Land Rover Defender packed with luxury, comfort

Confident SUV celebrates decades of off-road domination.

There still is such an aura of mystery around the Land Rover brand. First, many people mistakenly call it a Range Rover. Range Rover is a type of Land Rover, but the stout, rugged, off-road vehicle is known as a Land Rover. This week I got behind the wheel of one of Land Rover’s biggest names — the Defender.

In Europe, the Defender is very prevalent, almost how the Jeep Wrangler seems to be everywhere here. But here in the U.S., the Land Rover is more of a luxury. It’s marketed that way for sure.

To celebrate its rich history, Land Rover offers up a 30th Anniversary edition of the Defender. My tester was the Defender 110 SE, not the 30th Anniversary edition, but still quite special. If you’ve read my reviews over the years, you will know I don’t like the trend SUVs have gone with cute little designs and bubbly aesthetics. I prefer my SUVs a little boxier and a little more stout.

Needless to say the Defender checks off those boxes. On looks alone, it has that out on a safari look with a square frame, big posture and even spare tire on the back swing-open tailgate. This is how SUVs used to look and it’s still how this luxury SUV looks. And I’m here for it.

The grille is distinctive with an industrial-like look. In fact, the entire exterior has the Euro-machine-like look. It’s further enhanced with the Hakuba Silver paint. It gets some refinement and further distinction with a black-toned roof with glossy black accents to break up the silver. All in all, it’s a complete look for a big, boxy SUV.

There are three capable engine options for the Land Rover Defender. My tester came with the second-most powerful option, which is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. This is the right amount of power, especially when compared to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder option. But it also makes me wish I had driven the 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Maybe next time.

The eight-speed automatic transmission does its job.

But in this era of hybridized SUVs, the Defender still feels like a throwback in a wonderful way.

While I did not take this luxury SUV off roading, it is certainly confident and capable. I did take it to a pumpkin patch and confidently drove through the field to find a parking spot. With the air suspension package, it has adaptive road dynamics making this incredibly comfortable for passengers but also ready for any road conditions. The selectable drive mode is called Terrain Response and it seems appropriately named. There’s even Hill Descent control to give extra cling down steep inclines in varying road conditions. This is a vehicle that can compete with any other brand when it comes to off-road ability.

There is a two-door variant and a four-door variant. My tester was the four-door version with a third-row seat, meaning this is a seven-passenger vehicle. In this setup, there’s only 10.7 cubic feet of space. Fold down that third row and it expands to 34.6 cubic feet. The total cargo area is 69 cubic feet. This is accessible via a swing open rear gate, making accessing the cargo room easy. The third row is pretty cramped and not very comfortable for adults and seems more useful overall with the seats folded for that extra amount of cargo room.

Being a luxury brand, the interior has high-quality touchpoints that would almost make you feel bad for getting it muddy. Yet, the cabin is both refined and comfortable. And despite the knobby tires, it’s also very quiet for the passengers.

New for this model year is an 11.4-inch touchscreen. The infotainment system is simple to use and integrates smoothly with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. There’s also a wireless charging pad for phones. Other options for my tester included heated third-row seats, heated windshield, heated washer jets and heated steering wheel.

Fuel economy for the 2023 Defender 110 SE is 18 mpg/city and 23 mpg/highway. With those big off-road tires and the boxy shape, I consider that pretty reasonable fuel economy.

Starting price for my tester was $69,300. With several optional equipment packages, the final price of my tester was $89,740.

Land Rover is an established throughout many parts of the world. Known for its rugged ability blended with refined interiors, it’s a niche market. However, they properly serve this niche with a high-quality, comfortable and confident SUV. And that boxy look will resonate for some too!

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2023 Land Rover Defender 110 SE

Price/As tested price................................................ $69,300/$89,740

Mileage.......................................... 18 mpg/city; 23 mpg/hwy

Engine............................................. 3.0-liter six-cylinder

Horsepower................................. 395 hp/406 lbs./ft.

Transmission................................. Eight-speed automatic

Drive Wheels................ Four-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point................ Nitra, Slovakia

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