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1997 Land Rover Defender

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1997 Land Rover Defender Review

Perfect for a specific group of offroad drivers.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 1997 Land Rover Defender, which also uses the name Land Rover 90 and Land Rover 110, provides a British-made, four-wheel drive, offroad SUV. It derives from the original Land Rover series that debuted in 1948 and replaced the same when it released in 1984.

Initially marketed simply as the Land Rover Ninety and Land Rover One Ten, the Defender nameplate only began in 1991 in order to avoid confusion with another newly launched model called the Land Rover Discovery. The Ninety and One Ten nameplates represent the wheelbase of the model (90 inches and 110 inches).

The Range

Body Styles: three-door wagon, five-door wagon, two-door pickup, four-door pickup, two-door hardtop
Engines: 4.0-liter V-8
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: Land Rover Defender 90, Land Rover Defender 110

What's New

This year sees the return of the Defender 90, which did not get imported for the 1996 model year. Now under the ownership of BMW, the 1997 Land Rover Defender uses a brand-new four-liter V-8 engine instead of the 3.9-liter engine from previous years.

The 1997 model also replaces its five-speed manual transmission with a four-speed automatic borrowed from the Land Rover Discovery. The hardtop wagon goes on sale first for this year, followed by a soft-top convertible. The 1997 Land Rover Defender offers a revised list of standard and optional features. The CD changer becomes standard, while the enhanced-capacity air-conditioning unit remains optional. Other standard features include driving lights and a winch with a towing limit of 9000 pounds.

The 1997 Land Rover Defender comes with standard four-wheel drive and all-disc brakes, but anti-lock brakes and airbags remain unavailable even as optional features.


Each model of the 1997 Land Rover Defender has its own unique aspects. The six-passenger Defender 90 wagon comes fitted with a fixed aluminum roof, roll-down door windows, a swing-out tailgate, and sliding rear side windows. The four-passenger convertible models get fitted with half-height doors, removable sliding side windows, and a canvas roof that removes manually or fits onto the integral roll cage.


A 1997 Land Rover Defender from the factory does not include a roof or a back seat, and carpeting only comes as an optional feature. This information proves that the interior of the Defender remains quite stark. In fact, the utility vehicle’s interior does not even match up to the most basic SUV interiors in the market. In comparison, a bare-basics Jeep Wrangler actually seems like a luxury SUV.

The truly utilitarian cabin and the exposed roll cage of the 1997 Land Rover Defender do not suit customers who want a bit of comfort and sport-utility performance. The Defender only pleases those looking for a bonafide utility vehicle.

Performance & Handling

A four-liter V-8 engine that delivers 182 horsepower and 233 lb-ft of torque powers the 1997 Land Rover Defender. Surprisingly, the vehicle does not sound as noisy and crude as its bare bones appearance and interior lead many to believe. Nevertheless, the Defender is, under no circumstance, a daily commuter. Fuel economy seems poor, and the vehicle only really excels when it travels miles away from concrete roads.


Crash test information remains unavailable for the 1997 Land Rover Defender. Due to its lack of airbags and anti-lock brakes, the car does not seem to offer adequate safety either.

EPA Fuel Economy

Land Rover Defender, automatic: 14/15 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Large towing capacity
  • Good power at low speeds

You Won't Like

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Bare interior
  • Noisy cabin

Sum Up

Perfect for a specific group of offroad drivers.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Toyota RAV4
  • Jeep Wrangler

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