The Land Rover Defender is steeped in history. The Defenders’ origins date back to 1948 when the Series I model was introduced. Land Rover has gone from strength to strength since then.
The Defender we all know and love today portrays an iconic image of an off-road vehicle.
Some might argue that a Land Rover was the first vehicle to partake in an overland adventure when Colonel LeBlanc took his brand new Series 1 from the UK to Abyssinia.
Further famous overland journeys have been made in Land Rovers, such as the famous UK – Singapore trip made by a group of students in 1955 in two 86 inch series I models.
The 1983 – 2012 Defender models are by far the most popular and arguably the most capable overland vehicles of all the Defender models.
|Model||Years||Engine||BHP||Torque (lb-ft)||MPG (city/hwy)|
|200 TDI||1990-1994||2495cc||107 @ 3800 RPM||188 @ 1800 RPM||20 / 27|
|300 TDI||1994-1990||2495cc||111 @ 4000 RPM||195 @ 1800 RPM||28 / 34|
|TD5||1998-2006||2495cc||122 @ 4000 RPM||221 @ 1950 RPM||26 / 28|
|TDCI 2.4||2006-2011||2401cc||122 @ 3500 RPM||265 @ 2000 RPM||24 / 28|
|TDCI 2.2||2011-2016||2401cc||122 @ 3500 RPM||265 @ 200 RPM||25 / 28|
|110 NAS||1992-1993||3.9 EFI V8||180 @ 4750 RPM||227 @ 3500 RPM||10 / 12|
|90 NAS||1994-1997||3.9 EFI V8||182 @ 4750 RPM||232 @ 3100 RPM||13 / 16|
The high cost of ownership quickly shadows the many benefits of owning a Defender for overlanding. This is especially true for North American buyers, where the cost of purchasing a Defender is usually many times more than in Europe.
On average, you should expect to pay between $30,000-$70,000 for a maintained Defender. Many Defender owners are resorting to importing Defenders from Europe, where the average purchase cost is much less at $15,000-$50,000. However, there are import fees to consider, and most of these buyers are purchasing the vehicle without seeing it first.
If you have a large budget, companies like East Coast Defenders, Arkonic, and Helderburg fully restore Defenders to impeccable condition. A vehicle from one of these companies will set you back a whopping $100,000 on the low side, with prices going as high as $200,000
The good news is that once you paid the high price tag of purchasing a Defender, the cost of ownership generally isn’t that high- This is providing your Defender is in good condition throughout.
If your vehicle is in poor condition, the cost of ownership could be almost as much as buying another Defender. Things such as the chassis and bulkhead are some of the higher costs that could run you about $5000 each.
Fuel economy for a Defender is pretty good; this is especially true of the diesel models where you can expect on average 30 MPG.
As far as reliability with a Defender, it’s hit and miss. Generally, the Defender would be considered reliable if maintained properly. The biggest failure to Defenders is rust. Rust can quickly eat through the chassis and bulkhead of a Defender. On my Defender, I put a Galvanized chassis to prevent this.
Defender engines are pretty solid. However, some of them we’re known to have cylinder head issues. Again this can be solved by upgrading to an AMC cylinder head.
One of the greatest things the Defender has going for it is its simplicity. This vehicle was designed so that should something break in it, it can be repaired at the side of the road. This is one of its greatest assets for overlanding, as when you’re in remote areas, it’s not likely to have a mechanic or special equipment around.
There are many shops dedicated to supplying products and parts solely for Land Rovers. There are also big companies like Britpart who manufacture parts just for Land Rovers.
Many people who travel globally with their Defenders claim they never had any difficulty finding parts for their Defender. If the parts they are after we’re not available in the country at the time, companies from the UK could usually have parts delivered within a week.
Another benefit of the Defender is that many parts are shared with the DIscovery leading to a wider range of accessibility.
Most aftermarket manufacturers of of-road and overlanding parts cater to the Land Rover Defender, although, it would not be as popular as the Jeep Wrangler in that respect.
Manufacturers of off-road appliances like lockers, roof racks, lighting, suspension, etc., all cater to the Defender, so finding parts or accessories for kitting out your rig would not be difficult with a Defender.
The Defender shines here again with oodles of storage, both inside the vehicle and outside in areas like the engine bay where you can easily add accessories like a compressor or underneath where you can add extra water tanks or fuel tanks.
|Unladen Height||77.3 – 77.6”|
|Unladen Weight||4123 lbs|
|Gross Vehicle Weight||5622 lbs|
|Overall Length||175 – 184”|
|Unladen Weight||4815 lbs|
|Gross Vehicle Weight||6845 lbs|
|Unladen Weight||4668 lbs|
|Gross Vehicle Weight||7717 lbs|
Comfort is an important aspect with overlanding. Many times you will be sitting behind the wheel for hours at a time and it’s important as a driver to not get fatigued due to the lack of comfort.
The Land Rover Defender scores moderatly in this category. Tall drivers may find that they don’t have enough leg room, however, it is possible to upgrade the seat rails to increase leg room. Smaller drivers may claim that the gear stick is too far away.
Another common complaint is the lack of arm space and you may find yourself sitting very close to the door.
Overall the seating position is very comfortable and the height is as nice addition.
|Break-over Angle (°)||31||29||28|
|Approach Angle (°)||38||38||35|
|Departure Angle (°)||40||40||21|
|Min. Ground Clearance (inch)||8.9||10.9||12.4|
The Defender really finds itself at home off-road. It’s a more than capable rig for tackling some of the toughest terrains. With a standard Defender, you would be more than ready to tackle most overlanding terrain.
Land Rover Defenders’ have been portrayed as the ultimate off-road vehicle for years. The camel trophy, which is like the ultimate off-road challenge, has really helped boost the Defenders’ stature as the king of off-road vehicles.
However, if you wanted to up the ante and tackle more challenging overland terrain, the Defender is easily modified; you can add Air Lockers, upgrade the suspension, remapping, etc. In fact, most parts of a Defender can be upgraded.
The central locking differential is a huge contributor to the Defenders’ off-road prowess. Pair this with its renowned torque of 360nm, its axle ground clearance of 250mm, and its maximum gradient climb and descent of 45 degrees, and you have yourself an unstoppable off-road machine.
Defender Overland Build Example
- Roof Rack: Front Runner Slimline II roof rack
- Tent: Front Runner roof top tent
- Fridge: ARB Zero fridge freezer
- Compressor: ARB High Performance twin air compressor
- Water Storage: Font Runner water tank 42L
- Tires: Toyo Open Country 255/85/R16
- Wheels: Hutchinson Rock Monster bead lock
- suspension: OME BP51 & 2″ heavy duty coils
- Differential Rear: ARB Air Locker
- Differential Front: Quaife ATB
- Differential Center Ashcroft center locking diff
- Bumper: ARB Deluxe winch bumper
- Rear Bumper: Swing away
- Rock Slider: Masai 4×4 Rock Sliders
- Recovery Boards: Two pairs MAXTRAX MKII
- Winch: Warn 89611 Zeon 10-S
- Jack: HI-Lift Jack
- Shovel: Hi-Lift Handle All 500
- Recovery Kit: Warn Heavy-Duty Epic recovery kit
- Tire Deflator: Staun Automatic Deflators
- Tire Repair:Slime Tire Repair kit
- Light Bar: Osram LED Lightbar SX50-cb
- Rock Lights: TRX4 Defender Rock Light Set
- Reverse Lights: Nolden LED Reversing Lights
- Camp Lights: Labcraft LED Scenelite (SI6)
- Interior Lights: Sxlofty Car LED Strip Lights
- Power: Generac iQ2000 – 2000 Watt Ultra Quiet Inverter
- Solar: Basic Panther Off-Grid Solar Panel Package
- Battery: Odyssey PC925 Battery
The Land Rover Defender is the poster child of overlanding. It was one of the first vehicles to make an overlanding trip and many still roam the world today as full time overland vehicles.
The drawback with the Defender is the huge price tag that is only going to increase year on year because of its iconic image.