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Land Rover is a brand known for building reliable and rugged SUVs. With the Defender, the company offers a totally unique vehicle that looks like it can power its way through a jungle, keep people safe in the desert, or climb to the top of a snowy mountain. The 2021 Land Rover Defender exemplifies what it means to be made for adventure. It has some high-end features alongside quality mechanical components, and it's a real treat to drive.
What's New for 2021?
After a long hiatus, the Defender made a comeback in 2020. Land Rover brought back the boxy SUV and gave it a retro style. It can either be a two-door or four-door model, and for 2021, there are some more two-door trims available. There's also a new trim available on the four-door versions. It's the X-Dynamic, and it's a step below the X trim. It fills a gap and could be appealing to people who don't want to shell out the more than $80,000 required for a Defender X.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Land Rover Defender – The Pros
1. A Throwback SUV
Paying homage to the Defender's storied history, Land Rover has chosen to put in a lot of classic touches into the Defender. The headlights are rounded, the frame is boxy, and the vehicle is tall and imposing. At the same time, there's no doubt that this is a vehicle made for the modern era, since it's packed with technology and advanced components. The 2021 Defender looks distinct, and this is exactly why some people will love it.
2. Two Sizes
The Defender 90 is the two-door version, and its big brother is the four-door Defender 110. The smaller SUV has a a wheelbase of about 102 inches and an overall length of approximately 170 inches. In contrast, the larger one has a wheelbase of almost 119 inches and an overall length of 187 inches.
This size differential affects the cabin. The Defender 90 does have two rows of seats, with the second-row passengers getting 36.6 inches of leg room. In the Defender 110, second-row leg room is 39.1 inches. If people need more seating, they can opt to put in two extra seats in a third row. This is not an option in the two-door Defender.
3. Can Be Personalized
There are a handful of ways in which the Defender can be customized. With an Explorer Pack, it has a waterproof gear carrier on its side, perfect for storing dirty or wet gear on the way home. It also has a special roof rack, protection around its wheels, and a matte black decal on the hood. The Adventure Pack has the lockable gear carrier, too, and it has a few different elements, such as a seat backpack and a portable rinse system. Similar features are found in the Country Pack and Urban Pack, which have slightly different styles and a lot of functionality.
4. Can Carry Lots of Gear
When it's lined up next to other SUVs, the Defender can stand out for many reasons. One of its advantages is that it has a lot more cargo space than some other SUVs have. When the rear seats are folded down, the four-door Defender has a cargo capacity of 78.8 cubic feet. In the Defender 90, things are a bit more compact. It has a maximum cargo capacity of nearly 60 cubic feet, and it has about 18 cubic feet of space behind the seats.
The SUV can carry over 200 pounds on its roof and can tow over 8,000 pounds when properly equipped. This is a tremendous feat, especially since it looks and feels really agile.
5. Two Powerful Engines
If it's not clear by now, Land Rover likes to give its customers a lot of choices. With the 2021 Defender, there are two engine options. The standard one is a two-liter i4 model that can crank out 296 horsepower. Torque is 295 pound-feet. The other option is a three-liter mild hybrid powertrain. By getting a boost from an electric motor, the SUV has much more kick. It can create 395 horsepower and over 400 pound-feet of torque.
6. Can Handle Anything
The Defender comes standard with all-wheel drive. It has a two-speed transfer case, different driving modes, and a coil suspension system. It even has a wade sensing function that lets people know how they're doing when they're fording across streams or creeks. Some of the higher trims have very advanced suspension systems that can make adjustments depending on the conditions, and some also have an electronic active differential to make the SUV better suited for the toughest of trails.
7. Cabin Is Filled With Luxury Features
Up until this point, this overview has mostly focused on what the Defender can do. In this section, the refined interior style of the Defender is highlighted. The SUV starts out with powered front seats, and most of the trims have leather seats. The leather is upgraded to Windsor Leather on the highest trims, which have heated and cooled front seats with memory. Walnut veneer, a heated steering wheel, and unique tread plates are some other available features that add to the elegance of the vehicle.
8. Technology Is a Strength
A 10-inch touchscreen is found in every Defender trim. The infotainment system comes standard with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Land Rover uses an interface called Pivi Pro, and many have found it to be user-friendly and fast to respond to commands. People can enjoy all the channels that come with HD Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. In some trims, there is a digital rear view mirror. It's called a ClearSight rear view mirror, and it can display the video feed from a camera placed at the rear of the Defender.
9. Optional Folding Fabric Roof
Certain vehicles are prized for giving passengers an open-air experience. While the new Defender can't go completely topless, it can come with a folding fabric roof. This roof can easily be opened to let in fresh air and help people feel more a part of nature. Other options for the roof are a panoramic sunroof and a white or black roof that contrasts with the exterior paint color.
10. Keeping an Eye on Things
In addition to being solidly built and having a dependable all-wheel-drive system, the Defender has sensors and cameras all around it so people can stay safe. The vehicle can predict problems, prompt drivers to take action, and hit the brakes or potentially correct steering if necessary. A 3D Surround Camera is a standard element in this SUV, and this is sure to attract a lot of attention from potential buyers.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Land Rover Defender – The Cons
1. Even the Hybrid Isn't Efficient
As mentioned above, the Defender can come with a mild hybrid system. One would think that this would translate into excellent fuel economy, but unfortunately that's not the case. The Defender 100 trims with the three-liter engines and electric motors only have a combined fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon. The trims with standard engines have a combined fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon. Clearly, efficiency wasn't the biggest concern when Land Rover was designing this vehicle.
2. Two Extra Seats Very Small
A four-door version of the SUV can be upgraded with a third row of seats, but that row is best left for children. An adult would feel extremely cramped in the back and might not even fit properly. While it's great that Land Rover has this available configuration, which is designated by the 5 + 2 notation, it's not actually that practical.
3. Premium Trims Are Expensive
The starting price of the Land Rover Defender is pretty reasonable, but the prices of the higher trims are not. The Defender X costs $83,000, and this makes it a model that most people can only dream of owning. Even some of the X-Dynamics cost about $70,000, and this puts them out of reach of a lot of consumers.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Land Rover Defender vs 2021 Jeep Wrangler
The Wrangler is a comparable SUV to the Defender. It can appeal to adventurers because its doors, top, and even windshield can all be taken down. However, it doesn't have all of the high-end features the Defender has. It doesn't have the quality leather seats, standard navigation, advanced driver-assist technologies, and premium exterior features that the Defender has. It doesn't have an optional third-row seat, and it's cargo space is smaller than what's found in a Defender 110.
2021 Land Rover Defender vs 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Mercedes-Benz is known for its elegance, and the G-Class certainly has a lot of premium advantages. What it has in addition to these features is a six-figure price tag. It starts at $130,000, which is simply an unreasonable amount for typical consumers. The G-Class has more horsepower than the Defender does, but the margin isn't that large when taking into account the advanced Land Rover engine with the mild hybrid system. Further, the G-Class doesn't have a third row, and it's not as spacious as the Defender is.
The 2021 Land Rover Defender would be a fun vehicle to drive. It can travel around town with style and can easily accommodate children, pets, and/or gear in its cabin. It can skillfully make its way through extremely tough conditions, and people can feel free to take their Defenders on epic trips, with or without a trailer hooked up to it. The Defender has a lot to offer, and it's nice that Land Rover has presented so many options. The base models are capable, durable, and comfortable, and importantly, they have much more reasonable price tags. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the premium Defenders are definitely something to envy.
• Why buy a 2020 Land Rover Defender? w/ pros vs cons