2019 Los Angeles Auto Show: Best in Show

land-rover-defender-2020-CL-01-best-in-show-la-auto-show-2019.jpg 2020 Land Rover Defender | photo by Christian Lantry

The Los Angeles Auto Show typically sees debuts of new convertibles, luxury models and environmentally friendly vehicles, and the 2019 show had all of these. It also had its share of new SUVs both small and large as automakers rush to capitalize on the segment’s popularity with the shopping public.

Related: More 2019 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

One of these SUVs was the 2020 Land Rover Defender, which is a modern take on the British brand’s famed off-roader. After spending the better part of a day taking in all the L.A. debuts, the Defender emerged as our favorite and the one you shouldn’t pass up seeing if you’re heading to the show.

Here’s why our panel of expert reviewers — including Mike Hanley, Brian Wong and Aaron Bragman — chose the Defender as’s Best in Show.

Hanley: Reinterpreting a legend like the Defender for the modern era probably won’t ever sit well with some die-hard fans, but the new Defender impresses on many fronts. It’s spacious and comfortable, with plenty of room in the second row for adult passengers, and its cabin styling is rugged but still luxurious enough to stand alongside its stablemates. There are some old-style elements, like a rear swing-gate and a second-row seat you must flip forward before folding the backrest flat, but the Defender’s design, comfort and capability are an automotive trifecta.

Wong: Bringing the Defender back to America just makes sense. I’m sad it didn’t happen earlier, but the new vehicle seems to have been worth the wait. It drips with cool factor: The interior seems to have taken inspiration from contemporary architecture with exposed wood and metal trim, as well as uncovered bolts you can see. There’s also a return to sanity with physical climate controls and a single screen to handle the various multimedia and vehicle settings. This is a chunky, modern take on the Defender and I love it — almost as much as I love the price. Starting at just over $50,000, it costs less than I thought it would, and with the Jeep Wrangler’s price pushing well into that range, you can make an even better case for the Defender and its superior interior trappings. As long as it lives up to its promise off-road, this Defender should prove to be a rousing success.

Bragman: As a Wrangler owner, it almost pains me to say this: I think the Defender just may out-Jeep the Wrangler when it arrives in 2020. Unlike the Wrangler, which fans require to be a slave to its heritage design, Land Rover used the Defender’s heritage as inspiration to create a completely modern interpretation. But it has all the off-road goods to throw down against the Wrangler in significant fashion — an air suspension, electronic locking center and rear differentials, forward-facing trail camera, programmable off-road settings, comparable break-over and departure angles, a higher ground clearance, 5 inches more water fording ability, Land Rover says — so it’s clear that the brand has done its homework. Add in two powertrains that are far more powerful than anything in any previous Defender, the ability to tow more than 8,200 pounds, and offer it all up for no more money than a loaded-up Wrangler, and it’s clear that Land Rover has hit upon an exceptional combination that should prove to be popular.

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