2021 Land Rover Defender 90 Review: High Roller



The short wheelbase, three-door version of the massive Defender is quirky, tough, and luxurious


SINGAPORE

The recently-launched Land Rover Defender picked up plenty of  accolades in Singapore and abroad when it went on sale, but that was not the end of it as the shorter variant of the car has now arrived. 

Sporting two less doors, and surprisingly, only one less seat, the Land Rover Defender 90 looks exactly like what happens when you take a full length Defender and take a row of seats and a pair of doors out of the car. The ‘90’ in the model name is actually a legacy callback to the original short wheelbase Defender from 1983, as it had a wheelbase of 92.9 inches, or 2,360mm. 

The new car meanwhile, is much bigger with a wheelbase measuring 2,587mm a length of 4,600mm, and a towering height of 1,974mm.

That last measurement is worth noting because the Defender 90 has the opposite problem that low-slung supercars face: it’s too tall to get into the basement carparks of some older buildings in the CBD. We had a look around, and some of these old carparks have a maximum height limit of 1.90 metres. 

That height gives the Defender 90 a mighty commanding view though. The driver and passengers sit higher than every other passenger car on the road, and it even gives you a higher seating position than its Range Rover stablemates. 



It’s also a 3X3 seater. The centre console in the front row folds up and becomes a centre jump seat, complete with its own seat belt assembly. It’s really just useful as a temporary, short-trip seat though, as it’s cramped for adults and impossible to fit a child’s booster seat onto. It might be useful for children that have outgrown boosters, but we don’t see many twelve to fourteen-year-olds relishing the idea of squeezing between mum and dad just for a better view out the front. 

Like we explained in the review of the five-door version, the car is built tough, in that it has washable surfaces that will repel water, mud, and any kind of mess, but it’s also luxurious in that the insulation is almost on par with what you would get in any Range Rover.

The car doesn’t have adaptive suspension though, which in theory, makes it more mechanically robust than those with complicated active hydraulic bits under the chassis. The drive is a mixed bag because the short wheelbase gives it the darty ability of a medium hatchback, but the tall tyres leave you with a steering that’s devoid of any road feedback. The 2.0-litre turbo engine is powerful and has a nice bellow that at full chat will put some sports cars to shame, but the tall body makes it weird to try and drive it like a sports car. 

The high driving position and well-insulated cabin also makes it hard to judge your speed initially, until you get used to it over a few days. That’s not a problem if you own one for the long term however.

It’s no soft-roader though, and in the tradition of the original Land Rover Defender it’s built for serious off-roading, with plenty of accessories to deck out the car with. The clever intelligent four-wheel drive modes will sort out most grounds that the car will ever drive over, and also includes a wading mode so you will almost never ever get stranded in a flash flood. 

It’ll work well as a five-seater, and the rear bench is as spacious as any other luxury SUV. It’s also well-euipped with USB ports for use in the rear seat. Boot space is a smallish 297 litres with the seats up, but expands to 1,263 litres with the second row folded flat.

It’s a car with plenty of cool vibes, that is, if you can get along with the S$300k+ asking price and an engine that won’t drink less than 10 litres per 100km. The 5-door version is S$20k more, though in this price bracket there are also plenty of less dramatic looking SUV.



The 5-door Defender is cheaper than a BMW X5 xDrive 40i, though the 3-door Defender 90 really has no direct counterpart from the other brands. A Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 costs less, and has a badge that every towkay from here to Thailand loves. Land Rover customers are like the cars though, usually unique and know what they want. As far as customers go, there will already have been people waiting to pick up the Defender 90, quirky driving characteristics and all. 

Land Rover Defender 90

Engine1,997cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power300hp at 5500rpm
Torque400Nm at 1500-4000rpm
Gearbox8-speed automatic
0-100km/h8.0 seconds
Top Speed191km/h
VES Banding / modifierC2 / +S$10,000
Fuel Efficiency10.3L/100km
AgentWearnes Automotive
PriceS$304,999 with COE
AvailabilityNow
Verdict:Quirky but powerful, cute but huge, tough but comfortable. The Defender 90 is a complete bag of oxymorons but definitely works well in all the areas it’s meant to deliver in 

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.