2021’s Top Ten Tech Cars: Land Rover Defender

It tells you when the river’s too deep to ford

2 min read
Image of the 2021 Land Rover Defender.
Photo: Jaguar Land Rover

The reborn Land Rover Defender grinds its way up Mount Equinox in Vermont, the tallest peak in the Taconic Range, showing off some techno-wizardry. As the front wheels roll into a stream, a water sensor sounds the depths ahead, assuring me I'm not exceeding the vehicle's 90-centimeter (35.4-inch) wading limit. A waterproof camera feeds imagery of obstacles below the vehicle, with animated overlays tracking the front wheels on the dashboard display. For ultimate, eye-rolling ease, we set our desired speed to 6 kilometers per hour (4 miles per hour), and the Rover's systems—including a height-adjustable air suspension, active electronic rear differential and selectable Terrain Response—sort it all out automatically, walking this stylish beast up and down slopes steep enough to make a 4x4 newbie cringe. A maximum 29-cm (11.5-inch) ground clearance tops even that of the mighty Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Base price:

US $47,450

Honestly? The Rover's off-road chops are impressive yet unsurprising, basically a deluxe, digitized gloss on the abilities that made the post–World War II Defender a globe-trekking legend (those of a certain age may remember the 1966 film Born Free). What is surprising is the Defender's on-road comportment and performance. Forget your Wranglers, your Ford Broncos, even a six-figure Mercedes G-Wagen: Nothing in this burly class can match the Defender on a winding stretch of pavement.

Our mountain-man work accomplished, the Rover makes a hot run to a more likely natural habitat: Gather Greene, a rustic glamping spot near New York's Hudson River. Along the way, it takes advantage of a rigid, all-aluminum D7x architecture and 295-kilowatt (395-horsepower) Ingenium in-line six, a mild hybrid goosed with a 48-volt electric supercharger and a small lithium-ion battery. The sprint from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) is dispatched in 5.8 seconds, besting many comparable SUVs.

A modular, industrial-chic interior flaunts an exposed, powder-coated magnesium alloy beam connecting the dash and an off-road grab handle to keep a shotgun passenger in place. An optional, folding jump seat allows old-school, three-across seating up front. Skylights integrated into roof pillars are a first in a production car, and it was a challenge to engineer them to meet crash standards. Jaguar Land Rover's notoriously behind-the-curve infotainment systems are replaced with Pivi Pro, a smartphone-style touch screen with over-the-air software updates. The exceptional Meridian audio system includes a sparkling 700-watt, 15-speaker unit.

More than 170 adventure-grade accessories include an optional rooftop tent, inflatable waterproof awning, and integrated air compressor. Two seem a must: The Defender's signature, side-mounted gear carrier and Expedition roof rack—the latter ideal for tomb raiding. Or at least antique hauling.

The Conversation (0)

Video Friday: Automotive Artistry

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
Video Friday: Automotive Artistry

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today's videos!

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Companies Vie to Build NASA’s Next Communications Network

SpaceX, Amazon, Viasat, and other private players jockey to replace NASA’s TDRS

4 min read
A satellite with a extended circular piece flies over Earth's horizon.

The ViaSat-3 constellation of communications satellites [here, a rendering of one such satellite] is designed to bring broadband communications to customers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific.


It was a great idea for its time—a network of NASA communications satellites high in geostationary orbit, providing nearly continuous radio contact between controllers on the ground and some of the agency’s highest-profile missions: the space shuttles, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and dozens of others.

The satellites were called TDRS—short for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite—and the first was launched in 1983 on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Challenger. Twelve more would follow, quietly providing a backbone for NASA’s orbital operations. But they’ve gotten old, they’re expensive, and in the 40 years since they began, they’ve been outpaced by commercial satellite networks.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Bridge the Gaps in Your ADAS Test Strategy

Full-scene emulation in the lab is key to developing robust radar sensors and algorithms needed to realize ADAS capabilities

1 min read

Achieving the next level in vehicle autonomy demands robust algorithms trained to interpret radar reflections from automotive radar sensors. Overcome the gaps between software simulation and roadway testing to train the ADAS / AV algorithms with real-world conditions. Sharpen your ADAS' radar vision with full-scene emulation that allows you to lab test complex real-world scenario, while emulating up to 512 objects at distances as close as 1.5 meters.

Get this free whitepaper now!