Land Rover 90


I’ve been driving Land Rovers since way before it was actually legal for me to do so. I’ve towed trailers all over the North West with them, I’ve driven to parties in them, I’ve driven to work and then worked out of them back of them, I’ve done the weekly shop in them. And long before I could even reach the pedals in them, I’ve spent what must account for months of my life sat in the middle seat of the front row in them. I crashed on once too – but that’s a different story. All were diesel powered, and all were long wheelbase, either 108 or 127 inch. Short wheelbase Land Rovers never really got a look-in.

     When Land Rover launched their new Defender it was perhaps inevitable that the 90, the short wheelbase version, was the one that captured the public’s attention. After all, the original 1948 Land Rover had short wheelbase - just 80 inches - and it’s those proportions, the short overhangs, the two (rather than four) doors, and the boxy, near cubic dimensions, that define the legendary Land Rover look. 

      Of course despite the motor show stand car of recent years, come launch time Land Rover’s initial press fleet was made-up exclusively of 110s. Was that a deliberate decision to further extend everyone’s desire to drive the 90, another marketing ploy? We ask. Who knows? Nevertheless, like so many other fellow motoring scribes, I too was trying get behind the wheel of both just as soon as I could. I drove the 110 in mid-August last year and fell for its charms almost instantly. Such was the demand for the 90 it’s taken very nearly another twelve months before the keys to one were directed may way.

     “This engine and spec is what we class as more of an on-road Defender” read the Land Rover PR lady’s email, “although it does still have all the capabilities of going off-road”. That perhaps goes some way to explaining why went it arrived, “my” 90 had been specced with a near-white Acorn Windsor leather seats, and Ebony coloured interior (a no cost option). The carpets where pretty deep-pile too.

   Carpet, in a Land Rover?  Covering either the seats or the shag-pile in a layer of sticky mud, to me at least, would’ve felt highly disrespectful. Clearly the days of hosing out your Land Rover have long gone.

     So too, fortunately have the days of being deafened by a Land Rover’s engine, transmission, and road noise. Where once an old Landy would, bang and crash over almost everything in its path, it now glides, the independent suspension - in this case air (coil springs are available too) smoothing out all but the worst of imperfections. At velocities, Defenders of old could only imagine you can happily chat to your passengers without having to shout above the ensuing mechanical din, and you can happily listen to the digital radio (an optional Meridian system no less) rather than just the gearbox – which incidentally is now a very smooth 8-speed automatic. The new Defender’s cabin is quieter, better equipped, and better insulated than that of many-a-similarly-priced car.

     But… In the 90, that cabin – as lovely as it is a place to be – feels as if far it’s smaller than it should be. Maybe that’s because the 90 I was sent came fitted with the front row jump seat; it’s awkwardly high (if you’re short like me) when folded, and you keep banging your left elbow on it when you steer. Fold it out so it becomes very much the centre perch, and you can’t see anything but its head restraint in the rear-view mirror.

    Access to the rear seats, although pretty commodious once back there, requires both patience – it takes an age for the electrically operated front seats to motor forward – and the agility of an accomplished climber. And the boot-space? Well, it’s hopeless. The rear seats don’t fold flat, and there’s a huge aluminium profile that creates quite the lip in the load-space floor.

    I know you can tow a trailer of virtually any size you want behind the 90 – I expect, or at least hope, that many owners will do just that – but removing 435mm from between the axle centres means that inside the 90 you have to decide whether you want carry people or cargo. It’s nigh-on impossible to do both. That, for me is the deciding factor.

   I genuinely like the 90, it’s a wonderful thing just to jump in and drive; you sit high, it’ll go anywhere you point it and over anything you point it at, and it looks good whether you park it in town or on top of a mountain. I’d happily drive it all-day long (23 mpg notwithstanding); it feels tough, it feels safe. However, it feels impractical. Moreover, in its most basic spec, the 90 is nearly as heavy, and only £1200 cheaper, than the most basic 110 you can buy.

    I know the short wheelbase Land Rover is the icon, the one everybody wants, but given the choice, I’d choose the 110 every time.




Land Rover Defender 110 D240 S

Engine: 1,997cc, 4 Cyl, Ingenium twin-turbo, Petrol.

Transmission: 8-speed. Automatic. Four Wheel Drive – with Terrain Response and selectable low range

Power: 300 bhp @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 295 lbft @ 1,500 – 4,000 rpm

0-62 Mph: 6.7 sec

Max Speed: 119 mph

MPG: 24.6 – 22.7 (WLTP combined).

CO2: 259-281 g/km (WLTP combined).

Price: from £55,755 (as drive £59,220)  


Many thanks to Lindsey at Land Rover UK PR.



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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