2022 Land Rover Defender 30 P300

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300 review

Article from Drive.

The cheapest variant of the Land Rover Defender is also one of the best and most compelling in the range. Sam Purcell explains.

What we loveWhat we don’t
No big compromises for the best value price in the rangeTricky to justify against the more practical Defender 110
Willing, responsive powertrain with plenty of characterCoil springs give up some off-road ability to airbags
Interior still had plenty of tech and nice touches at this priceA little thirsty compared to P400 and diesel options
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Introduction

Most of the time, it’s the most expensive variant of a car that’s the most impressive. But this time around, it’s not the case.

The 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300 – the cheapest in its range – stacks up wonderfully. And it’s hard to look past as the pick of the range.

There’s no doubt that the new-generation Defender holds little in common with its forebears beyond spiritual inspiration. The original Land Rover – which dates back to 1948 and has since become one of the most iconic vehicles traipsing around the countryside – looms large and imposing over the brand.

Like Jeep with the Wrangler, or Porsche and the 911, Land Rover and the Defender are at the same time separate entities and the same thing. Unlike those two other brands, however, whose cornerstone models hold a strong mechanical lineage over the decades, Land Rover decided to reinvent its icon through a much more modern and advanced lens. 

Risky move? You betcha. And while there will always be a vocal group that will deride the new Defender, it’s proving to be a sales success.

With only relatively minimal mechanical changes over those 68 years, the original Defender was loved and loathed in equal measures for its outright antiquity. 

This new Defender fixed the glaring problems like ergonomics, safety and technology, while managing to hold onto some of the charm and purpose of the original article. Other things, like towing capability and on-road driving demeanour, are vastly improved.

The good news here is that the Defender 90 P300 retains all of these good features, but reduces the asking price quite significantly to $74,516 before on-road costs. And that lower asking price seems to suit the fun nature of the Defender quite nicely, and provides a stronger link to that ancient relative.

Key details2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300
Price (MSRP)$74,516 plus on-road costs
Colour of test carFuji White
OptionsFront jump seat – $1853
Front undershield – $1342
Clearsight interior rear-view mirror – $1274
Privacy glass – $999
Leisure activity key – $910
Electronic active diff w/- torque vectoring by braking – $806
Heavy-duty rubber mats – $338
Matt-black bonnet decal – $281
Price as tested$82,319
RivalsSuzuki Jimny | Toyota LandCruiser 76 | Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
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Inside

The Defender in P300 guise is far from stripped out and carries plenty of nice touches and technology for the money.

And in many regards, it leaves higher-specification models feeling like a long shot. Cloth seats with partial electric adjustment are comfortable and far from offensive, and the mixture of black materials throughout the cabin also feels quality.

Contrasting interior colours, which some will yearn for, will only come with expensive options or higher grades.

Sitting up front is a familiar experience, with plenty of comfort and storage on offer. The unique design of the dashboard looks great and offers up plenty of storage for all of your stuff. There is a good array of power outlets including USB-A, USB-C and 12-volt.

The interior also has a wonderful balance of practicality, nice touches, and an overall unique design that harks back to previous-generation Defenders.

The optional middle jump seat (costing $1853) also requires the $1274 digital rear-view mirror, which makes it something of a considerable expense. It’s unique and works well for kids, but adults will find it a tight fit up against the dashboard. I found my knee knocking the gearshifter into neutral if I wasn’t careful, for example.

What will be a big surprise for many is the fact that the second row in this short-wheelbase Defender is quite useful and comfortable. It’s spacious, with plenty of legroom and headroom on offer, and the raised seating position also offers plenty of visibility. The big rear side windows don’t wind down, however, and the cupholders on the floor could see a few spillages from errant feet.

The boot of the Defender 90 naturally isn’t massive at 397L, but one can fit a fair amount of stuff in the back provided they are able to stack things atop one another. There’s a 12V plug and tie-down points, and 1563L comes to the ready with the second row folded down.

It’s a smaller detail, but you’ll also notice that the floor is far from flat when the back seats are folded.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300
SeatsSix
Boot volume397L seats up / 1563L seats folded
Length4323mm
Width2008mm
Height1974mm
Wheelbase2587mm
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Infotainment and Connectivity

Land Rover’s new Pivi Pro 10.0-inch infotainment display is used in this base specification, which is shared with much more expensive variants. It’s got Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio, native navigation and a slick, easy-to-use operating system. Being one of the newest systems out there, it features expanded connectivity and can do software updates over the air.

The partially digital instrument cluster – which combines pixels and two analogue gauges nicely – also works well. There is some adjustability going on here, with plenty of controls and information readouts available through the steering wheel and stalks.

This is one area where the base-specification Defender really drives a dagger into the higher grades: a fully digital instrument cluster is available on higher specifications, and you can pick up technology like a head-up display. But the infotainment offering here is still quality and modern, leaving little room for criticism.

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Safety and Technology

If we were talking about the previous-generation Defender, this section would be very short and not particularly complimentary. However, the new Defender has a few more irons in the safety fire.

Standard safety equipment for the Defender 90 includes autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, forward traffic detection, clear-exit monitor, lane-keep assist, 360-degree camera, rear collision monitor, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and driver-condition monitor.

The 360-degree camera has some trick functions as well, with augmented views for parking and off-roading. The see-through bonnet function sounds gimmicky, but it actually works, and helps you pick a line through low-speed, technical terrain.

There is also tyre pressure monitoring, keyless entry and push-button start, LED headlights and tail-lights, rubber flooring, two-zone climate control and a 12V outlet in the boot. Not bad – once again – for base specification.

And importantly for new car buyers, the Defender 90 and 110 range picked up a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it first arrived in 2020.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300
ANCAP ratingFive stars (tested 2020)
Safety reportLink to ANCAP
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Value for Money

Clearly, this is the pick of the Defender range if you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck.

Firstly, it doesn’t feel cheap or compromised in any sense when compared to its more expensive sibling. And hardware like the 10.0-inch infotainment display and semi-digital instrument cluster is shared with more expensive variants.

The 18-inch steel wheels managed to disrupt the normal trend of increasing appeal through larger diameters and higher expense. While some no doubt will still love the look of bigger alloys, these steel wheels are a refreshing nod to the history of the Defender. And they definitely look the business.

Throw in a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and a sharply priced servicing schedule, and the value-for-money proposition only gets strengthened.

While the driving experience certainly benefits from the increases in power and torque that come from the array of six-cylinder petrol and diesel powertrain options, this smaller P300 powertrain is far from bad.

At a glance2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300
WarrantyFive years/unlimited km
Service costs$1905 for 5 years/102,000km
Fuel cons. (claimed)10.1L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test)12.3L/100km
Fuel type95-octane petrol
Fuel tank size90L

Driving

I had reservations about this P300 powertrain before driving, because I had previously been so enamoured with the six-cylinder petrol and diesel donks of other, more expensive variants. Is 221kW of four-cylinder petrol power and only 400Nm enough to keep the Defender exciting?

I shouldn’t have worried. This engine, also used in the likes of the Jaguar XE and XF sedans, packs a surprising amount of punch, character and enthusiasm. The torque, which is available in a broad and meaty band of the rev range, is easy to find and comes on strong when needed. And if you keep the pedal buried, high-rev performance comes with an enthusiastic and almost angry snarl.

It’s also a nice, if tenuous, link to the early Series Land Rovers, which originally sported four-cylinder petrol engines.

The eight-speed auto gearbox continues to impress in this specification as well. It’s smooth and fast to respond, allowing you to get the most out of the engine.

One potential negative is the fuel consumption, which averaged 12.3L/100km during our time with the car. Although, that number could easily be improved with a more judicious right foot.

Coil springs are a surprise performer in this specification as well, giving away precious little to the more expensive optional air suspension in terms of on-road driving refinement and comfort. The short 2587mm wheelbase (which is actually closer to 102 inches, not the 90 suggested by the Defender’s name) does yield a characteristic bobbing or pitching, but it’s mostly quite minor. Some might come to dislike it, while others will embrace it as part of the experience with a not-so shorty.

The ride quality overall is comfortable and communicative, without being firm or harsh.

With such an eager powertrain, the Defender 90 is great fun to punt around town and through country roads. Not so much for outright performance, but just for the smiles it brings along the way. The well-weighted and responsive steering feel, sharp brakes and good body control give the Defender 90 something of a jacked-up hot-hatch spirit.

Off-road

Off-road performance is another strong suit, even with the more basic coil-spring suspension. Without the active air suspension, the new Defender’s independent suspension all round inevitably lifts wheels up a lot faster and doesn’t allow it to feel as planted. However, the sheer quality of the traction-control system simply works a little harder to maintain forward momentum when needed.

The low-range transfer case and permanent four-wheel-drive system aren’t watered down in this specification and are excellent. You do sense a slight tardiness of torque delivery in the P300 engine when in low-range, but that also feels like nitpicking. It’s got plenty of punch available not far above idle, and the additional control of the optional active rear differential also helps.

If it were my purchase – and I was planning on doing some off-roading – then I would really consider ticking the $1309 box for air suspension. It yields extra overall ground clearance in its highest setting, and can deal with ruts and moguls a little better.

A short-wheelbase Defender 90 with coil springs – set statically somewhere between normal and off-road for an air-sprung Defender – still has plenty of clearance. Ground clearance is listed at 225mm, but feels better than that in the real world. Tyres are big at 32 inches, and there are no low-slung live axles after all.

Other clearance figures include a 31-degree approach, 37.9-degree departure and 25-degree rampover angle. Once again, not as impressive as it would be with air suspension, but still very good in comparison to other short-wheelbase four-wheel drives.

Key details2022 Land Rover Defender 90 P300
Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power221kW @ 5500rpm
Torque400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Drive typeFull-time four-wheel drive, low-range transfer case
TransmissionEight-speed torque convertor automatic
Power to weight ratio106.7kW/tonne
Weight (kerb)2072kg
Tow rating3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle11.3m (kerb to kerb), 12.0m (wall to wall)

Conclusion

Personally, I’m terrible with money. And I’m as far away from a proper financial advisor as one can get. But, I’ll dole out an idea anyway: if you’re looking at a higher-specification Defender 90 – especially something in the six-figure territory – I have a smarter idea.

Buy this cheapest model and figure out how much money you’ve saved. It’s nearly $70,000 when compared to the current top-specification 90. Figure out how much time that gets you off work – book in your leave, pack your bags and go on a glorious, long adventure. 

That’s a big part of why this is the pick of the range. The original Defender was never about how much it cost or what kind of stuff it had. It was always about what it could enable – the promise of adventure and experience. With a much more sensible price tag, this 2022 base-specification Land Rover Defender carries on that same idea, and it does a bloody good job of it. 

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Ratings Breakdown

Our ratings explained

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Comments 1

  1. Hi this sounds very good. I have a Pajero NS diesel swb which is so similar to this Land Rover. My Paj has been very good and this land rover would be good replacement.

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