Review: 2022 Land Rover Defender walks the line
When the Land Rover Defender debuted for 2020, it was an immediate focus of polarization. Many people loved it for its nostalgic nod and modern accoutrements. Many others hated it for those same reasons. We fall into the former camp, happy that the 2022 model remembers its roots while providing for today’s expectations.
At a glance
- Well-done and smooth six-cylinder power delivery
- Good nostalgic throwback look without getting kitschy
- Solid off-road capability in Rover style
The 2022 Land Rover Defender adds a couple of options not found in the 2020 debut model, including an available supercharged V8 drivetrain and a larger (optional) touchscreen infotainment system. For us, though, the inline six-cylinder engine is just about right for this sport utility, and the base package comes pretty well equipped as-is.
Those looking for more infotainment might consider the larger screen, but the voice command system is not very good and isn’t really worth the upgrade (yet). Using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (both standard) is better. The driver’s digital instrument/information cluster is well worth the upgrade, though, making things not only easier to read, but more configurable and useful to boot.
The new Defender comes in two body options: the 90 and the 110. We drove the 110, and while the two-door 90 has a more nostalgic appeal, the four-door 110 is much more useful as a daily. The two have similar amounts of headroom and legroom in the back seat, but the four-door gives easier access to the second row. Either way, the seating is comfortable and well-done. There is a third-row option for the Defender, and Land Rover offers a "jump seat" to replace the storage bin between the front seats. Neither is particularly useful as an upgrade for this SUV.
Both designs for the 2022 Land Rover are very easy on the eyes. The square shape and slight bubble at the rear of the roof, to include functional upper windows, are throwbacks to the first-generation Defender and early Land Rover designs on the whole. Light fender bulges, aluminum bodywork, and simple lines carry the day, keeping with that motif. The heavy grille and half-circle headlamps are a more modern Land Rover touch from SUVs like the Discovery and Range Rover models.
The Defender has three engine options: a turbocharged four-cylinder, a turbocharged inline-six, or a supercharged V8. The P300 2.0-liter four-cylinder (296 hp/221 kW) is a little anemic for the Land Rover Defender’s heft. The 3.0-liter turbo-six (P400) produces a respectable 395 hp (295 kW), more than enough for the Defender – even at its portly 5,500-lb (2,495-kg) curb weight. The V8 (P525) puts the Defender more on par with luxury sport SUV models from the German makes, outputting 518 hp (386 kW).
Acceleration with the standard six engine is very good, jumping from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 7 seconds. That’s not too shabby for a luxury SUV. An eight-speed automatic transmission, two-speed transfer case, and all-wheel drive are standard in the Defender. Towing for the 2022 Defender is rated at up to 8,201 lb (3,720 kg).
Ride quality in the new Defender is also very good, with smooth power delivery and a comfortable ride in a mostly quiet cabin. Braking is surprisingly good at around-town speeds as well, despite this Rover’s mass. The larger 20-inch wheels do translate some of the road into the cabin, however, but not so much that the bling upgrade isn’t worth it. The height-adjusting air suspension helps with entry and egress, as well as ride quality.
The interior has storage aplenty and a smart cargo space that’s easy to use, even if the swing door does open backwards (for Americans). A few quirks – such as the climate control knobs also working as drive mode selectors and seat heating/vent adjusters, plus the odd placement of a few occasional-use switches – take a little getting used to. For an off-road vehicle, the Defender has a surprisingly comfortable cabin and realistic seating for five, not four-plus-one as is the usual. True to its off-road roots, the Defender also has excellent visibility via its side mirrors and available camera angles.
Speaking of off-road, the 2022 Land Rover Defender is very good at light- and medium-duty off-road tasks. It’s not a rock crawler or mud blogger, of course, but the wheels have good reach and the torque vectoring is well done. True to modern Rover form, the vehicle’s electronics do most of the off-road work without driver input, leaving the driver to merely point the way and control the throttle and brakes.
With the kind of off-pavement things that most Land Rover owners are likely to use it for, this is just fine. Anything more difficult, and the knobs, shifters, and buttons of a more serious knuckler are preferred. As-is, the Defender will conquer most of Moab while the driver and passengers ride in comfort.
The 2022 Defender has a starting price of about US$49,000 and our mid-range SE model was priced at $69,000 with a few options, not including the larger touchscreen or jumpseat option.
Product Page: 2022 Land Rover Defender