Dog says.

        Id love a Defender or even a County i just wish it had Discs, Drums are just not good enough in modern traffic!

        • Ten Four

          Every LR from about ’96 onwards has 4 wheel discs. All 110s certainly did with the introduction of the 300Tdi engine.

          Mind you, well adjusted drums perform quite well. My little 2a from 1968 has four wheeled drums and it stops on a dime if you shove the brake pedal hard enough!
          They just don’t appreciate a dunking in deep water…

    • Defender130

      All fo your complaining sounds like my sister and my mother combined. grow a pair you wussy

  • http://www.roberts.com.ph Roberts

    Anyone who calls the Defender ‘old’ ‘dated’ or the likes obviously know nothing of this legend and the essence of this vehicle. It’s quite possibly one of the best vehicles ever made such that it stands the test of time in not just its ability but its appeal. 

  • Traveller09

    Personally I cant believe the Jeep Rubicon is the standard to be measured against, Seriously? I think the only truly capable vehicle to measure the Defender against is the Toyota LC (various models). I have a 95 LC and I have been looking at Defenders for going on 20 years now, they are both built like tanks. I would be a be afraid I would snap something on a Rubicon just going up an old gravel logging road. Unfortunately in the US we cant import Defenders (unless they are 25 years old) or Toyota 70 series. Some day a Defender will be mine!

    • Defender130

      yes you can, PAblanchard and many other british modifiers can get them to the US, or himalaya 4×4. what you need is some straight old fashioned pile of cash!

  • Mick

    I think what puts a lot of people off with the Defender is the size of the Diesel engine (and output power). I think people generally would be more liking to a 3.2L or thereabouts, which is around the ‘sweet’ spot for buyers vs engine size. I realise its a completely different vehicle, but thats what lets the Territory down when it comes to normal driving (where the engine size and output counts) – and that uses an old Land Rover Discovery engine.

  • http://Markrobertadams Markus

    The fire wall dyes after ten years theme it’s a write off thanks for that and the gear box is an expensive oil can always leaks but mm great off road I flogged the guts out of it day after day 350 thousand hard klms

  • James

    Very Expensive but high powered cars.

  • Fred

    Tank-like toughness but also tank-like acceleration, aerodynamics and economy

  • LandyLover

    The only person loves a land rover is someone who owns one. and its so true about land rover owners.. its like some secret club.


      They LOVE working on said vehicle, us Japanese 4×4 owners have better things to do with our time…

  • Damnedrover

    Defender with traction control doesn’t need locking axle diffs and centre diff can be locked manually which gives a superb off roader or tow vehicle for all the inferior vehicles you guys rave about.

Land Rover Defender Specs

Car Details
110 (4x4)
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$26,510 - $30,130
Dealer Retail
$27,470 - $32,670
Dealer Trade
$20,800 - $24,100
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
360Nm @  2000rpm
Max. Power
90kW @  3500rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
11L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:3500  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
235/85 R16
Rear Tyres
235/85 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
Beam axle, Coil Spring, Hydraulic shock absorber, Anti roll bar, Panhard rod
Rear Suspension
Beam axle, Coil Spring, Hydraulic shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
Traction Control System
Power Steering
Engine & Transmission
Diff Locks
Radio Compact Disc Player
Power Windows Front
Anti-lock Braking
Central Locking, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Front Driver Side Chassis
Country of Origin
United Kingdom