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Model update: Land Rover Defender 90

Date: 09 September 2021   |   Author: Simon Harris

Since we first tried the Defender a year ago, the three-door 90 has been added, as well as a new diesel engine.
What's new:
We try the shorter version of Land Rover's reborn icon, together with a new diesel motor.
Standard equipment on SE:
Heated windscreen, heated power-folding door mirrors with approach lights and auto-dimming, matrix LED headlights with signature DRLs, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, 20in wheels, all-season tyres, 12-way electrically-adjustable heated front seats, electrically-adjustable steering column, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror, two-zone climate control, loadspace cover, 400W Meridian sound system, Android Auto and Apple Carplay integration, Pivi Pro infotainment, 10in touchscreen with sat-nav, online pack with data plan, analogue dials with central TFT info display, autonomous emergency braking, 3D surround camera, ClearSight Ground View, cruise control and speed limiter, driver attention monitor, lane keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, blind spot assist, twin-speed transfer box, Terrain Response

If the new Land Rover Defender was arguably more than 70 years in the making, the rate of introductions since its launch barely a year ago has certainly been at some pace.

The short-wheelbase 90 (and basis for the commercial vehicle version) was open for orders a few months after the five-door 110 and recently we have seen a plug-in hybrid version added to the range - although it won't win any low CO2 emissions awards. There is also a supercharged V8 available to take on Mercedes-Benz's AMG-honed G-Class.

When we first tried the 110 last summer,  the four-cylinder diesel engine was the focus of attention, alongside four and six-cylinder petrol variants.

But the 2.0-litre diesel, available in 200hp and 240hp outputs, was short-lived. The Defender diesel now uses an in-line six-cylinder motor, with a choice of 200hp, 250hp and 300hp versions.

Although CO2 emissions were always in the highest BIK tax bracket for the Defender, introducing the new 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, combined with mild hybrid technology, has allowed overall emissions to be reduced compared with its predecessor, as well as delivered an improvement in fuel consumption.

Our test car was a D250 SE and it also gave us the opportunity to sample the short wheelbase Defender 90 - which sacrifices a little practicality for improved agility off road.

We like the design of the Defender and in three-door form it looks more compact, until you get close and realise this is still a very large car, and surprisingly tall.

Unlike the Defender 110, the 90 comes with coil springs as standard. However, our test car was fitted with optional air suspension, which, while adding to costs, enables raising the car in trickier situations off road to allow even greater ground clearance.

The high-quality and robust feeling interior is the same for front seat occupants, while the new six-cylinder engine purrs away distantly on the move.

As with any three-door car, accessing the rear seats isn't the most dignified of processes, but leg room is not too bad once you're there.

There is also a noticeably more unsettled quality to the ride on uneven surfaces as a result of its shorter wheelbase.

The cost of our test car in standard SE specification would be a little north of £50,000, while the vehicle also has £10,000 of options fitted. Of course, options are fitted to vehicles supplied for review to the media in order to illustrate what's possible in the range, rather than what most customers would choose. But it does make you wonder whether, at those prices, owners would be happy to treat them as workhorses.

Land Rover Defender 90 D250 SE 

P11D: £51,295

Residual value: 52.7%

Depreciation: £24,248

Fuel: £11,268

Service, maintenance and repair: £4,146

Cost per mile: 66.1p

Fuel consumption: 32mpg

CO2 (BIK %): 230g/km (37%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £316/£633

Luggage capacity: 397 litres

Engine size/power: 2,997cc/249hp


  • Strong RVs
  • Off-road ability
  • Refinement
  • Too gentrified for a workhorse?