Land Rover Defender 90 XS: Engine / Performance



Intro / Mods



Practicality / Spec Engine / Performance Driving / NVH

Faults / Injuries

    Options / Verdict  

I do feel like I should change the title to abbreviate “performance” for this car,  but that doesn’t mean the Defender isn’t fun to drive.

The original 2.4-litre ‘Puma’ engine from Ford back in 2007 had been downsized to 2.2-litres for 2012, yet it produces the same power and torque figures as before.  It uses a variable-vane turbo and, to keep things robust, a single-mass flywheel.

The main reason for this downsize was for emissions purposes along with the fitment of a DPF. With it fitted as close to the engine as possible, this means it can both warm up sooner and remain protected during off-roading.

Defender engine

I can safely say that 122bhp has never felt so insignificant in a car before, but I will admit that the 266lb ft of torque is a joy. The engine performs adequately most of the time, but you at least sense that it is trying.   Nothing happens quickly, but the rate of pick up is actually quite pleasing, with the torque available very low down to get this two-tonne beast rolling – I can see why it’s a hit with people who tow.

Simply cruising at low speeds in a higher gear isn’t a problem at all; you can simply sit in fifth / sixth gear on roads with speed bumps without hesitation while you decline and regain your speed back to 30mph .

The torque is very short lived though; there isn’t much point revving far beyond 3000rpm as by then, torque rate drops as quickly as the fuel needle – plus, the engine will definitely be kicking and screaming by then.

The times when I’ve been left desperately wanting are while joining motorways on the slip roads. You’ll struggle to gain enough speed by the time you join (try 50mph+ and you’ll be doing well), and there have been many a time when you either have to brake to get back behind a lorry, or the people behind who’d let you out have to brake as well after misjudging the rate of speed you’re actually capable of!

Slow car

Top speed is limited to a death-defying 90mph – and that’s already more than it used to be (83-85mph?). I suspect this could mainly be down to those tyres and the great aerodynamics. That said, I never went near 90mph anyway as the car just didn’t feel that comfortable above 75mph. The engine did loosen up and become more content with it as time went by, but with what felt like a combination of a tight engine and wind resistance, 65mph – 70mph was the optimum cruising speed.

The days of overtaking have pretty much diminished too; you’d have to be seriously slow for one to overtake you, and the very few times it happened was usually because someone was in trouble and grinding to a halt with their hazards on. Or cycling.  No amount of downshifts or planning will result in any swift manoeuvres or evasive actions.

I am glad to have six gears but since you start in second-gear most of the time, it technically works out to still be a five speeder – with a super-short first acting like a crawler gear, and second acting as a dog-legged first.

Defender Gear

I do wish it had a V8 under the bonnet though. Speaking to a Land Rover engineer years ago, his particular example mated to an autobox would scare supercar owners off the line. From the one or two rare times he’d be beside a Porsche / Ferrari, the four-wheel traction and low-down torque available would leave them trailing at the lights for a good…. few yards.

But just that was enough! Just to see those drivers gawping at such a knackered-looking vehicle wondering how it could do such a thing was priceless.

A standard V8 would be fine, but we can dream of one of these Twisted Defender’s with an LS3 V8 😀

V-Power? In a thing like this?

Filling up with super-juice V-Power hasn’t made any miracles but it does seem more lively and responsive, especially in the cold. With previous cars it was usually a more psychological feeling, but with the Defender there’s enough of an incremental mark-up in engine response for you to notice – more so once you’d switch back to Supermarket fuel.

The mpg figure increased by a couple of miles too (up to 26mpg!),  but that could also have been a coincidental point of the engine loosening up at 1,200 miles.

The mpg in general though has been the main bugbear, with ~60 mile range for every quarter of a tank. After the first month, 900 miles and 23mpg; it appeared that the Defender’s natural habitat was the petrol station. It’s certainly not the thirstiest car in the world, but it’s noticeably the thirstiest we’ve owned! It says something about progress when you can look at a Range Rover Sport for aspirational figures.

Defender MPGThat said, I have been lucky throughout since diesel prices had begun sliding during ownership, which took off the sting!

There has been a flip side too; becoming a regular filler of V-Power at my local Shell station has meant that I rack up a shed load more points – I never knew you could even get an £8 off voucher?!
More ashamedly, their Lego sets have also helped contribute to my collection too….

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: 15.8 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: Engine / Performance

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