What is it?
Land Rover expects around a quarter of all new Defender sales to be of this commercial Hard Top variant, which revives a nameplate first used by the brand in 1950. While regular Defender buyers favour the 110, the short-wheelbase 90 is expected to account for the bulk of Hard Top orders, in part because it has few rivals as a compact van with genuine off-road ability.
The changes to turn the Defender from passenger to commercial vehicle (CV) extend far beyond stripping out the rear seats. A reinforced bulkhead separates the cabin from the storage area, which is finished in durable materials with hooks and other loading aids. The 90 version offers 1355 litres of capacity with the 110 able to accommodate 2059 litres. There’s also 58 litres of lockable underfloor storage, with another 155 litres of underfloor storage in the front cabin of the 110.
Because such things matter for commercial vehicles, the 90 Hard Top has a load floor width of 1326mm, with an ability to house loads of 1031mm in length; those rise to 1423mm and 1472mm respectively on the 110, which will fit one standard Euro pallet.
While the back is pure utility, the cabin balances practicality with touches of premium comfort. Hardwearing materials abound, and both sizes of vehicle can be optioned with a third, jump seat, but many of the comforts and features of the regular Defender are present, including the later version of Land Rover’s Pivi Pro infotainment. The Defender’s raft of driver assistance systems also easily overcomes the reduction in visibility from the lack of rear windows.
At launch, all Hard Top models will use Land Rover’s latest turbocharged mild-hybrid diesel engines, with the 197bhp D200 the sole choice for the 90. The 110 is offered with a choice of D240, D250 and D300 diesel engines. During our test, we sampled a 90 Hard Top and a 110 D250, which offers 246bhp and 420lb ft from its 3.0-litre engine.
What’s it like?
On the road, the Hard Top remains as refined and composed as we’d expect of the latest Defender. In the 90 Hard Top the D200 diesel is largely smooth and comparatively quiet, with enough torque to aid business use of a vehicle with up to 3500kg of towing capacity.
With the likely usage of many Defender Hard Top vehicles as true workhorses on industrial sites, the ability to work off-road is vital. And with its all-wheel-drive powertrain and twin-speed transfer ‘box, the 90 Hard Top proved just as capable as the passenger version when we took to a rought and rutted off-road course. The comparatively short wheelbase of the 90 meant it was easy to place, and assistance features such as the ground-facing cameras helped to avoid any particularly major obstacles.