Land Rover Defender 90 XS: Practicality / Spec



Intro / Mods



Practicality / Spec Engine / Performance Driving / NVH

Faults / Injuries

    Options / Verdict  


This might be a 2015MY Defender, but it doesn’t take long to remind you how old-school this is.  There are plenty of quirks so bear with us….
For starters, the modern keyfob remote was a definite surprise and is probably the most modern aspect of the whole package.

LR Defender Key

Up front…

Just the clunk of the door opening and having to clamber into the seat is a novelty in itself. While you step up into a Discovery or Range Rover Sport, you have to heave yourself up into a Defender.LR Defender entry

The aluminium doors are very light although, considering the amount of air space available, the pressure inside means you really have to slam the door shut. If both doors are open it’s a bit of a race to see which side can shut theirs first! If you lose, you’re punished with a huge gust of wind.

Once you’re in, you realise that it’s not quite as roomy as the larger exterior dimensions might suggest. The misaligned driving position means the seat is slightly skewed to the left of the steering wheel, and even though you feel like you’re leaning left into the centre, your right arm is still restricted of any room…

The doorcards are too thin to rest your elbow on them and while it’s been too cold to drive with the window open through winter, the syndrome of “Defender Elbow” gladly hasn’t been a big issue – until you’re reminded of it that is, although most of the time you’re too actively involved in driving the thing to notice anyway.

There’s enough headroom up front and as you have the benefit of being perched so high, your legs are comfortably perpendicular to the floor.

The half-leather seats on XS models are comfortable for moderate journeys, but a bit too soft for longer ones.

LR Defender seats

The heated seats don’t take too long to work, but where have the carpets gone? Even my cousins TD5 XS has carpets?! They’re now an optional extra, but seeing as some owners do want to hose out the interior completely, you can understand how this would be more practical for some.

Big windows mean a decent view all-round, although the tiny and upright front windscreen means it’s letterbox-viewing from here. That vertical screen is a bit of a bug magnet too; a bug the size of a grape once kamikazed onto here once and the wipers just smeared so much of it I turned up to work looking like we’d completed a rally stage.

The large sun visors cut out a fair chunk of view too (the Evoque’s look tiny and useless in comparison), and the tiny wipers with their comically noisy motors are pretty useless (but at least they don’t judder!).

The upright rear windscreen pretty much mirrors everything from the front at night – the amount of ghosting is unbelievable. Whether it’s from the headunit buttons, or if an oncoming car drives towards you and passes by, the reflection of their headlights in that tiny rear-view mirror will make you think a car’s overtaking!

LR Defender Rear view mirror

I never found out why Land Rover left the rear windscreen untinted (of all windows!) even if  you’d selected to have the rear windows done. Since we tinted the windows ourselves, we did find that it did help reduce this glare by an appreciable fraction, even if it didn’t fully eradicate the issue.

The dash is pretty sturdy but the backlighting is patchy since the headlamp levelling display is weak already.

IMG_3612 copy

Luckily the driver’s dials are much brighter and clearer, although it’s quite amusing how digital readouts can be so much newer than the car itself when two out the three screens switched off.

LR Defender driver dialsThe buttons on the dash may have had a ‘tidy up’ but it’s still a mess in here. None of the driver’s functions are grouped in any one place:

Driver controls copy

The handbrake is buried in the footwell (See Driving / NVH) and the ignition is on the left side of the steering column and rotates towards you – as if someone literally just mounted this as an afterthought. You can’t turn the ignition barrel when the headlamp switch is in the ‘On’ position too, but that does work as a coincidental safety feature as you won’t forget to switch them off.

LR Defender ignition

The column stalks date back to the 80’s, and you learn to half-press the rear wiper buttons for your own intermittent setting.

The lidded centre cubby box is huge and pretty much fits everything that would normally go in the glovebox. And that’s just as well, as a glovebox is exactly what’s missing – never mind not having airbags, you get a big grab-handle and a tray instead.
The large cupholders in front neatly integrate the handles too for when you’re out farming with a brew…

LR Defender Cupholder
What’s more comforting: Airbags? or both your mugs of tea?

In fact, unless you start resorting to lifting up the front chairs, there is a distinct lack of storage. You pretty much just get trays stretching the width of the dash and a token luggage net on the rear door.

Ventilation controls: the Heater setting pretty much ranges from :

‘H—————–o———————-t > Warm > Cold.’ 

LR Defender Climate

Fan speed ‘1’ is usually powerful enough, but the temperature is a massive bitch to regulate. Because you’re sat so high up, all the heat gradually rises to your head and occasionally, you’ll suddenly be driving in a sauna. You then crank up the fan, switch to cold, curse the absence of side vents, open the windows, cool down and then start the warming up process all over again.

For 2015, the Alpine head unit has been updated (green Source button now) and the fitment of ESP is now standard.

We love that the Alpine headunit is pretty much the sole item that’s bringing the interior into the 21st century. Bluetooth and a USB port is all you need as it turns out.

LR Defend mic
No need to hide the mic discreetly, just simply glue it to the steering column.

In conjunction with the basics of the Cold Climate Pack (heated seats, and windscreen), air-con and the Convenience Pack (leccy windows and remote central locking) that come as standard on XS, we don’t need anything else!

Standard 4 x 4” speakers are a bit of a joke but combined with the + 2 tweeters, they’re capable of cutting through road noise – just don’t expect any punch. Contemplated with a pair of upgrades but how powerful can 4” speakers be? I was graced with a pair of 6”’s but they wont fit without a bit of hacking or adapters.

Electric seats, or gadgets that automatically half-function haven’t been missed. The only thing I do miss is a trip computer which would save digging out my GCSE math’s for calculating mpg. If I’m reaching 25mpg it’s probably best I don’t depress myself each time though.

The only other thing I miss is an internal adjust for the wing mirrors. No other car requires you to physically wrestle with them in order to adjust them. Defrosting the car hasn’t been too much of an issue with the heated screens – and despite having loads of windows, they’re at least square-shaped for the scraper – but the wing mirrors are a pain in the arse. Enough times have I forgotten and then been blind for the first few miles of my journey. Who needs mirrors for this though?

Back-seat driving…

The transition to those front-facing rear seats for safety regulations have been partly successful. Sitting sideways pre-2007 was undoubtedly more fun and allowed room for four rear passengers rather than two, but at least these ones are now full-sized with an easy- folding mechanism.

LR Defender rear seatThey are theoretically better than they actually are though.
They don’t fully remove or position themselves away onto the side when folded up, and intrude quite a lot into the centre space.

LR Defender rear seats fold

They don’t fold down clear of the side panels either and so when you’re sat on them, your outer leg is either pushed against the side panel, or you twist and sit facing slightly inwards.

IMG_4380 copy

The tubular brace bar behind the front seats reduces the amount of legroom available too and as you’re sat high on top of a bracket, you surprisingly don’t have that much headroom either.

The view out front is good though as you see above your front passengers, but your side view is … well, you either have it or you don’t.

If you’re small enough – you have the sliding windows to look out of. If you’re tall enough you get the sky lights.

And if you’re in between? Well, you get this….

Defender rear passenger view

There have been some perks though.  Admittedly, it has been entertaining seeing people get stuck while trying to exit the back seats when they’re both in place and upright. The deceptively large centre gap in between means they normally get wedged by the hips.

What’s even better is watching people treat the 90 like a regular three-door to get to the back seats;  they’ll approach the front passenger seat thinking it will fold forward and end up just standing there, confused with the absence of seat latches.

It’s been a boon having their own door, but only until they realise it!


So, the packaging is poor but the rear cabin has still proved pretty useful.  I’ve had no other car where the brochure provides dimensions for the boot….

LR Defender Brochure boot
Defender 90 Boot Capacity

…but still, the 90 was still capable at being a removal van to lug for a Futon…

They said to pimp out the Defender with a Futon. They didn't mention building it though, so this is how it'll stay.
They said to pimp out the Defender with a Futon. They didn’t mention building it though, so this is how it’ll stay.

…with the dash  sturdy enough to act as a support for one end.

Spec: 90 XS County Station Wagon 2015MY 
Engine: 2.2 TDCI Diesel, 122bhp, 266lb ft 
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual 
Mpg: Official: 27.3mpg Achieved: 23 - 26mpg 
Performance: 0-62mph: 15.5 Secs, 90mph (Ltd) 
Colour: Montalcino Red 
Running Period: Winter 2014 – Summer 2015, 6100 Miles 
Options: Tow ball + electrics

6 thoughts on “Land Rover Defender 90 XS: Practicality / Spec

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