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2020 Land Rover Defender Performance

U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Land Rover Defender Performance Review


Performance: 8.0

The 2020 Land Rover Defender has superb off-road abilities, and it performs decently on-road as well. Handling is precise and composed, and the ride quality is excellent. However, some critics say the Defender suffers from turbo lag while accelerating, and braking feel can be inconsistent.

  • "Some of the Defender's modernization isn't welcome. The brake pedal is so light and lacking in feel—it's a brake-by-wire system—that it's difficult to modulate. The throttle has the opposite problem; its languid response on six-cylinder models is at odds with the engine's low-speed electric assist. We've found other vehicles with this engine similarly sedate, though part of the Defender's problem is the transmission's reluctance to downshift." -- Car and Driver
  • "Satisfying power comes with the P400 mild-hybrid powertrain, which offers enough robust torque to pull the roughly 5,000-pound SUV out of nearly any sticky situation. If the new Defender can handle untamed nature this well, it can certainly manage the urban jungle with ease." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "All-independent air suspension smoothly controls body heave-and-roll over bumps and through the turns, leaving you with an impression of the car 'breathing' over undulations. And that's a vehicle shod with specialist 20-inch Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires. Sure it 'clambers' a little over bumps and sharp-edged potholes will thump through the frame, but overall the ride is really very respectable." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The Land Rover Defender comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque is optional. An eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive are standard.

The Defender's optional six-cylinder engine suffers from a bit of turbo lag at initial throttle but has ample power when moving. The automatic transmission is smooth and refined.

  • "Power is plentiful with the I-6 setup, and the eight-speed transmission cooperates well while transferring energy into forward motion." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Throttle response from the electrically supercharged and turbocharged I-6 felt a touch laggy at first, but I quickly grew used to both it and the way the engine pulled hard once it was spun up. The transmission, meanwhile, shifted imperceptibly in the background. Ditto for the light effort required of the brakes despite being difficult to modulate smoothly at low speeds." -- Motor Trend
  • "The gearbox is wonderful -- on long stretches of dirt roads, it never hunts for the right gear." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Though oriented more for off-road adventuring, the Defender provides a comfortable ride and graceful handling on paved roads. Steering is accurate and easy, and few road imperfections are noticed in the cabin.

  • "The massive body stiffness and modern suspension and steering have wrought miracles – the new Defender handles and feels secure in a way its predecessor never did. Corners can be attacked with a commitment that would have fired you off the road in the old model." -- Autoblog
  • "There's only a modest buzz coming through the steering column and the driver's seat. Ride control is excellent; sufficiently compliant, the suspension soaks up the kind of nasty lumps that sprout from ungroomed dirt roads while never feeling too soft or wallowy." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Defender's … steering is light, linear, and accurate, with little if any impact transmitted up from the tires to the steering wheel. Ride quality was as supple as a Ford F-150 Raptor with cushy Fox Shox." -- Motor Trend


The new Defender has phenomenal off-road abilities. Standard amenities include a two-speed transfer case, an adaptive air suspension, a terrain response system, hill descent control, and an off-road front-view camera. Options include an upgraded and configurable terrain response system, an electronic active differential, and all-terrain cruise control. You can also add a front skid plate, a front protection bar, off-road tires, and a raised air intake.

The Defender can wade through up to 35.4 inches of water and automatically detect water depth. It has a maximum ground clearance of 11.5 inches.

  • "To its credit, Land Rover engineered the Defender less for comfort than absolute capability. And in that realm, the Defender manages iffy terrain quite capably, aided by underpinnings intended to take a beating." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "This is the pinnacle of all-terrain technology right now. The vehicle’s hardware and software work so seamlessly together that the driver effort required to shunt this thing down rocks, through deep sand, and across fast-flowing water bodies is really minimal." -- Jalopnik
  • "While it doesn’t ride as cushily as the pricier Range Rover model, the Defender offers more go-anywhere bravado and an impressively unstoppable skillset. It climbs seemingly impassable terrain, smashes through deep mud bogs, and threads its way around rock-strewn paths as if on tippy-toes." -- Kelley Blue Book
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2020 Land Rover Defender

MSRP: $49,900 - $80,900

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