2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition

Check Out Our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel Review of the Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition

Land Rover’s has long been the choice of the well-to-do, the private school parent, and the British Royal Family. However, most Americans miss that the heritage of this sturdy British brand four by four is traversing where there are no roads.  Early Landy’s were made for the off-the-grid lifestyle.  So, where does this fancy off-roader with the outstanding styling of the land Rover Defender 90 fit into the picture?

4-door Land Rover Defender
4-door Land Rover Defender
right side profile of the Land Rover Defender 90
Side profile of the Land Rover Defender 90

This new Defender, both the 90 and the 110, are just not rugged-looking mall crawlers. Instead, they are designed for wicked conditions that you will find, maybe on a city street, before the snowplows do their thing and after the potholes of Spring become the norm.  But where the Defender 90 shows its chops is taking you to that cabin in the woods, where there are no paved roads nearby.

land rover defender 90 on a gravel road
Defender 90 is more at home where paved roads are only an idea.

I gotta say I was quite taken by this Defender 90 2-door 4×4 when I first saw a colleague driving one.  Immediately I put in a request for one to review. As we all need to learn more about this fun brand, and the Land Rover Defender 90 did not disappoint.

Thus, I spent a week in a great-looking rugged 2-door version of the Defender 90. It is powered by a 395 horsepower six-cylinder gasoline engine mated to an 8-speed transmission with a two-speed transfer case.  Complete with air suspension, which made provided the road clearance when you needed it, over rock or off-road.

I encourage you to watch the two videos posted on either the Queer4Cars or The Real DCCarGuy YouTube Channels for two different video reviews. While you are at it, go ahead and hit that subscribe button and click the bell icon to be notified of future videos. That way, you will always be in the know about the cars and trucks we review and the stories about the automotive lifestyle.

1960 Land Rover Defender at Independent Land Rover Specialists in Rockville MD
1960 Land Rover Defender that has been restored by its owner during the 2020 Pandemic

Today, no 4×4 is an inexpensive proposition, and with the Defender’s sticker price of $66,475 including the $1350 destination and delivery charge as well as a $675 hitch receiver and $350 – off-road tires as options, this little truck is about right there in the up-market segment.  And with all this little truck has to offer in both styling and capability, it is an excellent value at that price.  Plus, you will not see many other 2-door 4×4’s around, as they have not been famous for the last few years. And trying to get a Land Rover Defender, two or four-door right now, is not an easy proposition. But they are out there; you have to be as enduring as they are to acquire one.

land rover defender first edition badge
First Edition Defender 90, the new Defender from Land Rover

The Defender 90 is the short version of the 4-door Defender 110.  It is not small at all, actually about the size of one of the larger classic CJ’s and not a whole lot smaller than the EcoDiesel Wrangler I reviewed in 2020.  It is tall, and the air suspension can get taller, making it an exercise to get in and out of. The 90 is shorter, which is excellent if you go rock crawling. And it has a great profile.  While the front and rear look the same as the 4-door, it has a classic Land Rover profile.

A lifted Jeep CJ and the land rover Defender 90
A lifted Jeep CJ and the Defender 90 are both great off-roaders.

Inside

The cockpit of the Land Rover Defender
The cockpit of the Defender is simple, classic, and elegant.

There is a lot of comfort and ruggedness, all with the proper British elegance.  Seats in the Defender are not super adjustable. Remember, this is a rugged off-roader designed to keep you in control when traversing over the ruts and rocks. However, they are firm and quite comfortable when cruising the highway.  Front outboard seats are heated and cooled. The center folding jump seat is not. The back makes for a superior armrest when down and very tall when up, impeding the rear mirror view out the back window. Thankfully you can switch that to monitor mode and see what the roof-mounted shark-fin antenna camera sees. For once, I found that not as disturbing as I have in other camera-based rearview monitors in other vehicles. 

Defender embossed on the back of the 90's dash. With a very useful shelf that runs across the whole dash.
Defender embossed on the back of the 90’s dash. With a very useful shelf that runs across the whole dash.

Fabrics on the interior are as tough and durable as the Defender, neoprene on the dash, fabric, and vinyl on the seats. You will not find any fancy burled wood, carbon fiber, or fancy metal trims, just a clean and very modern though sophisticated use of materials in the design. The dash has a well-designed shelf to hold your phone, tools, or other items you place there. Other design elements feature plenty of rivets on the doors, highlighting that this is not a prissy truck. And no carpets. You will find plastic floor covering throughout and plenty of rubber mats that make cleaning out of this vehicle very easy.

folding fabric sunroof on the land rover defender
A folding fabric sunroof of the Land Rover Defender is large, though it allows noise to penetrate the cabin.

A large open folding fabric sunroof provides a whole passenger compartment opening to the sky. The downside is that it allows for more noise penetration than it would if it were a metal or glass roof, though both would be considerably smaller in size, so the fabric roof makes a lot of sense.

Cargo and Towing

cargo area of the  land rover defender 90
You can get a six-foot ladder in the defender but maybe not quite like you want. Cargo space is not huge, but you can get a lot in there.

The 90 is not a cargo hauler; it is designed to haul people and get six people in tightly. Four or less would be most ideal. The rear seatbacks are set up in a 40/20/40 configuration to put down the middle of the back seat (which has a built-in armrest when up and needed and is not being used as a center seat. This lets you carry long items in like hockey sticks or skis. Put down either side back seats, and you have an inclined load floor. You will never have a fully flat load floor in the rear.  The rear door swings to the right and is not a hatch, nor is the window operable. However, that door does feature a nice cubby storage area and a place to store safety flags. In the Wayback, you will find a 12V cigarette lighter outlet and an LED light in the numerous rear tie-downs.

land rover defender class 3 trailer hitch
Land Rover Defender class 3 trailer hitch

While you can tow with this Defender, and this one was equipped with the $675 Class three tow hitch receiver. Due to its shorter wheelbase towing may not be something you would want to do long-distance or on a busy highway as side winds would be an issue with all smaller, shorter tow vehicles.

Powertrain

Maybe it’s the boxy shape; perhaps it’s the fact that it has all that horsepower and torque, or the all-wheel drive, or a combination of all of the above.  Just don’t think you will cruise by fuel stations because you will want to stop in, fuel up and gain those points buying fuel. While EV’s have range anxiety, there is fuel station anxiety while driving the Defender and seeing that fuel needle drop. The fuel economy is not going to WOW you. This 2021 Land Rover Defender First Edition is posted for 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 19 mpg all around. Though people are taking this car on, they are not the type to let a little thing like high fuel prices bother them. The extra digits in the gas bill do not make them anxious.  

3.0-Liter regularly aspirated Six cylinder engine of the Land Rover Defender 90
3.0-Liter regularly aspirated Six-cylinder engine of the Land Rover Defender 90
Air suspension and other equipment underneath the Land Rover Defender
Air suspension and other equipment underneath the Land Rover Defender

The 3.0 Liter 6-cylinder gasoline engine brings out 395 horsepower and 406 lbs. of torque, so you never feel underpowered. Coupled with the 8-speed automatic transmission, a twin-speed transfer boxy, and all-wheel drive, you are not going to get stuck unless you really mess up.

Overall impressions

I loved this truck. From the stout and rugged look to the fact that it has a classic air of elegance, this is one handsome Land Rover. Although, if you want or need more room, there is a four-door version of the Defender available, my choice would be the 2-door Defender 90. Then again, I don’t have kids to load in the back, and I love a capable off-roader, which this is.  So let’s hit the trail, but first, it is best to fuel up.

Words & Images by William West Hopper

William West Hopper 2019 Georgetown, Washington DC. Photo by: Bonnie Moret Photography
William West Hopper 2019 Georgetown, Washington DC. Photo by: Bonnie Moret Photography

William West Hopper has been an automotive enthusiast all his life. Becoming an automotive content creator later in life, he is a member of both the International Automotive Press Association and the Washington Automotive Press Association, where he is President Emeritus and holds a leadership role on the current Board of Directors.  Since first getting behind the wheel, Mr. Hopper learned to drive on a rugged four by four Jeep Wagoneer and has gone off-road. Maybe that was because he did not have an on-road driver’s license at that young age.  You can find Mr. Hopper leading VIP Tours at the Washington DC Auto Show each year, as well as on both the Queer4Cars and The Real DCCarGuy YouTube Channels.


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