Land Rover’s iconic Defender SUV—sold in more or less the same basic form since 1983, with a lineage traceable to the end of World War II—finally has a modern successor. And the just-revealed 2020 Defender is modern, ditching its predecessor’s body-on-frame construction, old-school solid axles, and available V-8 engine for a unibody, fully independent suspension, and smaller engines.
That’s all nifty, but we can’t get over one thing: that the Defender still offers classic-looking steel wheels. We wouldn’t buy a 4×4 like the Defender without these, simply because they are rad as hell. Luckily, Land Rover allows customers considerable leeway in optioning their new Defenders while keeping these usually base-model rims in place. How much leeway? By the time we were done with our build on Land Rover’s online configurator for the Defender, our example (steel wheels and all!) nearly came to $65,000. Here’s how we did it:
Model We’d Choose
- Defender 110 P300 AWD ($50,925)
Since we’re basing this entire piece around the Defender’s wheels, we should point out that the only way to get those sweet steelies is with the base P300 powertrain. Translated from Land Rover–speak, that means a 296-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. The spicier mild-hybrid V-6 engine (P400) kills the steel wheels in favor of less interesting aluminum rims. Boring!
With the engine choice sorted, Land Rover gives you the option of a First Edition trim and the X trim—we chose neither, again, in the service of keeping those excellent wheels from being replaced by fancier aluminum jobs. Ideally, we’d choose the two-door Defender 90, but it won’t be coming to the U.S. for a while. For now, every U.S.-bound Defender is the longer, four-door 110, so that’s what we had to stick with for this build. The upside, of course, to purchasing the lowest-grade Defender 110 trim is that it’s the least expensive—well, before you start adding options, that is.
Options We’d Pick
- Explorer Pack ($4286.55)
- Pangea Green ($710)
- Satin protective paint film ($3800)
- White contrast roof ($870)
- Front jump seat ($900)
- White-colored interior trim ($200)
- Off-Road Pack ($1345)
- Advanced Off-Road Pack ($735)
- Cold Climate Pack ($700)
- ClearSight digital rearview mirror ($450)
We must admit it’s rare to see new-car options listed in not-whole-number form, as is the Defender’s Explorer Pack, which runs not $4286, not $4287, but $4286.55. Okay, weirdo price aside, the Explorer kit is one of several themed “accessory packs” buyers can add to their ride, and the bundle includes front and rear mudflaps, a matte-black hood sticker, a spare tire cover, beefier fender flares, an intake snorkel, a roof rack, and an unusual external cargo box fitted over the passenger-side rear quarter window.
We chose the Explorer Pack mainly because it looks amazing; depending on your wants and needs, the Adventure Pack (similar look, but camping-inspired), Country Pack (less off-road-y), and Urban Pack (simply exterior trim) may be more to your liking. Anyway, we augmented the Explorer Packs’ outdoorsy gear with the retro-appearing Pangea Green paint ($710) and a white-painted roof ($870). For a dash of (pricey) practicality, we ordered up the $3800 whole-body matte-finish protective paint film. You’ll note the continued presence of the 18-inch, white-painted steel wheels on our spec. They’re free.
For the interior, we kept the rugged vibe going with only a single comfort-focused option: the $700 Cold Climate package, which includes a heated windshield, windshield washer jets, and steering wheel. Land Rover offers a variety of seating configurations, too. The baseline setup is two front seats with a three-across rear bench. A set of jump seats in the cargo area (bringing the seating capacity to seven) is available, as is the $900 front middle seat we selected (yes, that makes the Defender a six-seater with, essentially, three-across front seating!). We capped off the interior with two minor visual flourishes, the white-painted dashboard trim ($200) to match the white-painted roof, and a $450 rearview mirror that can be switched to a rear-facing digital camera feed.
To back up the Defender’s look, we gave it the full plethora of off-road options Land Rover offers to boost its capability in the rough stuff. The Off-Road Pack ($1345) adds off-road tires, an electronic rear differential, and a 110-volt AC outlet; we augmented it with the Advanced Off-Road Capability Pack ($735), which adds All Terrain Progress Control, a sort of low-speed traction/cruise control for slippery surfaces, and Terrain Response 2 feature with multiple drive modes for various terrain. That brings our grand total—remember, for a steel-wheeled, four-cylinder Defender—to $64,921.55. Steep? Absolutely. But damn does this Land Rover look the business, and we’ll remind you that the next-level trim (First Edition) starts just under $70,000, while the X runs over $80,000.