Never have I received as much attention from strangers as I did during my week with the Land Rover Defender. But with great power comes great responsibility.
- A polished, powerful diesel package
- Cabin is positively capacious
- Size, tech and all-wheel-drive capabilities boost on-road confidence
- Exterior dimensions could prove untenable for inner-city dwellers
- Some equipment highlights were pricey options
- Parking sensors lack precision and aren’t helpful in city streets
Every so often, a car comes into the Drive garage that everyone – including the non-editorial staff members – wants to drive.
The 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300 is one such car.
Intimidatingly cool in both appearance and legacy, it’s coveted by off-road enthusiasts and city drivers alike, and possesses an incredible amount of street cred for a car that started its life as a glorified tractor.
But collecting the car from the glossy Land Rover dealership in Essendon, I felt a long way away from farm paddocks and hay bales.
My dealership contact told me my model – the four-door, seven-seat, diesel-powered 110 D300 – is proving more popular for long-haul drivers, “otherwise the DPF (diesel particulate filter) fills up too fast for city driving,” he added.
He told me white – the colour of my test car – is one of the most popular shades amongst Defender shoppers, along with silver and army green.
And then he sent me on my way with a word of warning about the electronic air suspension (a $1309 option): “Just make sure it’s on the lower setting before you go into an underground carpark, otherwise it may not fit”.
Gulp. And so began my week navigating the urban jungle.
How much does the Land Rover Defender cost in Australia?
The Defender range is vast, with lengthy model names, an endless list of expensive options, a wide range of cabin and exterior configurations, and plenty of powertrain choices.
For those who don’t speak Land Rover (myself included), I’ll endeavour to break it down for you in plain language…
Size-wise, Defender buyers can choose from the three-door 90, the larger five-door 110 (which offers the choice of a third row), or the extended-body 130, which can seat up to eight people.
Trim levels range from the base model to the higher-spec S and SE models, topping out with the HSE flagship offering.
An X suffix on the higher trim levels denotes a higher-grade again – with increased off-road capabilities, courtesy of air suspension and all-terrain response capabilities.
An X-Dynamic suffix, meanwhile, means the car boasts off-road-ready looks, but without the full spectrum of all-terrain capabilities available on the X. A kind of ‘walks the walk, but can’t talk the talk’ package, if you will.
Finally, petrol powertrain options include a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine (P300), a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo petrol engine (P400) or a 5.0-litre, eight-cylinder supercharged petrol engine – the V8 flagship.
Meanwhile, depending on your chosen body type, diesel buyers can pick from a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo diesel (D250) or a more powerful 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo diesel unit in the D300.
With all that in mind, my Defender for the week sits in the middle of the range.
It’s the 110 body size, with a 5+2 seating configuration, and it has the more powerful D300 diesel engine, the off-road-friendly X-Dynamic styling, and the top-of-the-pile HSE equipment level.
An eight-speed automatic transmission drives all four wheels and outputs are rated at 220kW and 650Nm, with a top speed of 191km/h.
Cost-wise, my Defender (as I grew accustomed to calling it) starts at $120,310 before on-road costs. The car shown here is a 2023 model year, despite being a 2022 build, with Land Rover having already since released details of the MY23.5 range.
The car seen here sits as a nice mid-point in the Defender price-walk, which begins at a leisurely $81,950 before on-road costs for the base-spec Defender 90 with petrol engine, then sprints up to an eye-watering $226,500 before on-road costs for the Defender 110 V8.
Naturally, my Defender was fitted with a range of options that made it look exceedingly awesome, but came with a hefty $14,000 price tag – bringing the as-tested price to $134,609 before on-road costs, or $156,585 drive-away.
Expensive, but worth it purely for the moment I pulled up outside my son’s childcare and heard one of the dads say “Look Timmy, now that’s a cool car”.
Given it’s such a unique car, you could argue rivals for the Defender are few and far between, but on-paper competitors could include the Lexus LX, BMW X5 and Jeep Grand Cherokee L – all large SUVs with luxury leanings and the option of seven seats.
The Jeep is marginally more affordable, with a starting price closer to $80,000, while the X5 range starts at over $100,000 for an all-wheel-drive diesel offering. The Lexus, meanwhile, starts closer to $150K while offering luxury and off-road ability in equal measure.
It’s possible the Defender faces stiffer competition from within its own stable courtesy of the family-friendly, less distinctively-styled Discovery range, which starts from just over $109,000 before options and on-road costs, topping out at just over $130,000 for high-grade versions.
|Key details||2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300|
|Price||$120,310 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Fuji White|
|Options||Family Pack – $4796
– Three-zone climate control
– Air quality sensor
– Manual third-row seats
– Cabin air ionisation with PM2.5 filter
Towing Pack – $4044
– Tow hitch receiver
– Advanced tow assist
– Terrain Response 2
– All terrain progress control
– Configurable terrain response
Off-Road Pack – $1020
– Torque vectoring by braking
– Domestic plug socket
Privacy glass – $999
20-inch wheels in Satin Dark Grey – $520
ClearSight interior rear-view mirror – $1274
Black contrast signature graphic (with interior storage) – $337
|Price as tested||$134,609 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Lexus LX | Toyota LandCruiser | Land Rover Discovery|
How much space does the Land Rover Defender have inside?
You know how smartphone weather apps show you the actual temperature, plus a second “feels like” temperature? The Defender’s dimensions call for a similar approach.
While it only rates as a large SUV (as opposed to an ‘upper large SUV’ like the Land Rover Discovery), it feels like a glamorous monster truck thanks to its capacious interior and elevated ride height.
On my small, one-way, inner-city street, the Defender’s looming presence was almost comical and quickly drew comments from my neighbours along the lines of “Geez, big enough for ya?!”.
The view from the top is lovely, however, and the cabin affords the kind of headroom Shaquille O’Neal only dreams about.
Elbow room is awesome, too, and a wide centre console houses storage for larger items – like those giant Yeti-brand thermos bottles I imagine outdoorsy people take on their camping trips or, in my case, my handbag.
There are also two regular cupholders, a wireless charger for your smartphone and a medium-sized central glovebox, and sizable door bins.
A large glovebox on the passenger side rounds out the offering, plus there’s an unexpectedly useful storage shelf above this glovebox where I stowed my son’s snacks, my husband’s phone, my mini tissue packs – you name it.
Upon unlocking the car (there’s keyless entry courtesy of a button mounted on each of the door handles) and launching yourself into the front seat using a mini trampoline (just kidding), the black cover over the sliding panoramic roof pulls back to great effect, like a game show unveiling. It never gets old.
If I’m being picky, the panoramic roof – a standard inclusion on this grade – could open a little wider to maximise the fresh air available as it stops just short of where you’d expect.
The front seats are roomy, perfectly taut, supportive and extremely comfortable, with plenty of space for larger drivers. They’re also heated and ventilated.
The middle row of the Defender was a particular highlight for me. The head and legroom are expansive for all occupants – including the middle-seat dweller, who usually gets short-changed.
The floor in the middle row is flat, allowing for ample foot and toe room, plus there are two USB-C ports, two large central air vents and tri-zone climate control.
Child seats can be installed in the middle row on the two outboard seats via ISOFIX points and top tether points, while the middle seat has only a top tether point.
Unlike some other three-row SUVs, there aren’t any child seat anchorage points in the third row of the Defender.
Installing my son’s Britax Brava child seat in the middle row was easy thanks to all the room and the raised ride height. I didn’t have to stoop, bend or squat to check the attachments were properly buckled.
On that note, loading and unloading my son from his child seat was so refreshingly easy – aligning perfectly with my height (I’m around 178cm) and providing direct access, without having to lower him to protect his head from hitting the roof.
He was really happy back there, too, with plenty to look at through the huge side windows and sunroof and space to kick his legs freely and enthusiastically.
My test car was optioned with rear privacy glass for an extra $999 and I have to say – no-one does window tinting like Land Rover. It was impossible to look into the middle row or boot from the outside of the car, which made me feel a lot safer when leaving my belongings in there as required.
The middle-row bench slides forward and back, plus the seat backs fold in a 40:20:40 split, so you have multiple ways to access the boot or third row depending on how the cabin is configured.
While my test car featured a 5+7 seat configuration, you can also opt to retain boot space with a five-seat configuration, or choose a six-seat configuration and add a jump seat in the front.
I found the inclusion of two extra seats didn’t noticeably impede on boot space, which measures in at 916L (a wet value, measured to the ceiling) without the third row in play, or 231L if you have that third row active.
If those numbers mean nothing to you, let’s just say your large family dog will be very happy hanging out in the boot of the Defender, provided the third row is folded flat.
You’ll also have no qualms putting a drooling dog in the boot, because it has durable plastic flooring and plastic seat-backs that are hardy and impressively easy to clean (a wet wipe will do the trick).
A removable fabric cargo cover folds down to tea-towel dimensions and there are plenty of hooks for securing loose loads, plus there’s a 12-volt power socket and buttons that allow you to raise and lower the air suspension from the boot, in the event you need extra leverage when loading or unloading.
The boot door also features added compartments for storing extra things like cleaning cloths, batteries, power cords or ratchet straps.
The boot door itself is also noteworthy for its unusual set-up – the hinge is at the right side of the car rather than on the edge of the roof, so it swings outwards like a barn door. This looks really cool, but the door is heavy thanks to the full-size spare wheel mounted on the back of it (which, as with all things Defender, looks painfully cool).
Also, while there’s theoretically a gas strut to hold the boot door in place, on downhill slopes it can swing quite wide before it locks in, which can prove a bit dangerous to oncoming pedestrians, or unwieldy if you’ve got your hands full. You also need a fair bit of clearance to open it fully, and in my tiny city street this can be hard to come by.
To raise the third row from the boot, you use pull tabs on the back of the seats to lock the seats in place, thereby reducing the boot to a space that’s by no means small, but no longer amenable to the family dog.
The headrests flip up and can ruin rear visibility thanks to their tall stature, but it does mean taller third-row occupants are provided for.
Unfortunately, legroom is non-existent in the third row as the floor is actually raised higher than it is in the middle row. Sliding the middle row forward helps, but doesn’t create an entirely natural seating position for third-row occupants.
Helpfully, however, some large side windows, plus smaller windows mounted in the roof, make the space feel open and airy, rather than dark and claustrophobic.
I will say that while leg, knee and toe room are non-existent, headroom remains really impressive, even in the very back of the car.
Getting into the third row is tricky because of the raised floor, which means you have to pull yourself up, before squeezing into the fairly narrow opening between the door and the middle row.
I struggled to see the appeal until my four-year-old nephew and two-year-old niece hopped in the third row and had a field day back there while the car was parked.
They loved the big windows, and my tall nephew just sat with his legs crossed to counteract the limited legroom (because, when you’re four, you can do that without having to book a physio appointment).
They also thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the back while I raised and lowered the air suspension – a perfect party trick for distracting fidgety kids. Their joy was infectious, and they loved it so much back there that my niece cried upon getting out.
Sadly, the only way they’d be able to sit in the third row would be when the car is parked, given they both still use booster seats, which can only be fitted to the second row in the Defender.
|2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300|
|Boot volume||231L to third row
916L to second row
2233L to first row
Does the Land Rover Defender have Apple CarPlay?
Land Rover’s infotainment system is, in my opinion, one of the best in terms of both functionality and graphics. It looks fantastic without trying too hard, and is particularly impactful when projected across the Defender’s crisp 11.4-inch touchscreen.
There’s an equally impressive digital driver display, which incorporates a map view from the car’s in-built satellite navigation system, and boasts a moderately sized digital speedometer.
Life is also made easier with the inclusion of a wireless phone charger and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow you to maintain the elegant minimalism of the cockpit and avoid unsightly cables.
Land Rover’s included technology suite also see digital radio included as standard, along with online connectivity via a dedicated SIM, allowing over the air updates and a range of live functions including weather and parking information, plus access to steaming services and email – once connected.
Remote smartphone access is also possible, allowing remote vehicle lock/unlock, vehicle status checks, or ‘send to car’ navigation destinations.
If I had one complaint it’s that there are so many features and controls it can feel overwhelming at first, and finding the function you want can take a bit of time.
For example, I was desperate to turn off the auto-hold function (which automatically applies the brakes to hold the vehicle in place on slopes) and it took me a full day to find the control, which was bizarrely hidden in the touchscreen, next to the controls for screen brightness.
The 11-speaker sound system with subwoofer really packs a punch and you’ll feel that bass in your spinal cord, so you might want to toggle with the levels unless you want an accidental back massage.
I had a fantastic time driving around and making eye contact with evidently green-eyed teenage boys while blaring really mediocre pop songs.
This is a car that simply refuses to fly under the radar – right down to the fact it projects its name and logo onto the ground every time you unlock it. Cool? Yes. Subtle? No.
Is the Land Rover Defender a safe car?
The Land Rover Defender range received a five-star safety rating from ANCAP after it was tested in 2020.
It scored 85 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 76 per cent for safety assist.
As you’d expect of a car at this price point, safety equipment is fairly comprehensive.
Features include a rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring with active assist, traffic sign recognition with an adaptive speed limiter and a driver condition monitor.
The autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system can also detect pedestrians and cyclists and function at junctions, but not in reverse.
Should you opt for seven seats, the curtain airbags extend all the way back to protect third-row occupants.
There are plenty of cameras for when you’re parking and manoeuvring (or off-roading, which I shamefully didn’t attempt). A 360-degree camera with handy front and side view certainly improves the overall parking experience, but the 3D view is fairly irrelevant in the inner-city, where there aren’t any boulders or wild animals to contend with.
The reverse camera also helpfully factors in the car’s tow bar and spare wheel reversing, which is important given both take up a fair bit of room and can make parking in narrow spots feel a bit intimidating.
Parking overall feels like a bit of a struggle if you’re a city dweller because the Defender 110 is notably large.
Unfortunately, I found the parking sensors utterly useless. That’s unfortunate because, in a car of this size, in some scenarios you really need the driver assistance tech to have your back.
Instead, the sensors were flatlining only seconds into a parallel park, giving no clear indication of distance and actually proving a hindrance rather than a help. I learned to disregard them and use head checks instead.
My car came equipped with Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View technology, which enables you to see under the bonnet of the car (handy when tackling rocky terrain) as well as the ClearSight rear-view mirror, which is a digital rear-view mirror that uses a camera to bypass visibility constraints.
The cruise control is accessible via buttons on the steering wheel and, for me, was relatively straightforward to use, enabling you to increase or decrease the speed in 2km/h increments and choose how far you’d like to keep from the car in front.
I found it a little slow to brake when a car pulled in front, and it was also unable to anticipate corners like some more advanced systems.
One thing I found a little disappointing was the lack of lane-trace assist, which often appears on cars of this price point. Lane-trace assist offers steering assistance to keep you centred in your lane and, sometimes, can anticipate corners and slow accordingly.
The Defender can only nudge you back into your lane if it senses you drifting over and, even then, the intervention is fairly subtle for a car of this size.
Of course, no assistance feature should or could ever replace actual driver oversight and management, but some level of steering automation can often take the edge out of lengthy trips, which would be useful on a car targeted at long-haul drivers.
Anecdotally, it’s impossible not to feel safe in this car.
The sheer size of it makes it feel sturdy and capable, and to be honest, I would be more worried about those outside the car than those inside it – be aware of your blind spots and, while there’s active technology aplenty, it’s no substitute for your own vigilance.
How much does the Land Rover Defender cost to maintain?
Land Rover’s pre-paid servicing plan covers you for five years or 102,000km and is priced at $2650. Service intervals are every two years or 34,000km, whichever occurs first, bringing the average price per visit to $883.
However, a Land Rover representative confirmed to Drive that the vehicle may indicate it requires a service before the regular interval due to driving behaviour or arduous conditions.
In that event, the cost of that service would be covered by the pre-paid service plan, no matter how many services are required in the five year/102,000kms period.
That means the pre-paid plan would probably become better value if you are regularly off-roading or putting the vehicle through its paces, thus prompting more regular service visits.
For comparison, Jeep charges $399 per visit for its Grand Cherokee L, BMW charges an average of $464 per visit for the X5 over five years, and Lexus charges $595 per visit for the RX over three years – so the Defender’s price is on the high side, but not entirely out of the question.
Land Rover’s warranty also provides five years of coverage, with no kilometre limit, and five years of roadside assistance is thrown in for good measure.
It costs $2719.64 per year to insure the Land Rover Defender, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||24 months/34,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2650 (5 years)|
Is the Land Rover Defender fuel-efficient?
The D300, obviously, drinks diesel fuel – which at the time of writing costs around $2.00 a litre in Australia. With its whopping 89L tank, that means you’re up for $178 when refuelling from empty in the current climate.
While I did a lot of driving in my week with the Defender, it probably wasn’t typical of the average diesel-car owner. My time in the Defender was spent commuting, running errands, stuck in traffic, completing short freeway sprints, and then doing one two-hour round trip to the airport.
All up, I only managed to get through half of the Defender’s 89L tank.
Overall, my average fuel consumption was 11.2L/100km. For my aforementioned airport trip, which featured longer stretches of freeway driving, the short-term consumption dropped to 7.6L/100km, which I think is pretty impressive for a car of this size.
It’s also in line with Land Rover’s claimed figure of 7.6L/100km on a combined cycle.
The entire Defender range also features mild-hybrid technology, which incorporates an electric motor-generator that captures the kinetic energy created when decelerating and braking for improved efficiency and performance.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||11.2L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||89L|
What is the Land Rover Defender like to drive?
A particular highlight of my time behind the wheel of the Defender came courtesy of the owner of a previous-generation Defender, who literally tipped his hat to me when passing, in a show of solidarity, or respect, or possibly even admiration.
Aside from the incessant social interaction it inspires, the Defender is a car that’s not easily rattled on the road.
Power and torque (220kW, 650Nm) boom out of the remarkably refined 3.0-litre, six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine and delivered to all four wheels by an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This package makes the Defender surprisingly agile for a car of its heft, relatively quiet for a diesel, and eminently capable in all weather conditions and at all speeds.
I experienced a very minor lag when putting my foot down from a standstill and the engine noise can ramp up when you’re accelerating impatiently, but otherwise, getting up to speed on freeway merges was an impressively quick and seamless experience.
Plus, the idle-stop system blends beautifully into the mix to the point where it’s almost imperceptible.
The optional air suspension allows for three different settings and, across all three, this is a well-protected ride.
I drove predominantly with the suspension in its middle-height setting (possibly negating the need for the $1309 optional feature) and found it was consistently comfortable and proficient at muting any unpleasantries before they could reach the cabin. Outside noise was similarly well masked.
I did occasionally feel disconnected from the road being so high up and I certainly felt top-heavy going around corners, where the Defender’s size becomes more apparent.
I found I adjusted my driving style accordingly, becoming more cautious going into bends and slower coming out of them, like I was captaining a superyacht that could tip over at any moment.
The steering feel is weighted a little heavier than I’m personally used to, but is perfectly matched to the size and power of the car and still manageable around town.
Of course, a 12.8m turning circle between kerbs means you might not be able to pull off that last-minute U-turn on a major shopping street, and I’d suggest that, in the interests of dignity, you don’t even attempt it.
I struggled with the visibility in the Defender and found that despite the large windows and huge side mirrors, there were plenty of blind spots to put me on edge.
There’s a lot of car to contend with, and I found it hard to get a sense of the dimensions from inside the cabin, with chunky pillars capable of obscuring entire pedestrians, and curved edges that are frustratingly obtuse in their end point.
While forward visibility is ample, I found the rear visibility was notably compromised by both the middle-row headrests and the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate.
Thankfully, the massive ground clearance makes reverse parking marginally easier, but it’s not enough to counteract the limitations imposed by the exterior dimensions.
Unfortunately, the pressure of driving a car like the Defender 110 is that you really need to look like you know what you’re doing – taking up so much space on the road means people have little patience when you flub a reverse park.
While I’m sure my confidence would have improved with more time in the car, it certainly isn’t well suited to inner-city living.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Defender 110’s off-road prowess, check out this review from Sam Purcell.
|Key details||2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300|
|Engine||3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel|
|Power||220kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||650Nm @ 1500–2500rpm|
|Drive type||Permanent four-wheel drive, low-range transfer case|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque converter automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||94kW/t|
|Spare tyre type||Full-size|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked
Should I buy a Land Rover Defender?
While I won’t be forgetting my time in the 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 X-Dynamic D300 quickly, I can safely say it’s not the car for me.
It’s out of my league in terms of price, parking ability, street cred and lifestyle – but I can absolutely appreciate the borderline hysteria that accompanies a car with such a cult following.
It’s a capable, powerful and polished car that feels safe and makes longer freeway trips a pleasure, but some visibility constraints might call for extra vigilance behind the wheel.
For drivers regularly tackling long-haul trips and unpredictable terrain, the Defender D300 is close to ideal with its good fuel economy, well-proportioned and appointed cabin and all-wheel-drive capabilities.
However, a trip through Land Rover’s optional features list can prove a pricey jaunt, and city dwellers like me could probably do without plenty of the expensive off-road additions (although they do look pretty awesome).
Plus, those doing short commutes in traffic might see the economy benefits of a diesel disappear thanks to higher fuel consumption.
If you’re looking for a family car, the Defender’s middle row is accommodating to everyone – from babies in capsules to mid-growth-spurt teenagers.
The optional third row isn’t a long-term solution, but smaller kids will get a kick out of the novelty factor and there are thoughtful packaging decisions to counteract the lack of legroom.
A word to the wise, however: city dwellers without off-street parking, or those who regularly encounter narrow streets and tight underground car parks, might want to rethink buying a car of such proportions.
Any cool factor acquired by driving a Defender will be quickly lost when it takes you 15 attempts to get into a parallel park.