The commercial version of the original Land Rover Defender has long been a fixture on many business fleets for its mix of practicality, off-road ability, ruggedness and – certainly in more recent years – image.
The new Defender was launched in last year, but conspicuous by its absence was a commercial version: this has now been remedied with the Defender Hard Top – reviving a nameplate first used by the brand in 1950.
New Defender Hard Top is available in two body styles: 110 and the short-wheelbase 90.
Both models feature a side-hinged rear tailgate with the 110 obviously offering greater practicality. It can carry 2,059 litres of cargo, compared to the 90’s 1,355 litres, and is also able to accommodate a standard Euro pallet.
The maximum load length measures up to 1,472mm for the 110 and 1,030mm for the 90. The load floor is completely flat with up to six integrated lashing points, heavy-duty rubber mats and a set of lockable storage areas providing with 58 litres of underfloor stowage.
The 110 has an additional underfloor area where the footwells of the Defender passenger model would normally be found, providing an extra 155 litres of space.
Payload for the 90 is 670kg, with the 110 providing 778kg to 800kg.
The load area is separated from the driver and passenger by a full height bulkhead, and this helps to preserve a car-like refinement as well as boosting safety and security.
Up front, there are a few signs that you are driving or riding in a commercial vehicle: there are plenty of hardwearing materials and rubber flooring is fitted, while both 90 and 110 can be specified with an optional jump seat, so three people can travel in the front.
But many of the features which make the passenger car so good remain. These include the latest version of Land Rover’s Pivi Pro infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the optional ClearSight Rear View camera provides an uninterrupted view out of the rear of the vehicle regardless of whether the load space is full.
Defender Hard Top is packed with the same driver safety technology as the passenger car and it also shares its road manners: it’s excellent to drive and its electronic air suspension provides an extraordinary level of comfort: it’s easy to forget that you are behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle and not a luxury SUV.
The 90 is available with a diesel engine with 200PS and 500Nm, while the 110 comes with either 250PS/570Nm or 300PS/65Nm engines. All are fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and can tow up to 3,500kg.
All models’ off-road ability, as would be expected from a Land Rover, is prodigious. The Defender Hard Top’s Terrain Response system uses sensor data from driver inputs and vehicle surroundings to continually vary axle torque and deliver it to where it’s needed.
On some tough and very muddy off-road routes it felt unstoppable. It also has the ability to wade through water up to 900mm deep.
There is, however, a price to pay for this quality and ability, and that is the fairly significant premium it costs over a typical commercial vehicle or pick-up.
The starting price for the 90 is £37,788 (exc VAT) and £43,012 for the 110, but it is bound to find plenty of buyers: no other commercial vehicle can offer the same upmarket feel, looks and image that the Defender Hard Top can.