From £40,4008
Defender could be best served with this punchy diesel straight six, but it comes at a price

What is it?

Torque is cheap, or so they say. At least, I think that’s what they’re saying. Anyway, it’s not true in the case of the Land Rover Defender’s new Ingenium D300 six-cylinder diesel engine, which puts out a healthy 479lb ft of the stuff, but asks for at least £61,955 of your hard-earned in return.

For that money, you get a 3.0-litre motor that kicks out 296bhp, making it the most powerful diesel engine in the Defender line-up. There's a loopy supercharged V8 on the way, which brings roughly a 40% increase in both potency and price, which knocks this (and the more potent P400 petrol unit) out of the park, but the performance stats are still promising here. We’ve tried the Ingenium diesel six, which replaces the Defender’s short-lived four-cylinder diesel options, in mid-rung 250 guise already and been impressed by its accessible power delivery and punchiness.

That was in the shorter-wheelbase Defender 90, but now it’s time to find out how the most powerful version of this engine copes with the larger 110. 

Our SE-trim test car put on quite a show with its LED headlights, keyless entry, 12-way electrically adjustable front seats, top-link Meridian sound system and grained leather seats, and - much to the delight of passengers and driver alike - also got Land Rover’s much-acclaimed digital rear-view mirror and Ground View transparent bonnet trickery. 

What's it like?

So, one of the most fashionable cars currently available, fitted with the least fashionable powerplant conceivable? Nearly: hybridisation of the very mildest kind is a feature and helps to kick the D300’s MPG and CO2 figures onto the edge of the playing field. This being a diesel, of course, it sips most frugally at a cruise (we saw 36mpg over the course of a 50-mile motorway journey) and is much thirstier in town. CO2 emissions, meanwhile, are put at (whisper it) 230-249g/km, landing this in the top VED and benefit in kind brackets. 

Many see the Defender - contrary to what its badging or marketing may suggest - as the unofficial successor to the much-lauded and visually comparable Discovery 3 and 4, and that notion is harder to ignore here than in any other variant of Land Rover’s reborn 4x4. If you’ve ever experienced the older cars’ 2.7- or 3.0-litre turbo V6, you’ll no doubt detect a hint of that familiar hum at idle, followed by a roar under heavy load that serves as suitable accompaniment for the sense of sheer brute force emanating from the front end.  

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To compare this new Ingenium engine’s performance to the aforementioned Ford-derived powerplant would be to do it quite an injustice. To accelerate so quickly and so effortlessly in a car of this size will always feel novel (the 0-62mph sprint, Land Rover says, can be cracked in 7.0sec - quicker than its four- and six-cylinder petrol equivalents), and for such vast quantities of torque to be accessible throughout the rev range - and at all legal speeds - will be a boon in all driving situations. 

Lorry ahead lumbering along at 55mph in the middle lane? Kick down, count to five and you’re around. Sharp, 40deg incline impeding access to the quarry you need to enter? Similar story, lower speeds. Whether or not you think the Defender is deserving of its rugged styling or hallowed moniker, there’s no disputing the all-round utility and unerring capability of a big-capacity oil-burner sending its reserves to both axles. There is, admittedly, a slightly delayed response when you stab the throttle, which can be a teeth-clencher on busy roundabouts and the like, but you’ll make up any lost ground quickly once the six-shooter wakes up. 

Happily, although it’s a good deal more audible than its petrol range-mates, it’s nowhere near as grumbly as the old Defender’s diesel motors and, once up to speed, settles quietly into the background. It also gets along like a house on fire with Land Rover’s intuitively set up eight-speed automatic gearbox, which serves up cogs quickly and with impeccable timing once under way. 

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Dynamically, the D300 largely replicates the impressive refinement we’ve experienced in other Defender models. Adjustable air suspension is standard fitment on SE-grade Defenders, and while that’s good news for straight-line smoothness and ease of loading, it can’t fully mitigate the Defender’s innate propensity to wallow and roll. You’ll quickly learn to take country roads at a leisurely pace - and won’t feel hard done by, this not being an Alpine A110 - but the squat-and-shoot straight-line acceleration can become a bit nauseating if not handled in moderation. 

Should I buy one?

As tested, this Defender D300 wanted a gasp-inducing £68,295, which is a fantastic bit of ammo for this revived SUV’s most ardent critics. For sure, that’s a lot of cash. Then add to that the hefty tax bill and not overly impressive running costs and this becomes a car that’s quite hard to objectively recommend over more cleanly propelled variants. 

But then, there’s a silly-power V8 on the way, costing more than £100,000 in 110 guise and no doubt keen to visit the fuel station much more often. If you like the look of that, but don’t do a lot of street racing in your family-hauling 4x4, there’s a punchy performer here that, in the real world, won’t come up too far short in a straight line but will slot more effectively into daily life.

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Comments
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eseaton 28 May 2021
'Fashionable'? Christ...
nimmler 28 May 2021

Typical pro JLR bias from autocar, If this had an Isuzu badge you would rip it to shreds for being mediocre and overpriced . This car is in no mans land in terms of marketability, its too expensive to be a raw utilitarian car like its predecessor and it does not have the prestige and reliability of its competitors Who will buy these? no way the Moscow status symbol G-Class diesel buyers will look at this. Highly unlikely the UN/NGO and middle east buyers will choose this over the bullet proof Toyota Landcruiser. No one in the USA will buy this as they already avoid unreliable JLR products like the plague So the only people who buy these are tax dodging rich English farmers who run it off red diesel and write the value off as a business expense? Long story short, I cannot see this car as being a big seller for in the red JLR

The Apprentice 28 May 2021
Technically there is nothing ground-breaking about this vehicle, it is what it is, very competent in general no doubt.

Rather than reviewing the car which is largely predictable - a review of a purchaser would be more interesting.

Obviously the vehicle is compromised some what by cost, emissions (tax?) and fuel economy. So finding real life buyers and interviewing about their expectations, how the vehicle specifically meets their needs despite its issues, what they will do with it and so on would be genuinely fascinating.