They may have the same name, but how do their capabilities compare? After all, the original Defender is famous for its off-road abilities. This is one of the only vehicles that are entirely classless and may be used by anybody, anywhere, whether you work on the land or own it.
On a dairy farm in Derbyshire, we rented the new Land Rover Defender 90 from Stratstone Land Rover Nottingham to compare it against its predecessor, a 2008 Land Rover Defender Hard Top 90.
They went head-to-head, focusing on the essential characteristics of each car, so we could see how they compare. It’s worth mentioning that both the 90 and 110 body styles have a Commercial Hard Top variant, but this article is focused on the passenger version of the new 90.
Let’s start with the most essential feature of the king of 4x4s: its ability to handle difficult terrain, deep water, and muddy fields.
The iconic Land Rover Series I, subsequently known as the Defender, has acquired the reputation of being the ultimate off-roader and the go-to vehicle for the military, adventurers, and farmers since its introduction in 1948.
The 2008 Defender we chose for the comparison is a capable workhorse for a local farmer who has successfully navigated the wet and steep fields of Derbyshire for several years.
Is the new Defender up to par with its predecessor? Land Rover carefully tested the vehicle across the world prior to its introduction, from the Sahara desert to the Artic Circle, to ensure it was even more competent than the previous generation.
Is the new Defender as capable as its predecessor?
Both cars battled over muddy gates as they climbed an undulating high hill in a rough field. Yes, they both handled the situation admirably, but they approached it in quite different ways.
When off-roading, the earlier model features a manual transmission and a central locking differential, which causes both axles to rotate at the same pace. When the vehicle is stationary or in motion, the differential lock can be manually engaged or disengaged as long as the vehicle is traveling in a straight path on stable ground and no wheels are sliding.
Meanwhile, the new Defender has an 8-speed automatic gearbox and is capable of determining if the differential needs to be locked or unlocked without the driver’s involvement. Simply choose auto terrain response, and the new Defender will determine the optimal settings for the circumstances, including stability control to prevent wheelspin.
The new Defender’s approach and departure angles aren’t nearly as good as the previous Defender’s, but they’re still remarkable when compared to other current off-roaders: 38 degrees approach and 40 degrees departure.
ClearSight Ground Image, which provides a clear view of the front underneath of the vehicle on the 10-inch central touchscreen and helps you know exactly where to put the car’s wheels, is another feature that comes in handy while off-roading in the new Defender.
Moving on to the design, which is just as essential as off-roading capability.
Land Rover did a great job designing the new Defender since they modernized it so that drivers may enjoy the luxury that comes with a Land Rover SUV while still maintaining the classic boxy dimensions and making many references to the old version’s past.
In fact, you’ll find several vintage design elements throughout the new Defender, such as the spare wheel on the rear, rounded headlamps, and exposed screws throughout the cabin, all of which are purposeful and enhance to the overall design.
Despite maintaining some of its original aesthetics, the vehicle has a number of modern amenities such as a soft-close tailgate, keyless entry, and an electrically deployed tow bar that make it simpler to live with on a daily basis.
Step into the cabin, and you’ll be pleasantly delighted to discover a considerably more comfortable seating position than the previous Defender. There’s enough room for your elbow to rest without hitting the door, and there’s plenty of technology and entertainment, including a MeridianTM sound system, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, heated seats, and even a heated steering wheel.
This area is challenging since we are comparing a commercial model to a passenger model, thus the winner of practicality is determined by the vehicle’s intended use.
If you need a vehicle to transport a large number of people, the new 90 has six seats available. The additional jump seat in the front of the automobile is there since this model is a First Edition.
The boot is quite tiny, so if you need to transport pushchairs or several dogs, the 110, which has a huge loadspace of 857 litres, is a better choice. Air suspension allows you to lower the car using a button located within the trunk, making loading and unloading large things much easier.
Alternatively, if you need a farm truck to transport bags of grain and haybales, the older model wins this comparison on practicality. Although, as previously stated, there are 90 and 110 Hard Top versions available that provide similar levels of cargo space.
Both vehicles in this comparison are powered by a turbocharged diesel engine, yet their performance is vastly different.
The Puma/DuraTorq TDCI 2.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, which is actually a Ford engine, powers the old model (Land Rover were owned by Ford at the time of production). This engine had previously established itself in the Ford Transit, therefore it was utilized in the Defender after a lubrication and sealing improvement, and it was ready to handle harsh off-roading.
This engine, with a power output of 120bhp and torque of 265lb ft, was one of the quietest ever utilized in a Defender. The engine is connected to a 6-speed manual gearbox, and anti-stall has been considerably enhanced, allowing the Defender to creep over most terrains without the driver having to accelerate.
The D250, a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder turbo diesel engine with mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology, powers the new Defender. This engine is torquey, smooth, and refined, producing 246 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. It feels strong, and the MHEV assist gives it a considerable lift while accelerating, while the grumbling sound is quite gratifying to hear as you gain speed.
The cars in this section are completely different. Comparing the infotainment systems is a little tough because we’re not sure if the earlier generation can truly be called an infotainment system. On that basis, we’ll begin by looking at what the 2008 Defender has to offer.
The previous model’s interior is quite simple. Due to the fact that this is a County model, you will have access to an AM or FM radio as well as a CD player. That’s all there is to in-car entertainment. Manual temperature control, an analog clock, and a cigar lighter are among the convenience features. The electric windows and lights may also be controlled from the central controls.
So, where do we begin with the new Defender? The infotainment system is Land Rover’s Pivi Pro, which also includes an interactive driver display, both of which are easy to use.
With Apple Play and Android Auto, you can seamlessly connect your smartphone to the vehicle while also having access to useful features like the electronic tow bar, a 3D surround camera, a 360-degree parking aid, and a slew of high-tech driver assistance systems that will allow even complete novices to off-road like a pro.
Relax in the 12-way heated, electric memory-grained leather and Robust Woven Textile front seats with 2-way manual headrests, grab the heated leather steering wheel, and enjoy the Meridian sound system. Of course, we’re talking about getting behind the wheel of the new Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition.
Even in the back of the 3-door car, a 6ft adult may enjoy a long-distance ride on or off-road with plenty of head and legroom.
The unusual folding fabric roof adds to the overall comfort by providing lots of fresh air and open-top views for all passengers.
Until the modernized version was introduced at the end of 2019, utilitarian off-comfort roaders was never a priority. When you look at the 2008 Defender, you’ll see that it has a lot of personality and capability, but it lacks comfort and convenience.
When driving, the seating posture is quite upright, and you’re likely to bang your elbow against the door. Heated seats, for example, are really offered in some of the higher-specified models. The dashboard is also quite upright and not at all ergonomic like the new Defender’s, yet some Land Rover fans enjoy this unusual driving posture.
Is the new Defender better than the old?
That is all up to you to decide!
We like both the old and new Defenders for various reasons, but it’s obvious that, despite certain reservations, the new Defender is even more capable off-road than its predecessor.
The new Defender, on the other hand, is more suited to city cruising and school runs than the previous model, with a considerably more luxurious cabin and technology that not only assists with the journey but also enhances the driving experience.
Safety, as well as efficiency and performance, have all increased in the modernized vehicle. You may even choose the Defender P400e, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicle that combines a petrol engine with an electric motor.