The 2020 Land Rover Defender Perfectly Encapsulates The Modern Outdoor Industry

The new Defender was always going to garner tough critics, most of whom have quite down in recent months.

Long before the 2020 Defender tackled any real-world ascents, it faced the uphill battle of filling the beloved shoes of the previous generation model and meeting the impossible-to-please standards of die-hard enthusiasts.  The outgoing Defender was in production for decades and during that time it solidified itself as a poster child for the off-roading and overlanding scenes with rugged looks and off road capabilities to match.

The 2020 Defender 110 debuted with mixed feelings from the public, but once it had a chance to prove itself, winning Motortrend SUV of The Yearwas all but guaranteed.  That accolade wasn’t a fluke, by any means. The Defender, as polarizing as the design has been, is the complete package. It accomplishes everyday tasks and off-roading activities exceptionally well and comes with a reasonable price tag. However, what truly elevates the Defender above the rest is that it perfectly encapsulates the essence of the booming modern outdoor industry.

The styling of the new Defender is hit or miss, but it retains enough core DNA to not be mistaken

Most critics of the new Defender (and fanatics of the classic Defender) fail to acknowledge the ever-growing industry of aftermarket modifiers and coach builder outfits focused solely on the classic Defender. Not just its presence, but its reason for existence. Most SUV customers in 2020, even off road and overlanding enthusiasts, demand some level of comfort and a vintage Defender is only a few rungs above a mid-century farm tractor in terms of fit and finish. 

Throughout 2020, the outdoors and adventure industries saw massive growth, attracting hundreds of thousands of newcomers unprepared and unlikely to dive headfirst into the hardcore side of overlanding and off-roading culture. Finicky and nuanced vintage SUVs can be intimidating and modernized custom builds tend to run in the six-figure range. The 2020 Defender lands somewhere in the middle of those two options.

The interior is one of the biggest wins for the Defender.

Land Rover has a well-known reputation for building cars capable of going off-road, regardless of whether or not the majority of its customers actually do so. The Range Rover Sport, as big and luxurious as it is, can still tackle moderate off road obstacles when forced and will do so with confidence. The problem is, you’d never want to in fear of scratching the bodywork or getting dirt and mud all over the supple leather seats and plush carpets. 

While the new Defender is very much a luxury product, whether you’re talking in terms of outdoor gear or SUVs, it doesn’t feel nearly as fragile and precious as its Range Rover counterparts. And that is an incredibly crucial detail.

The material selection for the upholstery is like a “best of the best” from around the outdoors industry.

Almost every SUV on the market can claim to be “off-road capable” with complex traction control systems and lifted suspension setups. However, genuine off-roading SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, and the upcoming Ford Bronco have all of the above and tough, durable, easy to clean interiors that make the inevitable dirtiness inherent in off-roading that much easier to deal with at the end of the day.

It’s the same route Land Rover took with the Defender. Except, where Jeep, Toyota and Ford seemingly went scrounging for discounts in the camping aisle at Wal-Mart, Land Rover went on a shopping spree on 

The Defender still feels like a luxury vehicle but not one you worry about tracking dirt and sand into.

Sitting in the driver’s seat and scanning the interior with my eyes and fingertips, all the materials look and feel wonderfully familiar. The dashboard, center console and seat are all upholstered in a neoprene-like material and waxed canvas as if Land Rover outsourced those parts to Arc’teryx and Fjallraven. The doorsill armrest and hardware look like a resulting collaboration with Gerber Gear. The Defender was meant to get dirty, inside and out.

The diamond plated panel might be superficial on the 2020 Defender but is a nice reference to the classic model.

The classic Defender was, by even modern standards, a capable workhorse and adept off-road machine. However, even the most decked out and modified examples can’t escape the inevitable cliche the only obstacles that they face are the speed bumps going in and out of mall parking lots. And, try as hard as it may, the new won’t shed that reputation either. For better or for worse, that’s the beauty of the active lifestyle industry going into 2021.

Just because a product is capable and dependable out in the wild, doesn’t mean it can’t be just as capable and at home in the city. The majority of 2020 Defenders won’t ever get pushed to their limits, but neither does 90% of the outdoor gear designed to keep you alive in the wilderness.

Despite the pre-launch criticisms, the 2020 Defender is very much worthy of the name.

Most of the EDC knives you see on social media live as glorified letter openers and box cutters, not the shelter-building, log-splitting multi-tools they’re billed as. But, when you need to split that log or cut twine to tie a makeshift shack together, they’re more than ready. 

That’s the 2020 Land Rover Defender. It’s a multitool with a premium fit and finish that will navigate the suburbs just as well as the backcountry and look at home doing both. It’s the perfect SUV for a new kind of enthusiast.

Key Specs:

  • Base MSRP: $49,900
  • Engine: 3.0-Liter Turbocharged Inline-Six
  • Power: 395 horsepower
  • Torque: 406 lb-ft
  • Curb Weight: 4,830 lbs

Article Credit: Bryan Campbell
Full Article: