2020 Land Rover Defender – the chassis, engine, and driveline

With the introduction of the 2020 Defender, Land Rover provided us with several cool infographics about its new rig. Usually manufacturer supplied material like this is kind of lame but this is an exception. Let’s take a look at the chassis, suspension, and the four wheel drive system of the new Defender.

Like other large Land Rover, the Defender is an all-aluminum unibody design, as opposed to that of body-on-frame of Jeep or Toyota. But it also has separate steel subframes in the front and back. Land Rover says that this architecture is much stiffer and stronger than typical BoF, if perhaps heavier. The new chassis shares no components with other Land Rover products and was designed with minimal overhangs in mind.

As is typical for many large Land Rover vehicles, air suspension is present in each corner of the fully independent suspension. Stick axle lover can go back to your Jeeps now. Biggest reason for air suspension is road comfort, higher payload and towing capacities. Hard core off-roaders would argue that it reduces ground clearance and axle articulation. Land Rover would counter this with adjustable ride height. In either case, this is a big departure from the original Defender which was suspended on coil spings.

The standard ground clearance for the Defender 110 is 8.6-inches. With the suspension in off-road height, it goes up to 11.5-inches. For reference, the Ford Raptor has ground clearance of 11.2-inches. The Wrangler Rubicon 10.8-inches but Jeep will offer a two-inch Mopar lift kit right at the dealership. Combine that with 35-inch tires, a modification so popular that FCA says there are no fender modifications needed and the spare tire of that size will fit too, and its a battle.

It should be noted that this independent air suspension will make aftermarket modifications more challenging. The Defender comes with 32-inch tires, sized 255/70R18, 255/65R19, 255/60R20, or 275/45R22. Of those, the 18- and 19-inch choices are available with Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. But upping the size might be as easy as software change away – just force the system to off-road mode all the time, at a sacrifice of highway speed stability, of course.

Land Rover has always been proud of the systems that control their vehicles off-road. Whereas Jeep gives you sway-bar disconnects and two locking diffs, and a otherwise free will, Land Rover tries to kind of take that control away from the driver. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Back in the 2013 I spend a day off-roading a new Range Rover with the Terrain Response system and was rather impressed by it.

Using a combination of brakes, traction control, locking differentials (optional front and center), and accelerator pedal response, the Defender will try to drive itself over whatever rough stuff you tell it to go over. There is an automatic mode, too. Most importantly, the driver can override everything and take full control. Water fording feature is a new thing on the Defender. When selected, it raises the suspension, sets climate control to recirculate, and taps the brakes to dry off the pads and rotors once out of the water. Maximum water fording depth in the Defender is 35.4-inch, a significant five inches more than the Wrangler Rubicon.

There are two engines available in the U.S.-spec Defender. the base engine is a turbocharged two-liter four-cylinder that makes 296 @ 5,500rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,500-4,000rpm. The other engine is an in-line six that made its debut earlier this year in the Range Rover Sport HST. It makes 395 @ 5,500rpm and 406 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,000-5,000rpm. The ace up its sleeve is that it has a 48-volt electric supercharger attached to it – call it a mild hybrid.

In typical driving, this system can deliver instant boost, allow the vehicle to drive at very low speeds, and generally ease the engine start/stop feature that many of us hate so much. Ram and Jeep have a very similar system on their 1500s and Wranglers, and it works really well. It provides the drive the feel of a much bigger engine with an instant low-end power, which is handy off-road, too. Both engines are couples to ZF’s excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, at this time a diesel engine is not offered in North America.

Looking the chassis, we can right away tell that the Defender is strictly a hard-roof model. And that’s a damn shame, too. This almost makes me want to say that this should have been the new Discovery. But a closer look at the roof reveals that it is a fairly open roof model. While a big panoramic sunroof is optional, perhaps there is a possibility of a big canvas top, like on the new Jeep Wrangler power hardtop, will be available in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

22 Comments

  1. https://i.forbesimg.com/images/2002/07/29/climbing2_415x277.jpg

    It’s not like the Discovery doesn’t have heritage of a whole bunch of glass in the roof, so it still fits.

    I just don’t see this Defender having the sort of modifiability the old one did – no pickups, no aftermarket bodies, less wild overland builds. It’ll be really well suited to the sort of affluent buyer who’s already driving a current Defender 110 around your choice of recently gentrified neighbourhoods across North America though.

    1. I think the $50,000 entry level model will bring in some trade people in other parts of the world. Rumor has it that a third, longer, i.e. 130 model is planned. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a pickup and heavier duty variants. It’s still a capable chassis and was shown as a panel wagon in Frankfurt.

    2. In Europe, “commercial spec” Discoveries are regularly used as work vehicles. That might seem extravagant to US readers who see it as a luxury vehicle, but a ford F150 seems nuts over here too.

      A lot comes down to how vehicles are taxed and financed, so for genuine business users a Discover does make sense, and the nature of work these vehicles is used for has changed. An original landrover was a bit like an original Unimog, it was technically an agricultural vehicle under 1950s British tax rules so was much cheaper than a car under the very punitive purchase taxes at the time (yes, a lot of stuff in Europe comes down to taxation and social engineering, I know it’s boring, sorry…). It was sort of something that could be use partly as a peasant car, partly as a tractor.

      Now ATVs and cheaper off roaders like the Suzuki Jimny have made made the original LR sort of redundant, and it more comes into its own for people who need to access remote sites (even if it’s only a little off the tarmac, you’d be surprised how you may need 4×4 just to get onto a motorway embankment for example) and towing. They do bigger mileage, pounding motorways rather than just pootling round farms/estates. You do not want to do that in an original Defender anymore than an American that has to work for a living would want to trade their modern F150 for some early 1960s pickup.

      The new Defender seems to fill the role of the old Discovery 4, but at the same time, by changing, it’s staying true to its role as a work vehicle. Pickups aren’t really that useful either.

      1. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8cf0a664f808130477bd881a29e4b1e86ed41f6588c36ee0ec47289acfb7a929.jpg

        No, I get that, and totally understand that places outside of North America get commercial spec Defenders and Discoveries (and I’m sure there will be a commerical spec Defender down the line). But, as an example, compare the imagery from the brochures for the ’15 Defender vs the ’20; The old Defender was being sold to the person who built the house, the new Defender is being sold to the person who bought that house. I’m sure part of the problem is that Toyota is in the same work vehicle space, but doing a better job for less money (in addition to a number of other brands that don’t have the Queen’s endorsement).

      1. Also note the “tropical roof”, a second panel that shades and insulates the actual roof and incorporates vents opening into the air space between the panels.

  2. Thanks Hooniverse for an article unlike anyone elses, with the technical details properly described and nicely illustrated. But in answer to the last question,’ a
    full-length folding fabric sunroof, available initially on the Defender 90 and coming in 2021 to the 110, gives front and rear passengers that open-air driving experience.’ is described in Road & Track and seen in the Pistonheads video.

    https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-shows/frankfurt-auto-show/a28970010/2020-land-rover-defender-90-110-specs-photos-price-info/

    https://www.pistonheads.com/news/general/land-rover-defender-walkaround–frankfurt-2019/40924

    1. Yes, you’re right. I did not see that in the US press release, perhaps it was in a global one. And I saw the Frankfurt pics of the 90 and it had the canvas roof. I’ll fix it.

      1. That’s alright, I think I read every press release and media article on this vehicle I could, as I have been waiting for the details. Two family members in the UK have already got their orders in for 110s and I might for the third time in my life buy a new vehicle.This definitely makes up for the design disappointment of the latest ‘which model is this?’ last Discovery. A point JLR should note: my uncle’s new Defenders will be replacing Disco 4s, the current Discovery being ‘too townish’. Now Landrover has to make a pick-up version to replace their Amorok and X-Class utes.

      2. That’s alright, I think I read every press release and media article on this vehicle I could, as I have been waiting for the details. Two family members in the UK have already got their orders in for 110s and I might for the third time in my life buy a new vehicle.This definitely makes up for the design disappointment of the latest ‘which model is this?’ last Discovery. A point JLR should note: my uncle’s new Defenders will be replacing Disco 4s, the current Discovery being ‘too townish’. Now Landrover has to make a pick-up version to replace their Amorok and X-Class utes.

  3. Looks like a great rig, but I wonder if it will ever come with the 505 hp engine I’ve come to love in my Range Rover? Nothing like driving a tank and still comfortably passing that RV going 60mph in a 75mph two lane road.

  4. Is the 2.0 based off the ecoboost? The whole 2L JLR turbo 4 engine line seem way too close to Ford’s spec. I can see why they’re sly about giving up the heritage if that’s the case.

    1. The ingenium engines are part of a modular family of four cylinder and now six cylinder petrols and diesels with future three and five cylinder versions to come. They use the same technology as Fiat’s ‘Multiair’ engines using a license from Fiat. I wonder if this has any connection to Ratan Tata being on the board of FCA?
      https://www.jaguarlandrover.com/2019/ingenium-engine-technology

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ad91cd9dec2cb03c12c775b67227a155e8397eb71a0d5ec85df3061fe63eb34.jpg

        1. The five cylinder version I find interesting, JLR hasn’t officially announced it is working on it, but there it is, in their own publicity picture of their own display. Count the injectors.

          1. I’m not seeing 5 injectors – only 4 hard pipes to the direct injectors and a 5th pipe going down below the manifold perhaps to a fuel pump?

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