Land Rover offers the tough, beast mode in SUVs. The automaker creates luxury vehicles for the safari set but creates a few affordable designs, too. On that list lands the Land Rover Defender, its bargain SUV. It makes an ideal vehicle for larger families since it seats five to eight depending on seat configuration.
What makes it a winner in the luxury SUV set, clearly comes down to price and performance. The starts at $53,500 and offers an upgraded version for $69,300. Most of the Land Rover family of vehicles start near its top trim cost and range above $100,000 in cost.
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Land Rover crafted a luxury SUV designed for off-roading with an extra dose of class in the Defender. Its entry-level vehicle earns 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Choose from seven trim levels, including a hybrid four-door for $68,000 with a 3.0-liter engine.
Land Rover offers engine options for its Defender, including a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder; 3.0-liter, six-cylinder; or 5.0-liter V8 engine. Depending on which you choose the Land Rover produces 296 to 518 horsepower and 295 to 461 pound-feet of torque. All of those engine choices get paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive driveline.
It manages to go from 0 to 60 in 5.6 to 8.2 seconds, which won’t win you any drag races but does provide rather peppy performance from an SUV. The Defender can tow just about anything since it boasts a towing capacity of 7,716 to 8,201 pounds.
It offers 10.2 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats in place. Depending on how many seats you fold down, you can turn the cargo space into 27.1, 44.6, or 76.1 cubic feet.
You can find alternatives to the Land Rover, however. Although it offers the cachet of the Land Rover brand and its reputation for toughness, it also offers appointments that place it in the luxury SUV class. It does have a few serious competitors though. Let us help you get started with a quick list of our favorites, starting with our top three, then providing the runners-ups.
1. Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback soundly beats the Defender in price, starting at $27,645. Although it provides a little less horsepower and torque from its engine, it provides far better fuel efficiency and still seats five. It tows less but provides similar 0 to 60 times.
Why It’s Similar to the Defender
Subaru makes ultra-safe, dependable, well-appointed SUVs. They look great and haul a lot. Subarus handle well and their rear seats fold down into a variety of configurations so you can load more into one or oddly shaped items. This SUV offers great handling and the ability to handle various terrains.
The gas mileage of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway beats the Defender hands down. The two vehicles accelerate from 0 to 60 at nearly the same speed in lower trims – 8.2 seconds for the Defender versus 8.8 seconds for the Outback.
You can seat five in this vehicle and enjoy cargo space galore starting at 32.5 cubic feet and expanding to 75.7 cubic feet with the seats folded down. You still get plenty of choices since Subaru offers seven trims. The difference is that the most expensive costs just $38,695. Choose from two engines – a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 2.5-liter four-cylinder with continuous variable transmission and all-wheel-drive.
Vehicle Design Observations
The Outback’s 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 182 horsepower and 176-pound-feet of torque on its standard model. It offers a sporty SUV design that looks good zipping down the road. The Subaru model uses many more curves than the rectangular Defender but totes more in the process.
Speed/Time for 0 to 60 miles per hour: 7.5 to 8.8 seconds
Horsepower: 182 to 260 hp
Torque: 176 to 277 lb. ft.
Base Model Cost: $27,645
Seating Capacity: five
Fuel Efficiency: 26 mpg in the city/33 mpg on the highway
Towing Capacity: 2,700 to 3,500 pounds
2. Jeep Wrangler
The Land Rover gets serious competition from this cheap Jeep. The Wrangler starts at $30,295. It can’t haul anywhere near what the Defender can, but it beats the Land Rover in sticker price and fuel efficiency, so it will cost you less at the pump.
Why It’s Similar to the Defender
Both vehicles seat five people. Each offers a few engine choices. The Jeep’s base model offers similar 0 to 60 times. Jeep competes with Land Rover for reputation, offroad toughness, and dependability.
Vehicle Design Observations
The Jeep offers four engine choices including a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine, 3-liter V6 diesel, 3.6-liter V6, and 6.4-liter V8. Depending on which you choose, the Jeep can go from 0 to 60 in 5.4 to 8.7 seconds. If you want transmission choices, you have two – eight-speed automatic and six-speed manual. That makes this choice attractive to those who enjoy the control of shifting gears. It also comes in one driveline choice – four-wheel drive.
Speed/Time for 0 to 60 miles per hour: 5.4 to 8.7 seconds
Horsepower: 260 to 470 hp
Torque: 260 to 470 lb. ft.
Base Model Cost: $30,295
Seating Capacity: four or five
Fuel Efficiency: 22 mpg in the city/29 mpg on the highway
Towing capacity: 2,000 to 3,500 pounds
3. Fiat Panda 4X4
Fiat? Yes, Fiat. The venerable sports car manufacturer of Europe also manufacturers trucks and SUVs. You can’t land the Panda in the US, but you can everywhere else in the world. This four-wheel-drive, made-for-adventure vehicle comes with a seven-inch Garmin GPS integrated plus a Garmin Venu Sq GPS smartwatch, so you can monitor your health and fitness while off-roading.
Why It’s Similar to the Defender
The two vehicles both come from old-school automakers, and both belong to the SUV class. That’s where the similarity ends because the Panda carries so much cool factor. Since 1983, Europeans have zipped across all terrains in this sporty small family SUV.
Vehicle Design Observations
Ostensibly a city SUV, this five-door seats four. With the rear seats in place and slid back as far as possible, the cargo space ranges between roughly 7 to 9 cubic feet (225 to 260 liters as the Italians put it). When you fold down the rear seats, you carve out a more than respectable 30.72 cubic feet.
US drivers will probably balk at the tiny 1-liter mild hybrid engine but likely wouldn’t mind the 53 mpg the jaunty little Fiat earns. Europe uses smaller touchscreens – just five inches but loads up on other features like thermal windows, heated rear windows, and a rear wash and wipe system. Black side skirts and black longitudinal roof bars add form and function.
Speed/Time for 0 to 60 miles per hour: 13.9 seconds
Horsepower: 65 to 75 hp
Torque: 123 lb. ft.
Base Model Cost: $17,131.59 (£14,085)
Seating Capacity: Four
Fuel Efficiency: 53 mpg combined
Towing capacity: not designed for towing
Runners Up to the top Three
If you didn’t find the next car of your dreams in the top three vehicle alternatives to the Land Rover Defender, keep reading. We located other Land Rover Defender alternatives, too.
4. Porsche Cayenne
We now return to the land of gas-guzzling SUVs that the US knows and somewhat loves. Porsche’s base price for Cayenne costs more than any of the SUVs previously discussed. If you need power though, the Cayenne has it.
Starting at $72,200, it earns rather abysmal gas mileage of 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. It uses a standard-sized engine of a 2.9-liter V6 that goes from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds. Its engine produces 335 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque.
The eight-speed automatic transmission offers the only choice in that feature, and you get no choice in the driveline. It comes with an all-wheel drive. The standard base model towing capacity of 7,700 pounds means you can easily tote your boat to the ocean or lake. If you want more power, upgrade to either the 3.0-liter V6 or 4.0-liter V8 engine.
5. Toyota Land Cruiser
If you want the same size and shape as a Land Rover Defender, but can’t find it near you, the Land Cruiser offers nearly the same SUV for $85,665. You trade the terrific gas mileage of a vehicle like the Fiat for something that can tow your boat.
The Land Cruiser and the Defender get close to the same gas mileage. It earns 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. You may have a 5.7-liter V8 engine and that is all. It produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission offers the only choice in that feature, and you’ll get four-wheel drive. This configuration lets you take on nearly any terrain plus tow 8,100 pounds.
6. BMW X5
BMW offers more direct price competition since its vehicle starts at $61,600 and seats five to seven. It looks more like an Outback but matches the Defender on many specifications. Unfortunately, fuel efficiency proves very similar with the X5 earning 21 in the city and 26 on the highway.
Choose from two engines – a 3.0-liter six-cylinder or a 4.4-liter V8. The standard engine produces 335 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, the upgrade produces 523 horsepower and 553 torque. This eight-speed automatic comes in your choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
This BMW offers a towing capacity of 6,603 pounds and you can choose to have a third-row seat installed. It offers a zippy response when going from 0 to 60, taking between 4.1 and 6.3 seconds, depending on the engine chosen. The SUV can travel at a top speed of 130 mph.
Related: 15 SUVs similar to BMW X5
7. Mercedes-Benz G Wagon
Forget your budget. The G starts at $133,250 and the higher trim, the AMG G63, costs $179,000. The Defender and the G line up in almost every specification. Its gas mileage provides the same lackluster performance as the Land Rover, earning 14 mpg in town and 17 mpg on the highway.
It offers just one mid-power engine – a 4.0-liter V8 that produces 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. You can only have a nine-speed automatic transmission in this vehicle and all-wheel-drive. You can seat five and pack in the cargo since it can hold 38.1 cubic feet with the seats all in place. If you fold down the seats, you can carve out 68.6 cubic feet.
8. Land Rover Discovery
Starting at $58,400, Land Rover offers its own competition with the Discovery. It also seats seven and offers four-wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can tow a similar weight – 5,952 to 8,200 pounds. It offers competition in gas mileage, earning 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
That’s nowhere near the Fiat’s mighty 53 mpg, but this vehicle can tow, plus pack in seven people. Its standard 2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. You can upgrade to a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine.
This zippy but not as zippy as the Defender vehicle, goes from 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds. You can seat seven, but with the seats all in place, you’ll only have 9.1 cubic feet for cargo. If you fold down the seats, you can carve out 74.3 cubic feet.
9. Suzuki Jimny
Similar in styling to the Land Rover Defender but with a Fiat-like engine, the Jimny works well as a commuter vehicle and light off-roader. It includes safety features like lane departure warning, weaving alert, and traffic sign recognition. Starting at $26,990, the Suzuki offers a bargain in roomy SUVs.
Suzuki has produced this model for decades and continually updated its design. Today’s Jimny offers a viable and stylish alternative to the Land Rover as long as you didn’t want the Defender for towing. You can upgrade it for $31,490. It also beats most of the competition in gas mileage, earning 26 mpg in town and 35 mpg on the highway.
The Jimny’s standard 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces horsepower and pound-feet of torque. You get two options in transmission – a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual. This four-seater offers the tiniest trunk of just three cubic feet until you fold down the rear seats.
That carves you out at 13.31, so you could grocery shop for a stock-up trip, just not with kids in tow. The Jimny hasn’t undergone a 0 to 60 test. Suzuki doesn’t offer its vehicles for sale in the US, but you can purchase them in Canada or Mexico.
10. Dacia Duster
France’s Renault manufacturers the Dacia to resounding reviews. Only available in Europe, this well-loved vehicle saves you money at the gas pump. Over the years, it has become available as a two-door pickup truck, a four-door pickup truck, and a five-door SUV.
Its engines range from 1.0-liter to 2.0-liter with transmission choices of five-speed manual, six-speed manual, or six-speed automatic. Its body style looks like a cross between the Subaru Outback and the Land Rover Defender.
Starting at $18597.19 (£15,295), the Dacia offers a bargain in roomy family SUVs. Okay, your neighbor won’t know a Dacia from Daria, the MTV cartoon, but who cares when you save this much? It also beats most of the competition in gas mileage, earning 44 mpg combined. Its standard 1-liter four-cylinder engine produces 115 horsepower and 104 pound-feet of torque. You get two options in transmission – a six-speed automatic transmission or manual.