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From the driver’s seat back, the Defender Hard Top is an entirely different proposition to the regular offering. It might be perfect for a few out there, but they will have to justify the high asking price.

2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top

It’s a Land Rover Defender, but not as you know it. It’s no longer a family car, and part of that luxurious allure is gone as well. This is the Hard Top, and it’s gone commercial.

Diehards will know the Hard Top name from Defender lineage once upon a time. The original was based on the ‘original’ Defender 110, but with two doors, front seats and raw load space behind the driver’s head. It was Land Rover’s take on the Troopcarrier effectively, and an eloquent fit for fishos and road-trippers who didn’t need space for more than two or three. My brother still talks about the one he should have never sold, a decade ago.

The Hard Top is back for 2024, bringing a strangely compelling combination of refinement, capability and driving enjoyment to the commercial sector. It’s a little different to the old version, but then so is the Defender as a whole.

How much is a Land Rover Defender?

The Defender Hard Top is currently available only in one specification, called the D250. This means it picks up the six-cylinder Ingenium turbocharged diesel engine in its lowest state of tune (but still a tidy 183kW/570Nm), and is in a relatively low trim level.

There’s a delivery van style bulkhead behind the driver, and the rear area has been fully converted into a flat, durable load space. It’s well thought through, with a large load compartment where the second-row footwell used to be, and an extra storage space under the floor at the back.

So it’s a relatively stripped back model aimed at commercial operators who prefer the practicality of a big load space over passenger capacity. But, there is a big problem with the price.

Starting from $110,000 plus on-road costs, it works out to be more expensive than a better-equipped five-seat diesel model, the D300 X-Dynamic SE. This gets more equipment, more grunt from the powertrain and air suspension as standard, but is the cheapest ticket into a diesel-powered Defender 110.

Despite side-stepping Luxury Car Tax in Australia, the Defender Hard Top is more expensive. Why?

There is a reason: the Hard Top is currently being built as a second stage of manufacture internally by Land Rover, by the Special Vehicles Operations side of the business. There’s a cost here that needs to be accounted for, as the car is converted from being a fully finished five-seat model in a separate process.

And once you throw in a few nice options (like our test car), the asking price rises even more and pushes expectations higher.

For example, spending $130,000 puts you within range of a much better-equipped Defender D300 X-Dynamic HSE. Or on the flip side, you could jump into an entry-level petrol-powered Defender P300 S for $103,000, and fold down the back seats.

Key details 2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
Price $110,000 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Fuji White with Black contrast roof
Options Air Suspension Pack – $1309
– Electronic air suspension
– Adaptive Dynamics
– Automatic headlight leveling
Off-Road Pack – $1017
– Electronic active differential with torque vectoring by braking
– Domestic plug socket
Black contrast roof – $2171
Front jump seat – $1853
Black exterior pack – $1482
Clearsight interior rear-view mirror – $1446
Tow hitch receiver – $1432
12-way heated semi-powered front seats – $806
Body-coloured spare wheel cover – $758
Locking wheel nuts – $80
Price as tested $122,354 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $131,973 (NSW)
Rivals Toyota LandCruiser 78 Series | Ineos Grenadier

How big is a Land Rover Defender?

The Land Rover Defender 110 is 5018mm long (including the rear-mounted spare, which puts it as being slightly longer than an Ineos Grenadier (4856mm, which can also be had as a two-seat model), and a touch shorter than a 78 Series Troopy GXL (5245mm). Our tester is also not as tall either, but that can be augmented by the option air suspension.

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In total, the load space in the back is nearly 1.5 metres long, and not really long enough to set up a bed (if that is what you were thinking). I did manage to sleep in the back of the Hard Top when on the road, but the regular-sized inflatable mattress was too long to fit with the door closed. So, I deflated it a bit and folded part of it over. It worked for a night, but wouldn’t work long-term as a replacement for a Troopy.

For loading up stuff, it makes sense and works well. The floor is level with the door all the way through, and some in-built tie-down points help to secure any loads you throw in. There’s a nice rubber flooring, and the amount of extra space you get in what used to be the second-row footwell is impressive. Open the rear doors to access it, either from the side or from the top.

Up front, it’s a more typical (excellent) Defender experience. The seats are upgraded to partial electric control and with heating in this case, and provide great comfort and support for long stints behind the wheel.

And despite being a low specification grade for the Defender range, the interior still feels quality and well executed. It’s a pleasing design, with some handy touches in terms of power outlets and dashboard shelf storage.

Our tester has the optional jump seat, which replaces the practical centre console area with a folding middle dickie seat that tugs at the heartstrings of nostalgia, especially if you’ve got kids. While it looks and feels a little bit cumbersome when not in use, I love the idea of the seat here for kids growing up and sharing a journey with you up front.

When the middle seat is folded down, you get access to two cupholders and somewhere to rest your elbow, as well as four power outlets towards the back.

Shove your hand down further back here, and you might be surprised to find the rear-facing air vents still present and operational, pushing air pointlessly into the bulkhead wall behind your head.

2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
Seats Three (including optional jump seat)
Boot volume 1472mm long
1423mm wide
937mm wide
2059L
Length 5018mm
Width 1996mm
2105mm (inc. mirrors)
Height 1967mm (air suspension)
Wheelbase 3022mm

Does the Land Rover Defender have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The regular 10-inch flat infotainment display is used here. While the 11.4-inch curved display found on most of the defender range is quite nice, the set-up we have here still feels great. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both can be a wireless connection), navigation and digital radio. The quality of the screen in terms of resolution and processing speed feels great, and the operating system is also easy to navigate.

This system also includes network connectivity and over-the-air updates, along with a companion app that allows you to do remote climate control, check vehicle status and locations, and help to plan journeys.

Is the Land Rover Defender a safe car?

While it might be structurally very similar to the regular Defender 110, the Defender Hard Top does pick up its own ANCAP safety rating. It dates back to 2020, and uses crash data garnered from the regular Defender and supported by technical information from the manufacturer.

Adult occupant protection is rated at 82 per cent, while vulnerable road users (pedestrians) get a 71 per cent protection score. The safety assistance systems of the Defender get an 82 per cent rating, while child occupant protection is N/A because there are no back seats, and there are no top-tether points in the front.

2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2020)
Safety report Link to ANCAP report

What safety technology does the Land Rover Defender have?

While it has been redefined as a van, the Defender Hard Top retains a healthy range of active safety equipment for drivers. This has been recently updated with traffic sign recognition and the associated intelligent speed controls, as well as the bings and bongs of warnings as you outstrip the perceived limit.

Like many other cars out there, the Defender’s traffic sign recognition system is not infallible and can make a wrong call from time to time.

Thankfully, Land Rover has also instigated an elegant solution to this. The system defaults back to the standard (noisy) configuration each time you turn on the ignition, but a button on the steering wheel can flick to either a custom or quiet setting easily. Take note other car makers, I reckon this is the way to do it.

The Land Rover Defender Hard Top features six airbags in total: dual frontal, side chest and side head.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) Yes Includes cyclist and pedestrian detection
Adaptive Cruise Control Yes Includes traffic jam assist
Blind Spot Alert Yes Alert and assist
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert Yes Alert and assist functions
Lane Assistance Yes Lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist
Road Sign Recognition Yes Includes intelligent speed limit assist
Driver Attention Warning Yes Includes fatigue monitor
Cameras & Sensors Yes Front and rear sensors, 360-degree camera

How much does the Land Rover Defender cost to run?

Land Rover offers the option of a five-year service plan with the Defender, which costs a very reasonable $2850 for the half decade or 102,000km. This works out to cover 20,400km per year on average, which puts it above the average kilometres Australians drive per year.

However, your intervals may vary depending how the vehicle is used. Rather than having a rigid set of service intervals, the Defender’s servicing is described as condition-based and will react to what kind and volume of driving you undertake.

So, more onerous work might see you back at the dealership before the 20,000 mark, but you’ll probably want to keep it well serviced in order to keep the mechanicals well maintained.

Being a relatively new and niche vehicle, the Defender Hard Top is yet to be accounted for in our insurance quoting service, so we weren’t able to match up a comparative quote.

At a glance 2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals Condition-based
Servicing costs $2850 (5 years)

Is the Land Rover Defender fuel-efficient?

While the modular 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine is a smooth, buttery and generally delightful engine, it also proves to be quite an efficient operator. The claim of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres is quite low for this size of vehicle, which is helped by the lower state of tune and a 48V mild-hybrid assistance system.

Our figures were higher, owing to the fact that we were towing for the majority of the time. We saw an average of 11.5L/100km, which is a very impressive figure. Half of the time, I was towing an empty car trailer. And for the other half, I had about 1500kg worth of statutory write-off as well. I was driving at the speed limit for the entire time too, holding speed up hills and overtaking whenever safe.

While I haven’t back-to-back compared other vehicles in the same kind of situation, I would hazard a guess that most other tow vehicles would use a lot more fuel in this kind of scenario.

Fuel efficiency 2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
Fuel cons. (claimed) 7.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 11.5L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 89L

What is the Land Rover Defender like to drive?

Unsurprisingly, the driving experience of the Defender Hard Top remains unchanged in comparison to other models and feels great. Despite the fact that the six-cylinder engine is in its most modest form here, it never feels underbaked or lacking in terms of performance. That 570Nm is still a terrific number after all, and all of that twist comes on tap at a measly 1250rpm through to the top of the mid-range at 2500rpm.

It makes initial take-off and progress quite easy and smooth, while the peak power of 183kW lacks a little bit of edge in comparison to the 221kW/650Nm D300 tune. However, it still feels plenty fast enough for the application.

In fact, driving this Hard Top makes me feel sad that this powertrain choice has been discontinued from the broader Defender 110 range, with its 18-inch steel wheels and lower asking price. While the D300 X-Dynamic SE is great, this feels like plenty enough Defender for most tastes.

Only when towing the car and trailer up some highway hills does the D250 Defender start to feel a little slower than other options out there. You can still meet and exceed the speed limit at will, but it just takes a little longer to get there.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox remains a steadfast companion, choosing the right gear at the right time, and never leaving you in the lurch. And four driven wheels – through the electronically controlled clutch-based four-wheel-drive system – feels steadfast as well.

Another key element here is the optional air suspension, which feels like a must-have for any Defender model. Coil springs are surprisingly decent and well sorted, but the air suspension feels every bit an upgrade and worth the asking price.

When you combine six cylinders of diesel power, all-wheel drive, a smart-shifting automatic gearbox and electronically controlled air suspension, the Defender is one of the best tow vehicles on the market. On top of the quality rearward-facing cameras and 360-degree system, and the ability to plug your trailer’s details into the car for reversing assistance, it’s more about the confident stability and lack of movement overall.

My hire trailer, your regular beaten-nearly-to-death unit from a service station, was haggard from a hard life, and didn’t give much flexibility in terms of adjusting the position of the car to control ball weight. I put the car on where it fit, did up my straps and felt not one ounce of tail-wagging-the-dog in the following thousand kilometres. I drove twisting country roads, up hills and down mountains, and the trailer felt rock-steady.

I also drove some of my longest stints on this journey behind the wheel of the Defender, and continued to find it pleasurable and easy after many hours in the hot seat.

While we didn’t get a chance to head off-road in this Defender Hard Top, it’s positioned to be an excellent and highly capable vehicle. Along with height-adjustable air suspension, which is impressively stable and responsive, the benchmark-setting off-road traction-control system allows you to take on difficult and technical terrain with relative ease and control. And considering the pragmatic 18-inch steel wheels of this model, there is more scope to air down, conform to the terrain and eke out extra grip.

Key details 2024 Land Rover Defender D250 Hard Top
Engine 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel, mild hybrid
Power 183kW @ 4000rpm
Torque 570Nm @ 1250–2500rpm
Drive type Permanent all-wheel drive
Transmission 8-speed torque converter automatic
Weight (kerb) 2499kg
GVM 3260kg
Gross Combination Mass 6760kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Payload 761kg
Tow rating 3500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.8m

How much weight can a Land Rover Defender tow?

A 3500kg braked towing capacity for the Defender 110 is a good starting point, but further investigation yields a vehicle that is well suited for towing heavy loads. There’s a 350kg towball downforce limit, 3260kg GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) and 6760kg GCM (Gross Combination Mass).

This puts the Defender in a great position for those who want to load up and tow heavy loads. Even with a full 3500kg trailer hitched up, the payload is not reduced.

So even if you account for a 350kg towball downforce on your vehicle, there is a 411kg payload leftover for people and gear. Few other vehicles have the ability to do this, and it’s only the likes of a Toyota LandCruiser, Nissan Patrol or some kind of light truck have similar capability in this regard.

And like I have referenced in the driving impressions, the Defender is a great example of a tow vehicle beyond the on-paper numbers.

Should I buy a Land Rover Defender?

As evidenced by the four years’ worth of gongs in Drive Car of the Year, the Land Rover Defender is an excellent vehicle. It’s highly capable, refined and comfortable, and also has that less definable special feeling you sometimes get from a car. The high levels of sophistication throughout the powertrain, chassis and suspension work together in harmony and yield benefits in many different scenarios.

This Defender Hard Top carries a lot of these advantages as well. And for those who want to spurn passenger space in the name of cargo, it will make sense. Unfortunately, the pricing of the Hard Top doesn’t make any sense at all. You’ll really need to want this car to commit to it, instead of opting for a better equipped five-seater for less money. I’d take the latter, fold down the rear seats, and budget for an interior detail every once in a while.

How do I buy a Land Rover Defender? The next steps.

Considering there is only one spec level of Hard Top available, there is only the consideration of options if you’ve made your mind up. However, I would urge buyers to consider other Defenders in the range, and also consider the less refined utilitarian choices of a two-seat Ineos Grenadier or Toyota LandCruiser 78 Series as alternatives.

Land Rover is bringing a handful of Hard Top examples into the country for demonstration and sale, but those wanting one might look at placing an order and waiting around four to six months for it to arrive. Click here to find a dealer near, and you can also look for new and used Land Rover Defenders at Drive Cars For Sale.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2024 Land Rover Defender 110 D250 Hard Top S Van Wagon

7.4/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Sam Purcell

Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.

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