Tracing its roots right back to the original 1948 Land Rover concept, the new Land Rover Defender has been given a new engine that meets stringent Euro 5 emissions standards and a significant overhaul to improve refinement. This overhaul kept the Defender in the showrooms until at least 2015.

Outside, you can tell the new Defender from the old only by the raised bonnet line (not to give it a macho power bulge, but simply to clear the engine) and, sadly, the deletion of the rectangular air vents beneath the windscreen.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Land Rover says the stereo has been improved. Hard to imagine how bad it was before.

Replacing the old Transit-sourced 2.4-litre diesel is a new 2.2-litre unit, which gets a single variable-vane turbocharger and a new Continental high-pressure (1800 bar) fuel injection system. The engine gets updated fluid seals and a robust single-mass flywheel. (Most modern road cars use dual-mass flywheels for refinement, but these can be fragile.) Despite all this, the power and torque of the new unit are identical to the outgoing engine’s.

A bespoke anti-pollution system was also designed for the Defender. The catalyst and particulate filter are mounted close together and the whole assembly is squeezed into the engine bay, ensuring that the expensive and vulnerable equipment is not destroyed by serious off-roading.

The upshot of the re-engineering is that “virtually every component in the engine bay has been re-located,”, says Land Rover. The 2012 Defender also gets a significantly upgraded NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) kit, including a new acoustic hood for the engine, more efficient sound-deadening and improved seals.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Sports SUVs

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Land Rover range

Driven this week

  • 2017 Range Rover Velar
    First Drive
    23 July 2017
    The Range Rover Velar is the most road-biased car Land Rover has made. So does it still feel like a proper part of the family?
  • Seat Ibiza
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    A model upon which Seat has staked its future, the new Ibiza must now deliver
  • Honda Clarity FCV
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    Honda’s fuel cell flagship reaches its second generation, but is the world ready?
  • Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta 2017 review
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    A UK drive in Nissan’s crucial crossover shows an update has not cost it any of that which makes it sell so well
  • Seat Ibiza 1.0 MPI
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    The Seat Ibiza has wowed in other iterations, but how will the entry-level 1.0-litre MPI version stack up in the UK? We've been to north Wales to find out