2022 Land Rover Defender 110 P300 S Review

The Land Rover Defender is one of our favorite new SUVs, thanks to its appealing appearance and ingenious off-road kits, as well as its on-road manners, calm and collected handling, and silky inline-six powertrain with mild hybrid system. Both the two-door 90 and the four-door 110 have been put to the test. There's even a V8-powered Defender, which is said to be a blast. But now we're moving down the trim ladder, to the Defender S P300, which is the entry-level model.

The smaller engine and power are indicated by the P300 logo. Instead of a big six-cylinder (P400), it has a little 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The P400 has 99 horsepower and 111 pound-feet more torque. Yes, it is 221 kg lighter, but it takes 7.4 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, compared to 6.1 seconds for the P400. Its starting price is substantially lower, at $65,500, offering it a clear alternative to the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 for consumers looking to cross-shop luxury SUVs. Is the four-cylinder engine, however, sufficient for this large Defender? It is, but it is also not. Allow me to explain.

At low speeds, the four-cylinder is extremely responsive and jumpy, so it gets off to a good start. That's because the maximum torque of 295 lb-ft is available at just 1,500 rpm, and the perfect 8-speed automatic transmission provides swift, smooth, and soft changes - you'll never hear or feel it flexing its magic. However, once you pass 60 km/h, the disadvantages of the small-engine-large-SUV combination become apparent. It's not screaming for oxygen like it's drowning in suffocating pollution, but it's approaching its mechanical limits. And any kind of serious forward movement takes a long time. Turbo lag isn't horrible, but when you're driving at 100 km/h and need to overtake, you'll be disappointed by its sluggish top-end. With the P300, you must be patient and have realistic expectations. Alternatively, don't bother testing the more powerful P400. It's wonderful to be ignorant.

The P300 isn't any better in terms of fuel efficiency. We averaged 14.9 L/100km in a mix of city and highway driving, while the P400 we tested averaged 15.1 L/100km, owing to the latter's mild hybrid system boosting economy.

The P300 rides just as well as the P400 on the road, which isn't surprising given that ours was equipped with the optional air suspension ($1,620). The front end, on the other hand, is lighter and more nimble thanks to the smaller engine. It's easier to control and eager to turn, and it doesn't feel as heavy when battling with the steering wheel. It has polish in its movements, suppleness in how it glides over undulations, and a skillful gearbox to bring everything together. The Defender's road manners improved dramatically after it ditched the live axles, and as a result, it is extremely comfortable. When tackling pockmarked roads, it's a little rougher around the edges than the Range Rover, but compared to a Jeep Wrangler or Gladiator, it's like riding on a magic carpet. It also looks fantastic in Santorini Black.

Most Defenders we've driven have been well-equipped, with all of the features found in the SE and HSE trims, but the lesser S model has a more basic cabin with fewer creature comforts. It's like it brings us back to Earth. As a result, it doesn't have a sunroof, though there are skylight windows below the C pillar, and it doesn't come with the fancy Explorer or Urban Packs, which include storage boxes, mud flaps, and other off-roading gear. The Defender does not require them, despite the fact that they are more than just aesthetics.

That's because the interior is well-designed, ergonomically sound, and large enough to accommodate five tall adults and their luggage. There's more personality in this Jeep than any Wrangler or 4Runner could aspire for. The way the gearshift and HVAC controls are angled below the dashboard reminds me of the Fiat 500, and it works nicely ergonomically. The interior's broad borders are highlighted by a magnesium alloy beam that runs the length of the space, and the grab grips are elegantly integrated for a streamlined effect. The recessed dashboard creates a wide range of storage choices, and the design has an intrinsic sense of appropriateness. With exposed screws, powder-coated ceramic-like surfaces, and the car's paint showing through on the interior door panels, they've effectively transported part of that roughness inside, just like Wranglers and Mazda Miatas do.

The four-cylinder P300 has its flaws, but those willing to put up with its lack of horsepower will find value in this vehicle. The more nimble front end makes a difference in daily driving when slithering through tight city corners, the cheaper price tag makes it an intriguing option to more typical SUV alternatives, and it retains the lovely ride quality that first drew us to the Defender. Granted, if it were our money, we'd still go with the more powerful and efficient P400 motor, but we'd be just as happy and pleased with two fewer cylinders and put the extra cash towards some cool off-road gear.

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