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The Land Rover Defender 90

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  • 28-03-2022
The Land Rover Defender 90

About the Land Rover Defender 90

Find out more about the Land Rover  Defender 90 in this complete guide. Is the Land Rover Defender 90 reliable? Should I buy a Land Rover Defender 90? Find out here.

The world-renowned Land Rover Defender series includes the well-loved Defender 90 and Defender 110, distinguishable by their differing wheelbase lengths. 

The Defender 90 was first released in 1984, one year after the 110. More recently, in 2020, both models we re-released with modern technologies and increased luxurious interiors aimed at the newer consumer market of wealthy buyers intrigued by the image of the classic Land Rover Defender but can't tolerate the rugged and lower-tech vehicle. 

Although, this hasn't come with its controversy from hardcore Landie fans who love the difficulty of handling the original rustic off-roader brought out in the 80s. 

Changes to the Land Rover Defender were also prompted by increasingly demanding global vehicle standards. To cope with altering emission rules, the Defender needed a new engine, in turn demanding a new gearbox. 

Additionally, the suspension and steering were improved, with the Configurable Terrain Response system debuting in then 2020 re-released Defender. 

Is the Land Rover Defender 90 a good car?

How is a 'good car' defined? For most buyers, a car can be established as 'good' by its reliability, running costs, practicality, equipment/technology, style and safety features. This section details how the Land Rover Defender 90's various attributes are measured. 


The re-released Defender series comes with an influx of modern technologies to improve the traditional off-roader. Key updates include automatic emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition, and lane keep assist. 

Air suspension kits are available for the Defender 90, although these aren't installed as a standard. The various Defender 90 versions can reach a top speed of between 108.7 to 150.4 mph, dependent on engine type and size. 

Land Rover Defender 90 Complete Guide


With a shorter wheelbase, the 90 is a two-door model allowing up to six seats, compared to the four-door 110, which can have up to seven seats. The Defender 90 and 110 both share the same slick dashboard layout, creating an uncluttered and easy to navigate control board. There are multiple cubby holes throughout the vehicle for belongings, perfect for those adventurous drivers needing to change equipment quickly.

Personalisation of the interior can be achieved in various ways, for example, two-toned leather painted steering wheel spokes or wooden veneers. These splashes of colour can further boost the luxurious feel of the Land Rover Defender, whilst a washable floor allows the more destructive users to worry less about damaging the luxurious interior. 

The boot holds just under 400 litres, a measly amount for large groups of active travellers and their respective luggage. However, as many Land Rover lovers will be aware, the extensive list of external storage accessories more than makes up for the lack of boot space, with the range offering roof racks, side-mounted storage and much more.

 Running Costs

As a luxury off-roader, the Land Rover Defender 90 expectantly has high running costs, most notably owed to the rapid guzzling of fuel. The lightest version of the Defender 90 weights a hefty 2140kg, explaining the fuel consumption. 

The original 1984 Defender 90 offered standard diesel or petrol engines, some with mild-hybrid assistance, although this wasn't enough to dramatically lower running costs. 

In 2021 Land Rover released the Defender P400e, a plug-in hybrid version of the classic model that proves a more efficient, cheaper and better match for global vehicle standards.


Although the Land Rover vehicles are widely-adored, they're also infamous for being pretty unreliable. 

The Land Rover brand was rated recently by the company 'CarWow' as one of the least reliable vehicle brands along with Jeep. 

The reliability of the newly released Defender 90 and 110 models is still being measured, yet looking at Land Rover's track record, it's unlikely to be well rated. The Driver Power annual survey placed Land Rover 22nd out of 29 manufacturers in 2020, with around one-third of owners experiencing a fault over the last year. 


The original 1980s Defender series are rugged off-roaders with considerably poor safety features, with a greater focus on usability, durability and design. For many classic defender enthusiasts, lack of safety was expected and often regarded as unimportant. 

Although this appealed to Land Rover's target audience at the time, the development of technology and the growing demand for comfort promoted a more modern design that caters to a more affluent clientele. 

Nevertheless, the re-released 2020 Defenders now have a five-star Euro NCAP rating, along with the more recently distributed PHEV variant (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). Safety assurance makes the Defenders more appealing to families, further widening the target market for Land Rover.


A clear distinction between the Defender 90 and 110 is practicability, and although the 110 comes with its problems, the 90s three-door model is naturally less practical. 

The main difficulty with the 90 is expectantly the access to rear seats, and although the doors were designed longer, it's still a faff for the darting adventurer or bigger groups. 

The upfront storage and dashboard design create a spacious area much like the 110, with smartly hidden cubby holes. 


The standard Defender model retains its centre storage solution, which can be swapped out for a mini-fridge, slender sixth seat or completely removed for improved access to back seats. Additionally, air suspension allows the vehicle to lower, slightly improving entry into rear seats. Once seated, the backspace is quite impressive, with leg and headroom ample enough for a large adult. 

For outdoorsy drivers, heavy-duty rubber matting is promoted. It makes cleaning the vehicle much quicker and allows the adventure to continue without lengthy cleaning breaks. The additional external storage options like roof-mounted carriers and tents increase practicability, especially for longer trips with more luggage or kit. Both Defender 90 and 110 can tow the legal maximum of 3,500kg.

Are defenders expensive to maintain?

Maintenance of any off-roader vehicle will bring up some surprise costs. The Land Rover Defender is a tool purposely used for treacherous adventures through uncharted territories and across damaging terrains; it's guaranteed some damages will occur. However, the application of Land Rover's maintenance and service plans would dramatically reduce costs, competing with other SUVs and off-road vehicle maintenance fees. 

These plans can be paid with one-off, up-front and fixed monthly payments, creating a cost plan that caters to differing customer capabilities. Furthermore, with approval from a Land Rover dealership, the service plan is transferable between owners. 

Looking into the specifics of the Defender, the MPG is considerably low, the two diesel engines producing only 25.5mpg, and the hybrid models ranging between 31-48 mpg. Competing SUVs, most notably the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime and the 2021 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid, are producing up to 90mpg with similar hybrid engines. 

Regulations around vehicle pollution are continually tightening; thus, high-producing off-roaders like the Defender receives substantial fees to offset damages. Compared to other off-road vehicles, the Land Rover Defender 90 and 110 are considerably more expensive to maintain, although cheaper insurance can lessen costs, levelling the Defender with competing SUVs.

Do old defenders hold their value?

The Land Rover Defender is a classic off-road vehicle admired by car enthusiasts around the globe. The die-hard Landie fans enable resale prices to almost match the cost of the newer models, with the re-released 2020 Defender boosting sales at second-hand dealerships as more people want to own the classic model. 

As with all vehicles before purchase, their depreciation value should be considered. With larger luxury cars, like the Defender, this can be a considerably quicker process owed to higher maintenance, running costs and less mpg.

 Regardless, the various Defender models retain value differently from their counterparts; for instance, the Defender 90 Country demonstrates stronger residual value compared to the Defender 90 XS Diesel, which depreciates quicker. 

Do you own a Land Rover Defender 90? Are you considering a Land Rover Defender 90 restoration? Our Land Rover restoration experts can help you restore your classic Land Rover Defender 90.