2020 Land Rover Defender - or why I don't trust sensors off road

Blind_Io

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Some call me a Luddite or old fashioned because my preference is for mechanical shift linkages, locking diffs, and articulation to get around off road. I inherently distrust air suspension, electronics, and sensors. The new Defender has been criticized by off road purists for the 18" rims (minimum, they go up from there), and reliance on electronics to get through technical terrain.

Not only do I think it's not as fun to let the computer do all the work, a vehicle that is so reliant on a swarm of sensors to know what it's doing can't be repaired in the field or limped home if something fails. If just one ride-height sensor goes on the Defender's fancy air suspension, the vehicle defaults to the lowest setting with no way to override it and you're potentially deep in the bush with no ground clearance to get home. Not good for a company that has a poor track record with electronics.

The Fast Lane Truck bought a brand new Defender and.... let's just say it's not gone well.


Then this:


It sounds like all the warnings from the 4WD community are coming true. The large wheels and short sidewalls are a problem for flotation and traction while making the tires more prone to puncture, the electronics are questionable at best, and I suspect we see air suspension failures shortly after these vehicles get out of warranty (probably sooner if Land Rover/Range Rover's history is anything to go by). Andrew St. Pierre White - a long time lover of the Defender and Land Rover, as well as being an Overlanding/Off Road expert expressed his doubts about it when it was unveiled and so far he's been right. I guess time will tell.

The reliance on electronics rather than mechanical traction and suspension is demonstrated well here:


"It has the flex of an ironing board"
 
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Perc

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I guess JLR never intended for this thing to sell to the same customer base that bought the old Defender. I would totally have one, and I would never have considered the old one since I don’t have any use for that kind of vehicle.

I totally get your point and I can understand that offroaders and Defender fans are feeling left out. I know a guy that owns a late model (classic) Defender and a supercharged Range Rover and daily drives both of them. I can’t imagine how much of a fan you have to be to even consider commuting to work in a diesel Defender when there’s a 500+ hp luxury SUV on the driveway.
 

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How have Grand Cherokees with air suspension fared in the reliability area? I can only attest to the one my company had, boss had a 2012 Overland Summit that we ran until low 200,000mi, worst was a rock hitting the front radar sensor for cruise control and breaking it at highway speeds. There was of course moon roof water leaks causing water between the battery tray under the passenger seat, that was nice to hear when turning, it was like a half filled fish tank.
 

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I have been following TFL's defender sage with great interest, as I hoped that the Defender would turn out well as an off-roader all things considered. It seems rather that they decided to place it on the same place as the old Freelander would be on the lineup. I am curious to see how it works for them as it ages, as they seem to have been surprisingly fortunate with their LR3 and Discovery.
 

Blind_Io

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To me it's more of a differently shaped Discovery. It fills the same niche as the Discovery, but with greater payload and towing. If they killed the Discovery and introduced the Defender with a Discovery badge, no one would have blinked an eye. I don't know why they didn't take the opportunity to make a real off road weapon, they have more than enough vehicles like the Discovery, they don't need another one.

How have Grand Cherokees with air suspension fared in the reliability area? I can only attest to the one my company had, boss had a 2012 Overland Summit that we ran until low 200,000mi, worst was a rock hitting the front radar sensor for cruise control and breaking it at highway speeds. There was of course moon roof water leaks causing water between the battery tray under the passenger seat, that was nice to hear when turning, it was like a half filled fish tank.
There are lots of threads in owners forums about faulty Cherokee air suspensions, and a number of conversion kits to delete it and install normal springs. Air suspension is a horrible idea for off road durability. It's great for load carrying and comfort, but they can't articulate and have lots of possible failure points from ride height sensors, to valving, pneumatic lines, compressors, and switch gear. You have to try pretty damn hard to break a spring, it's been done, but it isn't easy - and even if you do manage to crack a spring, you can still limp home or effect a field repair.
 
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jack_christie

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I know of someone with a new Evoke, after a couple of failed attempts to fix engine mgt/cat, they left back to dealer and don't want it back.
 

Matt2000

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I consider it as basically what the Discovery should be, I think it even looks more like a Discovery minus the stepped roof. I wouldn't buy one though, I might accept one for free. I've heard lots of issues with modern Land Rovers, a friend got a Discovery sport and had to constantly take it back to the dealer before rejecting it and getting another. I don't think that was quite right either.
 

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JLR unfortunately never did quite get the hang of electronics. On the evidence of this, they have actually gotten worse. At least DeMuro's RR had loads of miles before it ate 20 grand's worth of repairs in six years.

EDIT: corrected dates.
 
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GRtak

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@Blind_Io , why did you expect this to be a hardcore offroader? This is a pavement pounder that is capable when off-road. This is the suburban family run about that makes mom feel secure in bed weather, and dad like he can get through that big mud puddle if he wants to play. The bonus is that it will be soft and comfy day to day.

This reminds me of all the cheap small sports cars that manufacturers receive rave reviews for, then can't sell enough of them to keep producing them. Hard core off-road enthusiasts are far and few between. A much smaller number than those that want a cheap sports car.
 

gaasc

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Indeed it was. DeMuro kinda screwed a good thing as no sooner did CarMax take note of the series that they began taking a closer look at what cars they covered at which price points. A third of the way in, the price for an extended warranty on Range Rovers increased almost threefold. I unfortunately cannot find the source but afterward still CarMax just made it so certain cars simply cannot be purchased with extended warranties. If memory serves me right, all of the cars on the list linked in the article on this paragraph were barred from it or at the very list, the prices increased accordingly.

@GRtak , it unfortunately carries the Defender name, and that has connotations of off-roading excellence extending more than than 60 years. Had they called it anything else this thread would likely not exist.

I agree that off road enthusiasts are few and far between, which is why JLR has six vehicles in LR's roster alone to cater to them at a variety of price points. Enough, one supposes, to continue creating niche vehicles much in the same way Toyota sells 100,000 camries allowing them to offset the GT86. As for the Hardcore Off-Road enthusiasts, they seem to continue purchasing Wranglers, 4Runners, Armadas and G-Classes (those last two in lesser numbers, I agree) in enough quantities so as to make them viable. It could be argued that the niche gets crowded with the addition of one more vehicle, but it seems to be holding out enough to lament the conversion of the Defender into yet another unreliable mall crawler.

On an unrelated note, this little rant of mine has caused me to think about the new frontier, and whether that would probably mean the return of the Nissan xTerra (a similar vehicle on select markets is called Terra) to the US market. Especially since the Pathfinder has rather left that market on the current generation.
 

Blind_Io

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@Blind_Io , why did you expect this to be a hardcore offroader? This is a pavement pounder that is capable when off-road. This is the suburban family run about that makes mom feel secure in bed weather, and dad like he can get through that big mud puddle if he wants to play. The bonus is that it will be soft and comfy day to day.

This reminds me of all the cheap small sports cars that manufacturers receive rave reviews for, then can't sell enough of them to keep producing them. Hard core off-road enthusiasts are far and few between. A much smaller number than those that want a cheap sports car.
Well, the Defender name for one thing, and Land Rover pumping it as a replacement for the old model.
 

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This has happened before, sadly. The Kia Sorento also used to also be a body-on-frame truck with a solid rear axle and a low range gearbox. While not nearly as basic as the Defender, I remember the first gen Sorento for its dashboard made from the cheapest plastic trees you could source anywhere in Korea, and the automatic climate control that beeped like a cheap microwave when you prodded any of the buttons. Now it's a comfortable crossover but I bet a lot of horse hobbyists are missing the old one.
 

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An update:


He seems to imply that he has now gotten preferential treatment from JLR to get the car fixed quickly, but that even that was unsuccessful and the new management unit needs to be shipped form the UK. It also seems they have a second check engine light on the vehicle. The footage of it shows 249 miles on the odometer.
 

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I'm kinda digging the industrial feel and utility of it, but at 50k for a base model with more problems than Jay-Z, I'm gonna pass on it...
 

Blind_Io

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The base model Discovery is the same price as a fully loaded 4-Door Bronco Badlands with the 35" tires and locked front and rear.
 

captain_70s

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Land Rovers have always been furiously overpriced, but the Defender filled a very specific niche and I suspect it didn't sell in massive numbers. I only ever see them in use by local councils or farmers in the far north. Even then a Hilux does 98% of what your average punter would want of a Defender without feeling a million years old.

The market for soft roaders is far larger and I imagine LR are planning to play off their "it's vaguely replanted to Range Rover" while marketing it as a lifestyle vehicle. It's basically a Freelander.
 

Blind_Io

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If TFL is still looking for a name, I nominate De-Failure.
 

Matt2000

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That was pretty shocking. I gave up hope on JLR a few years ago, this just adds to it. It baffles me that people still want to buy these things.

I'll be interested when they make the EV version, maybe without an engine they can manage to not fuck it up but I'm sure they will find a way. Still don't think I'd actually want to buy one, I'll stick with my Disco. I honestly don't know what I'd buy if I wanted a new off roader.
 
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