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Land Rover Defender 2022: Australian popularity pushes rugged SUV to new highs, but can it rival the BMW X5 and Mercedes-GLE on the sales charts?

The Land Rover Defender kicks off from $81,166 before on-road costs for the 90 D200 Standard.

Car companies are typically very good at estimating demand for models, especially long-running nameplates. But that’s not the case for the Land Rover Defender – its exact popularity is difficult to gauge given NSW and Victoria's ongoing lockdown and restrictions.

Land Rover took a lot of heat reinventing the Defender. The first concept, the DC100, was so poorly received it was scrapped completely as hardcore enthusiasts derided plans to take the Defender mainstream. 

Land Rover is seemingly vindicated though, with the new model that launched in 2020, now selling more than 200 per cent better than the original off-roader did five years ago. 

So far in 2021 (year-to-date to August), the Defender is the third best-selling large luxury SUV in the country, behind only the Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5, and ahead of the Audi Q7, Lexus RX, Volvo XC90 and even the Range Rover Sport.

While the Defender is selling well, averaging more than 160 sales per month, Land Rover Australia has been constrained by the ongoing pandemic.

However, a Land Rover Australia spokesperson told CarsGuide, the brand is closely monitoring demand for the new off-road SUV.

It’s a remarkable change for a nameplate that only appealed to farmers, adventures and masochistic hipsters earlier this decade. At the start of last decade, Land Rover sold just 536 Defenders in 2011 and five years ago (2016) that number was down to just 410 as the market for a go-anywhere off-roader largely unchanged for 60 years began to thin.

The British brand spent the better part of a decade preparing for the new Defender, firstly acknowledging that the previous generation had long since failed to meet modern safety expectations and then by previewing the future. The DC100 may have been widely panned, but it set the tone for the new-generation Defender.

The current sales are based on the four-door Defender 110 and two-door Defender 90, but Land Rover reportedly has big plans for a wider ‘family’ of models. A long-wheelbase Defender 130 has been spied testing in Europe and there have been reports of a sub-90 compact model to appeal to the urban crowd who want to look adventurous on the school run.

Of most interest to Australians, however, is the expected Defender-based ute. The company has teased plans for a dual-cab model that would give the brand a rival to the recently-launched Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick in the emerging SUV-based ute market.