Most SUVs don’t have what it takes to win over purists, but there are some exceptions. Sporty models like the Porsche Cayenne seemingly handle like a car, while off-roaders such as the Toyota 4Runner and Ford Bronco have plenty of character.
Somewhere in the middle is the 2022 Land Rover Defender, which we got to spend time with at the end of the summer—from the streets of Montreal to the beautiful roads and trails of the countryside up north.
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Following its global debut at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, the latest-generation Land Rover Defender hit the Canadian market as a 2020 model. Much more modern and sophisticated than its predecessor, yet proudly embodying its glorious heritage, this luxury SUV remains a mighty fine 4x4 ready to take on just about anything.
There are three Defender configurations to choose from: 90, 110 and 130. The higher the number, the longer the vehicle. While the two-door 90 looks like a toy, the four-door, three-row 130 is more of a minibus. The former is particularly charming thanks to its unique design. That being said, it’s easy to see why most people opt for the more practical Defender 110.
Selection is very generous when it comes to engines and options. You can pretty much build your own custom Defender if you want. Personally, we prefer the adventurous side more than the luxury aspect. As you can see on the pictures, our tester was both black and blacked out. Some people like that, but there are better ways in our opinion to dress up the Defender and capture its legendary spirit.
While we didn’t get the opportunity to test the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine fitted as standard in the 2022 Land Rover Defender, we suspect it barely gets the job done with a mere 296 horsepower. The available 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder, on the other hand, benefits from a turbocharger and mild hybrid technology for excellent throttle response and quick acceleration. With 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque on tap, this unit is much better suited to the Defender.
Our latest test drive involved a V8-powered Defender 110. Blessed with a supercharger, the 5.0-litre mill cranks out 518 horsepower and 461 pound-feet for strong acceleration and a lovely soundtrack. However, the V8 adds much weight to the front, and balance is compromised as a result. It doesn’t make the Defender a sporty 4x4, quite frankly. Given the sizable premium it commands over the straight-six, we believe the latter offers better value.
Regardless of engine selection, a decent eight-speed transmission handles shifting. After more than 900 kilometres behind the wheel, most of which was spent on highways and byroads, our tester achieved a combined 12.7 L/100 km. The official rating by Natural Resources Canada is 14.7 L/100 km.
In case you’re wondering, no Defender Hybrid is part of Land Rover’s plans for now. Mild hybrid tech is nice, but at some point the company will need to take another step toward electrification.
The Land Rover Defender is a luxury SUV aimed at a wealthy bunch of customers. For 2022, a base four-cylinder model with minimum equipment will cost you $69,000 in Defender 90 configuration or $69,950 for the Defender 110. As mentioned earlier, it’s clearly not the one to get.
When selecting the much more convincing six-cylinder engine, pricing jumps to $82,750-$83,200 depending on the configuration. Want the V8? Prepare to pay at least $130,300-$133,200—or nearly 50 percent extra. That’s a greedy move by Land Rover. And if you add options like the Country Pack ($2,373), Extended Black Exterior Pack ($1,350), black 22-inch wheels ($500), front undershield ($650) and deployable side steps ($4,289), you’ll wind up with a bill north of $150,000.
That’s a lot more money than what you must shell out to get a Ford Bronco, although that one can get pretty expensive, too. On the flip side, the Defender looks like a bargain next to the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which retails from $174,900 and easily shoots to 300 grand with all the available options and packages.
As for the three-row Defender 130, which can’t be specified with the smaller of the three engines, it starts at $93,000.
Let’s be perfectly clear: buying a Land Rover is a roll of the dice. Given the brand’s poor reliability record, chances are you’re going to experience a number of problems along the way—and those won’t be cheap to fix, either. This isn’t a Toyota Corolla. In fact, the Defender might very well be the complete opposite.
We really enjoyed our time with the V8-powered Land Rover Defender. This uniquely styled 4x4 has undeniable presence and prestige, and the only thing more comforting than the seats is the experience of savouring one of the last big-displacement engines the SUV segment has to offer. Still, the wise move to make here is to opt for the six-cylinder instead.