It’s not easy to follow in the footsteps of a legend and Land Rover has not attempted to produce an identical replica of its much-loved old Defender Hard Top with the new model. The latest version came to market just before Christmas 2020.

There was a gap of almost five years between the withdrawal of the original Defender and the launch of the new one but, if anything, this served to illuminate the glow of nostalgia engulfing the rugged old warhorse. Perhaps wisely, Land Rover has left it sitting on a pedestal.

In smoothing out its rough edges and softening its sharp corners, Land Rover has moved the new Defender Hard Top closer to its sibling, the brand’s Discovery Commercial.

It is available in 90 and 110 versions, with 1.4m3 and 2.1m3 of load space and 670kg and 800kg payloads respectively. 

Both models come with a fixed full-height partition to separate occupants from the load area. The partition comes with four hanging hooks on the load bay side and two cabin-side stowage nets on the 110 for smaller items. The full-width load floor is flat, with six integrated lashing points and heavy-duty rubber mats. There’s a 58l underfloor stowage area at the rear of both models, while the 110 also gets a cleverly-designed 155l area, where the rear footwells would be on the passenger-carrying variant. 

Access to the load area is via a side-hinged rear tailgate, and also, on the larger 110, via the rear side doors. As is typical with car-derived vans, this does not provide the easiest of loading routes. 

All models are all-wheel drive and come with eight-speed automatic transmission, as well as a twin-speed transfer box. 

The 90 is powered by a 200hp diesel engine while the 110 gets either a 249hp or 300hp diesel. All are equipped with mild hybrid systems, and successfully meet the RDE2 and Euro 6d-Final standards.

Neither model comes cheap but due to the bigger load-lugging capacity, wider choice of engines and higher specifications, we reckon it’s worth pushing the boat out and going for the 110, which comes in Defender, S, SE and HSE trims as opposed to the 90, which is confined to entry-level Defender only. Land Rover says small businesses and owner-drivers make up 70% of Hard Top Defender customers with large corporate fleets accounting for 30% of sales. 

Driven here is the 110 in the S grade but on top of the already lavish specification level (especially for an LCV), it came with extras such as an electrically deployable tow bar (£904, all prices exclude VAT), ClearSight interior rear view mirror (£420) and electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking (£816), which improves handling through adjusting the distribution of engine torque between the four wheels when cornering. We were less impressed by the Front Jump Seat (£652), which is squashed between the driver’s and outlying passenger’s seats but provides little legroom for anyone to sit on, although the interior ceiling above is cut out to provide sufficient headroom. When not in use it folds down into an intrusively bulky central console with a couple of cup holders and USB ports installed.

On the road the 110 performs with verve and refinement – the 3.0l 250hp engine combines sweetly with the slick auto transmission and sharp steering.

Fans of the old Defender will be pleased to know the new version continues its tradition of impeccable off-road performance. An excellent off-road forward facing camera allows the driver to see over the brow of a hill before making a steep descent. In addition to this, digital controls make it simple to choose the best settings for the conditions from the terrain response system.

The Defender Hard Top also boasts a wading depth of 900m, which beats every pick-up on the market, and a towing capacity of 3,500kg.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top 110 D250

Price (ex VAT): £41,968

Price range (ex VAT): £35,820-£47,696

Warranty: 3yrs/unltd mls

Service intervals: 21,000mls

Load length: 1,472mm

Load width (min/max): 1,160mm/1,423mm

Load bay height: 937mm

Gross payload: 800kg

Load volume: 2.1m3

Engine size/power: 2,996cc/250hp

Combined fuel economy: 29.5mpg

CO2: 251g/km