Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS Review – Dinosaur Still Rules The Rough

One of the toughest and most capable 4×4’s out there, unique, design still looks ultra-cool

Cramped & severely outdated interior, high price, awful on-road drive and ride

Land Rover Defender?

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS canvas back 4x4 suv Review

First available in 1948 and sold as the Land Rover Series 1, the Defender – as it’s now known – is still going strongly after almost 67 years. In that time there’s been many developments and numerous body styles introduced. Over that time though, the Defender has never deviated from its original purpose of being a tough, agricultural and utility vehicle with a off-road prowess at the heart of its capabilities.

Truth be told though, the interior and exterior have barely changed for literally decades now, and it’s exceptionally outdated by modern standards. However, the Defender has a die-hard following of hugely passionate owners and fans, and continues to sell in decent amounts around the world – apart from the USA where it’s not sold at all. In fact, bizarrely in 2013 in the UK, the Defender even outsold the mighty Range Rover! If you’re in the UK, and stray even slightly into the countryside, you’re almost guaranteed to see one within yards of leaving an urban area, and even in towns and cities you’ll often catch sight of one being used (appropriately) by a utility company.

The last time I drove one was on a Jaguar Land Rover Experience Day in early 2013, and the only impression it made was a bad one. However, previous to driving one on the same day, I’d driven a Range Rover, an Evoque, and a Jaguar XKR convertible amongst other cars, so going from them to most cars would be a let-down. With this in mind, we booked one in for a week-long test to give it a fair trial. and we were sent the 2013 Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up to review. Read on to find out whether I now like or loathe the beast…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS canvas back 4x4 suv Review


The exterior design of the Land Rover Defender is undoubtedly now iconic. It has changed little since it first appeared on the scene, and its square, boxy shape is unmistakable to those not even faintly interested in cars, and blends seamlessly into the scenery, whether that be pushing its way through a thick jungle, bouncing down a mud track on a safari outing, traversing the dunes of an arid desert, or simply making its way down a narrow, winding English country lane.

It is also arguably one of the coolest-looking 4x4s out there, with only the Mercedes G-Class coming close to rivalling its cool factor. This is possibly down to the fact that there’s little out there like it now, as manufacturers are constantly striving to make their cars more economical on fuel, and that includes getting the drag-coefficient down as low as possible. The Defender, on the other hand, has approximately the same aerodynamic properties as a brick.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review

Stood next to the front end, it quickly becomes apparent that Land Rover has not, and will not, compromise on the design so many people love and admire. Aside from the headlights and indicators, the front is made up of squares, rectangles and straight lines. Tapping the front bumper with my knuckles, I’m aware that it’s just one big, heavy lump of metal. I’d hate to crash into this thing, as it doesn’t seem like it’d be very bendy or kind to the plastic-bumpered cars of today.

In fact, the whole thing is rather… unflinching. Its stance is mega-tough, and it looks like it could have a medieval castle thrown at it and still drive away. The stubby front and rear overhangs are high up, for the best approach and departure angles while off-roading, and the ground-clearance is huge at 314 mm (12.36″) as standard. Down the side, the Defender is flat, the doors hinges are bolted to the outer skin while big flared aches cover the wheels.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS canvas back 4x4 suv Review

Around to the rear, and its boot door is so flat and straight that you could hang a plumb-line down it with no problems. We had the 110 pick-up version with canvas back, and this just adds to the military-vibe, and looks so good that even other Defender drivers passing by gawped and stared.

As much as I love the Defender’s defiance against becoming anywhere near modern in design, there are issues which are plain daft, such as the seam on the roof near the front door, which hilariously overlaps on the wrong side, facing into any rain you may encounter as you drive along. I’m assuming the sealant underneath will go brittle at some point, allowing water through.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review-4150

All said the Land Rover Defender continues to rule as one of the most iconic-looking vehicles on (or off) the road, and if Land Rover do update it at some point, they’re going to have to be really careful of the new design, as I’m sure many choose the Defender because of its look. Good luck on that one, LR.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 interior seats and drivers instruments

Open the heavy door of the Defender, and you’re greeted by the sight of something so agricultural that you may as well have opened the door to a JCB, or a combine harvester. Actually, I’m being unfair to the JCB, as sitting in one of those you’ll have more room, more modern switchgear, and be more comfortable too.

Maybe I’m being a little mean to the Defender though. Let’s take the positive points; the front seats aren’t too bad at all, and I never really felt particularly uncomfortable in them. They were even heated, there was air conditioning, and it even had a heated front windscreen! I gave a little gasp when I saw the buttons for those. Such luxury and opulence! Obviously Defender owners are being ridiculously spoiled these days.

What else is good? I’m struggling now. Well, there’s a huge armrest-cum-storage holder in the centre between the driver and passenger, and it even lavishly sports two cupholders for pampered owners of such a modern Landy. There’s plenty of headroom, and vision is good being sat so high up. After this, I cannot think of anything else I liked, and that is honestly how bad it is.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv heated front seats Review

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review rear seats

For starters, the interior is just plain old ugly. It is so bad that even Land Rover’s own photographers struggle – and are indeed unsuccessful – at making the interior look good for the photo’s on their website. I had the same problem. This is because there is no good angle of it. It’s just a mass of drab, flat plastics with switchgear transplanted from some awful Rover or other.

The stalks for the indicators and wipers amusingly felt like they’d snap off should you pull them with even a slight amount more pressure than necessary, the steering wheel had no adjuster at all, and there’s not even an airbag for the driver. The switch for the lights looks like it’s come out of a tractor, and is badly positioned behind the steering wheel and so close to the where the key sits in the barrel that should the lights already be switched on, you can’t physically turn the key itself.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS Review interior radio heating 4wd selector

Sitting in either of the front seats – which themselves are comfortable – you realise there’s hardly any room for your elbows next to the doors. If you see Defender drivers going about with their windows down, this isn’t because they want fresh air, it’s so they can lean their elbow on the door frame properly to be more comfortable, regardless of the fact it’s raining/snowing/-10˚C outside.

The long body of the Defender is deceiving, for inside it’s really rather cramped. You know these small city cars that look tiny outside but have loads of room inside? Well the Land Rover is the opposite. With the double-cab pick-up we had, the rear seating features very little leg room, and even less for your feet as the fronts are bolted to metal plating that runs across the cabin. Because it was a pick-up there is no room to recline the rear seats either, and they sat so bolt upright that you are almost leaning forward. Even kids who sat in them said they were uncomfortable after just a 20 minute journey!

Sat in the front again, and there’s yet another huge issue to do with the heating. The Defender may as well have two settings; hot, or cold. There is no halfway. The fan speed is also badly set-up, and on ‘1’ it’s about the equivalent of ‘3’ on a normal car. When you put the hot air on, it blows ferociously and mercilessly onto just one of your legs (nearest the centre of the cabin), and it’s so hot that it quite literally feels like you’re stood too near a fire – even aiming it at just the windscreen makes little difference.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review-0647

At motorway speeds, the noise level inside the Defender is ridiculous. The engine is irritatingly noisy, and comes straight through the bulkhead. The wind whistles and roars thanks to the flat box-shaping of the body, and the rubbishy sealing around the windows and doors. Turning the stereo up will do little to help, as the standard speakers are also terrible.

Overall, the Land Rover Defender has literally the worst interior of any car that I have ever come across. It goes beyond simply being outdated; it is antiquated. Look, I know some of you die-hard Landy fans will be sat there cursing me and saying I’m being unfair, and that it’s not that bad, and that I’m just comparing it to all the luxury cars I drive, but you’d be wrong. I found the very basic Fiat Panda decent, and I liked the simplicity of the Suzuki Jimny, but the Defender is just plain awful inside.

I understand this is a utilitarian vehicle, a work-horse. But for the price (and lower, in fact), there are plenty of other vehicles which do a similar job – especially if you’re after a pick-up truck – and that are quiet, comfortable, roomy and modern. And whose heating won’t burn your leg either.

Believe me, I honestly tried my very hardest to like the interior of the Defender, and I strived to find its character. I absolutely wanted to – it’s normally exactly the type of vehicle I love – but I couldn’t. All I see is a prehistoric cabin way past its use-by date, and even if Land Rover don’t decide to update the Defender’s exterior any time soon, they certainly need to redesign its interior, post-haste.

Engine & gearbox

2012 saw the old 2.4 litre turbo-diesel engine replaced by a 2.2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel to match tougher EU5 emissions regulations. The 2.2 diesel unit puts out 122PS at 3,500 rpm and 265 lb ft (360Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm, although 90% of the power is available from 2,200rpm to over 4,350rpm, so there’s a good working range.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv 2.2 diesel engine Review

In keeping with the agricultural exterior and interior, the engine runs along the same lines, allowing just a 90 mph top speed and a leisurely 0 – 60 mph time of 14.7 seconds. Not that such a figure really matters or means anything here though, this is a work vehicle through and through, not a freakin’ sports car.

Quoted UK mpg fuel economy isn’t exactly superb either reading as urban: 20.8, extra urban: 29.1, combined: 25.5, and that’s optimistic as their figures can sometimes be way out compared with real-world driving. CO2 emissions are high at 295 g/km, meaning you’ll pay a staggering £1,065 for the first year’s tax (unless that’s included in the on the road price), and £490 per 12 months thereafter. Still, that’s an awful lot of moolah to shell out every year.

The gearbox is a 6-speed manual, and there’s a high and low ratio gearbox with centre-locking differential to use on the rough stuff as well.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review driving on country roads

Fire the engine into life and you’re immediately left in no doubt that this really is an agricultural vehicle. The 2.2 litre diesel is noisy, and rough-sounding. I’ve heard a smoother noise coming from a JCB engine, literally. The clutch pedal is notably heavy as I push it down, and not just by a little bit either. It is so solid that one of our test guys who’d previously driven a Defender asked if there was something wrong with it when it was his turn to drive. Landy owners will have something more in common than just the 4×4 they drive – one very toned and muscular left leg.

Selecting a gear can’t exactly be described as a fluid, positive experience either, as it’s a case of shoving that resistant clutch pedal down hard first, before pushing the long, clumsy gearstick into place. It is, in fact, much like driving a tractor, and you have your own mini workout each time you take a journey. Don’t go to an expensive gym, people, simply buy a Defender.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review on road driving

Set off, and you’ll find 1st is a long gear (which is what’s needed for off-roading). You need to take the revs high before changing to 2nd, otherwise the engine bogs down and there’s very little acceleration. It’s the same for all the gears, and city driving means keeping on the ball with the changes to ensure you keep rolling a decent pace. It’s not a particularly enjoyable undertaking to drive the Land Rover Defender in slow-moving, heavy traffic, as that stiff clutch pedal, cumbersome gearbox and rackety diesel don’t exactly make for a relaxed breeze down the road.

It’s not as bad as you get into open countryside, where the Landy seems at home, as the high seating position makes for better viewing, and it chugs along well enough too. From the aforementioned Land Rover experience day, I remember the 110 Station Wagon I drove feeling like the back end wasn’t connected to the front as I rounded a sharp bend, and the brakes being catastrophically bad. Again though, I’d just driven a Range Rover and the Jaguar XKR so it would naturally feel bad after those two.

Gear stick and 4WD selector on the Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review

Driving this 110 crew-cab pick-up this time around, it’s not quite as bad as I remember. The brakes are sharper than I’d thought, and give a decent amount of bite. Handling isn’t brilliant – nowhere near, in fact – but with the Defender being permanent four-wheel-drive it grips and bites the road superbly, giving you a load of confidence around twisting country lanes, even at speed and when the bad weather closes in. The ride is not great, and the Landy tends to bounce and bang over bumps, jostling the occupants around inside, which gets rather wearing after a couple of hours.

Onto the motorway, and the it’s clear Defender does not make a good long-distance cruiser. At 70 and 80 mph the engine roars loudly, while the wind buffets the flat front of the Land Rover heavily, and whistles around the large panel gaps and door seals. It’s fairly comfortable in the front (aside from the leg-burning heating) and the Defender potters along happily enough, even if the engine does sound like it’s trying hard at higher speeds, but it’s a noisy beast, and about as far from refined as you can get.

Here’s the thing though. After all that I’ve said, weirdly, I got a large sense of satisfaction and fun from driving the Defender. Strange, I know. I suppose it’s because the Landy is so agricultural in many ways; a bit like driving a tractor you’re pulling levers, pressing big buttons and pushing various switches, all making you much more involved than modern cars, which do almost everything automatically and without you having to really give them any input. There’s a certain way to drive and operate a Land Rover too, and you quickly get to know when’s the perfect time to change gear so the engine doesn’t bog down, exactly how much to swing out before turning down streets (thanks to the huge turning diameter on the 110), and you learn to become impeccable at knowing within milliseconds if the long Defender will fit into a car parking space to within the inch, what the exact best temperature and settings are to keep the windows from misting up when it rains. Involvement, you see.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review

While that may be the case, personally, if I was going to use a car on-road for the vast majority of time, I wouldn’t buy a Land Rover Defender as my main driver. Maybe as a second car. However, should my drive regularly necessitate heavy off-roading, then this is where the Defender stands out…

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

“The best 4 x 4 x far” used to be a slogan for the Defender. But does it still apply today? After all, the modern world of electronics means four wheel drive is now aided by trick airbag suspension, traction and stability control, which kicks in to send the right amount of power to the wheels with most grip in milliseconds, with barely any input from the driver.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review wading through water

I’ve seen what a Landy is capable of from my off-road training, but that was years ago and I wanted to be reminded. To test it, we took the Defender 110 double-cab pick-up to an old disused quarry so rough that it’d make most SUV’s drop their coolant in fear at the very sight of it. This is a place full of mud pits, deep water hiding slippery, sucking mire, and steep, narrow climbs at such an angle you can barely walk up them unaided.

Driving up to the first section of water, I stop the Land Rover and use the dual-range transfer box to select high range with the centre differential locked. This gives me the speed I need to keep decent momentum in the water, and a better level of grip in case traction is lost. The transfer box is again heavy, and it requires some effort to get it into gear. Even the manual says something along the lines of you’ll need to ‘use substantial force’ when selecting high or low range.

After I’ve sorted that out, I set off into the water, slowly as I ease the nose in to test the depth and once we’re in a quick blip of the accelerator gets a bow wave pushed ahead of us, and now I keep up with that so there’s less water in front of the grille. There’s an official 500 mm (20″) wading depth for the Defender – 200 mm less than the Discovery or Range Rover, thanks to their air suspension – and if you want to go deeper there’s some stuff you need to do to ensure it’s fit for purpose.

Wading through water in the Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review

Going through the water, the Land Rover 110 is sure-footed and confidence-inspiring through the bog, the agricultural feel of this entirely unadulterated 4×4 now making absolute sense as we surge forward, and out the other side with zero issues. Now to tackle one of the slopes. Picking one of them, like all the others it is rock-strewn with dry, crumbling mud. A perfect test site then.

The Defender has a trick up its sleeve that I remembered from my training. Anti-stall. Select low-range with the centre diff locked, into 1st gear, and let the Landy simply climb up what ever you throw at it. There’s no need to use the accelerator, and the anti-stall system pulls the Defender up the steep face without issue. Occasionally, you can feel a wheel lose traction, but it continues ahead steady, and rock-solid. I believe it’s the most impressive feature of the Land Rover, and it blew the minds of those with me who’d not seen it done before. It’s the same on the way back down the slope, and the Land Rover uses engine braking to keep the vehicle at a slow fixed speed as you descend.

Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS Review quad hill climb anti-stall

I’ve done enough on that test and others to know how good the Land Rover Defender is off-road. It is brilliant. It is tough, dependable (at least the newer ones are), and will brush off almost anything you throw at it. The owner of a working quarry stated he’s had almost every type of 4×4 and pick-up used as work vehicles in his quarry, and every one has broken… except an old battered, dented, bruised and abused Defender which keeps going without fail. And I think that right there sums the Defender up perfectly. Is it ‘The Best 4 x 4 x Far’? I can’t say that 100% without testing every 4×4 off-road next to each other. What I do know is that right out the box, it’s certainly one of the toughest and most capable off-road vehicles available today.


Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS 4x4 suv Review climbing a hill

The Land Rover Defender starts at £23,000 for the basic 90 Hard Top to around £30,000 for the 110 Double-Cab High Capacity Pick-up. The Station Wagon (or normal version with glass in side windows, 7 seats etc) starts at £25,000, and our 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up tester cost just over thirty thousand pounds.

This seems like a lot of money for a 4×4 with riveted and mastic-sealed leaky bodywork, what are essential steel girders for the chassis, and an interior that looks and feels ridiculously cheap and plasticky. Myself, I think they’re highly overpriced, and to buy one of today’s pick-up’s such as the Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu D-Max, or Toyota Hilux, you’ll pay less than the Defender 110.

However, Defender’s are unique really and there’s nothing out there like them – especially if you go for the normal 90 or 110 over the pick-up version – so I guess Land Rover can charge for that, and people will pay.

2013 Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS verdict & score

Camera used is the Action-Tek HD From

I think you’ll have gathered by now my thoughts on the Defender, but here’s a summary. They are absolutely the most outdated vehicle you can buy from a mainstream manufacturer. While the exterior looks as cool as can be, it’s still known to leak water into the cabin through various places, and while there’s charm-a-plenty, there’s also pop-rivetts and sealant-a-plenty too. The interior is the opposite of luxurious, and the comfort level can be classed as low with little elbow room in the front, and a lack of leg room in the rear and at higher speeds the noise level in the cabin is high.

The Land Rover’s 2.2 turbo-diesel engine is also noisy, uneconomical, unrefined and the Defender is slow. The gearbox is a handful, and the dual-range transfer requires brute strength to operate it.  For those of you die-hard Landy fans out there bemoaning this review, and getting all angry and defensive over your beloved Defender, I’m a motoring journalist, and while I’m not going to ignore the character and personality of a vehicle, I’m also not going to ignore the glaring facts about it, and the blatant fact is that overall the Land Rover Defender is an outdated dinosaur in desperate need of a complete and thorough overhaul.

As terrible as the Defender is inside and on-road, at the other end of the spectrum it’s utterly brilliant off-road, or when the going gets exceptionally tough, or if you need to tow something. The Landy may be a dinosaur in most ways, but that comes in handy as it chews up and spits out the worst of terrain with ease, monstering its way up steep slopes, through water, mud and snow drifts, coming out of most situations easily. Truth be told, if I needed a vehicle for substantial off-roading frequently, I’d be rather inclined to choose the toughest 4×4 out there – the Land Rover Defender.

Do you own a Land Rover Defender? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7
Interior  3.5
Engine  4.5
Gearbox (man)  5
Price  5
AWD & off-road ability  9.5
Drive  4
Overall Score  5.5 / 10


Model (as tested)  2013 Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS
Spec includes Alloy wheels with all-season tyres, front electric windows, front heated seats, air conditioning, front heated windscreen, radio with CD slot and bluetooth for music See website for more info
Options you should spec  Raised air intake (snorkel), rear step bumper, xenon bulb upgrade kit, electric winch
The Competition  N/A
Price  (Mar. ’14) £25,000 – £30,000
Engine  2.2 litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel
Power, Torque, CO2  Power: 122PS @ 3,500 rpm | Torque: 265 lb ft (360Nm) @ 2,000 rpm| CO2: 295 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Permanent 4WD with low & high range + centre-locking diff  | 6-speed manual
Ground clearance & Wading depth  Clearance: 314 mm  (12.36″) | 500 mm (19.68″)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 90 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 14.7 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not Rated
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 20.8, Extra urban: 29.1, Combined: 25.5
Weight (kerb)  2,042 kg’s (4,500 lbs)
Websites  Land Rover UK, Land Rover Australia, Land Rover South Africa, Land Rover Global

Check out our other car reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

4 responses to “Land Rover Defender 110 Double-Cab Pick-Up XS Review – Dinosaur Still Rules The Rough”



  2. Sean

    I may be a bit late to read up on this review, but I’ve never had the chance to drive a puma Defender for myself, which are the 2.2/2.4 Ford engines. Instead, I own a 2003 TD5 110 Dcpu Defender, the same body as this entirely. If you despise the interior of the updated Defenders? I think they’re very cushy looking compared to mine, if that can put things into perspective on that front! The dcpu is a strange model of the bunch, after owning mine for 2 years now (me being the second owner with currently 80k miles on the clock), the first thing I did was remove a drabby unsightly canvas and the frames from the back, revealing it as the pickup it actually is. The benefits?? One glance over either shoulder, and you’ve got zero blindspots thanks to the short cab and the neat quarter turn windows. As for the gearbox, it’s crunchy and likes leaking so I generally like to give it some TLC by being ginger with gearing. The clutch pedal? That’s one every non-Defender owner notes first, at this stage, I find other clutch pedals in anything far too soft! Yep, my crewcab is the daily driver for work and weekend fun. It’s black, raised 2 inches, and turns heads no matter where it goes (between Defenders being less common here in Ireland, and dcpu’s even more so). The td5 is loud, and the garett turbo happily whistles into the cabin when the vent flaps are open to let in some cool smooth air (one thing that the later Defenders sorely lacked).

    All in all, I jumped from the extremes, having a 2007 Alfa 159 full of leather and luxury comforts, to try my hand at having a big clunky 4×4 so it can have all terrain tyres and some fancy extra lights. My verdict? I don’t think I can ever part with it. You only had the opportunity to be with a Defender for a week, but the more you own it, the more charm you’ll find in its ugly face and bizarre driving position. Though there’s one outstanding reason I still own my Defender (aside from the fact I absolutely love it), there’s an entire enthusiast community for them on a global scale, and I don’t think something like it can possibly exist in other brands of any vehicle the world over. Parts are still plentiful and relatively cheap, they’re wickedly easy to work on mechanically, and you’ll get a thumbs up or a flash of the lights from every other Defender or Series driver on the road. I know for sure, I won’t be getting rid of my very impractical, boxy, harsh driving crewcab any time soon, I’ve got the Land Rover drug in my veins.

    Only recently I found – after a camping road trip over a long weekend through the southern tips of Ireland – that it’s actually a perfect touring vehicle! For me at least. It didn’t pass too many diesel filling stations but it just felt happy on the rural routes and confident on a very slippy fine sand 4 mile stretch of beach. Once the tyres leave the road, you’re reminded why you are driving a Defender, truely. I shall leave it at that however, there are too many downsides to a Defender, but I find more good than bad in it overall.

    I’m 22, and a victim of the many modifications on offer!

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