For several decades, the LEGO Technic theme has incorporated licensed vehicles pulled from the ranks of the world’s best-known auto manufacturers. And almost without exception, LEGO has focused these sets on sports cars and heavy equipment. But now Technic has made a foray into the new class of automobile life that seems to be taking over all that it touches: the SUV. With 42110 Land Rover Defender, LEGO not only releases its first Technic SUV, but also lands its first license with renowned automaker Jaguar/Landrover in 50 years (LEGO produced diecast Jaguar models in the 1960s). Not simply a one-off, the licensing partnership also includes minifigure-scale vehicles for the Speed Champions line like the I-pace and Formula E racecar. The new LEGO Defender released Oct. 1, 2019, and was revealed in conjunction with the real vehicle’s debut, marking Land Rover’s return to the venerable Defender model. The set includes 2,573 pieces and retails for US $199.99 | CAN $249.99 | UK £159.99.
The box and contents
With more than 2,500 pieces, the Land Rover Defender is a large set and comes in an appropriately large box. Unlike the 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and 42083 Bugatti Chiron, the Defender is a normal part of the Technic lineup and doesn’t feature premium packaging. The real Defender is available in two configurations, the four-door 110 that’s available first in early 2020, and the two-door 90 that will be available in late 2020. The LEGO set is modeled after the 90, despite the significant set number of 42110.
Inside the parts are divided into just six sets of numbered bags, meaning for any individual section you’ll be digging through 400-500 pieces. Add to that the complexity of a Technic build with a full gearbox, and you’ll find this set will take you the better part of a day to assemble. As usual with a set of this size, some of the parts are packed into a plain white interior box. You’ll need open everything to begin building, as the inner box’s bag numbers are mixed with the rest.
There’s a hefty sheet of stickers packed alongside the monstrous 495-page tome of an instruction manual. One of the key draws for many fans will be the color scheme of the Defender, which is the first LEGO Technic model to use predominantly olive green elements. Olive green is a newer LEGO color, having been introduced in 2012, and a nice selection of Technic parts are available here in the color for the first time, plus a few System elements.
The set also includes a few wholly new elements, with both the fenders and the wheels newly sculpted for this set. The fenders recall those introduced on the Porsche 911 GT3 RS from 2016, though in a more squared-off, truck-like shape, and a series of Technic pin-holes on the back are the only obvious connection points. The black wheels mimic the Defender’s 6-spoke hubs available on certain trim levels and fit the 81.6 x 36R tires that have been used in a few other Technic sets.
Experienced Technic builders won’t be surprised to see the build begin with the deepest guts of the model, that is, the gearbox.
LEGO Technic Model Designer Milan Reindl, the set’s designer, told us the gearbox was the most challenging part of the model to create. It’s easy to see why. Not only is it the most complex LEGO gearbox in an official set to date, but it also needed to be small enough to fit into the truck’s undercarriage without interfering with the suspension. The gearbox features four speeds, plus high/low ranges, along with the standard forward/neutral/reverse switches. At a basic level, it’s similar to the gearbox found in the Bugatti Chiron. Because the Defender is four-wheel drive, the gearbox spans both axles. It also powers a faux motor beneath the hood when the wheels are turned. The front and back sections are built independently, before being mated in a tricky and precise operation. It takes a bit of finagling to get all the pieces to line up appropriately, but it’s quite satisfying when everything clicks–literally–into place.
Once the two halves are mated, the chassis starts to take shape as a recognizable form, with near all the mechanical guts in place.
Next comes the interior, which just consists of the dashboard and seats. As with other large Technic vehicles, the front bucket seats are sub-assemblies. The rear bench barely counts as a seat, which I suspect is pretty accurate to the real deal.
The final step then is just the cladding — all that beautiful olive green. The panels go in quickly here, since they’re mostly large Technic pieces, though they’re augmented in a few areas with System bricks. The roof rack is added as one last detail. It’s built as a separate unit and holds the storage containers and an access ladder.
The distinctive white roof is supported by a sturdy black frame that is strong enough for the Defender to be lifted by it.
The completed model
The LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender looks spectacular. I’m admittedly a fan of both SUVs and the Land Rover aesthetic, and I think Milan nailed the look. Milan told us they wavered between olive green and sand green during development in an effort to match the Defender’s pale pearlescent green default color from the marque’s promotions. The olive green looks so great that I can’t imagine enjoying the set as much in any other color.
After the color, the first thing you’ll notice when you get your hands on the finished model is how bouncy the suspension is. The real Defender has between 10 and 12 inches of wheel travel thanks to the independent air suspension, and the model mimics that well, effortlessly riding up and over surprisingly large obstacles.
Pull the panels down, and you can lay them across divides about the width of a tire.
To access the roof rack, there’s a foldable ladder on the side, and the rack itself has two large storage bins; one on top, and one on the passenger’s side. The bins feel empty since neither has any kit included, such as trenching shovels or an axe, which seem the natural contents.
If you’re like the majority of potential Land Rover customers, though, you’re more likely to be taking your new Defender to the Gap than traversing any (as evidenced by the tires that come equipped as stock). So all that extra hardware up top just clutters up the look, so the roof rack and all its accouterments can be slipped off.
This leaves just one feature on top, which is the small gear for steering. The steering wheel inside functions too, but since this is a toy, the addition is appreciated and is one thing I wish could be added to the 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and 42083 Bugatti Chiron. LEGO Technic designers have long ago perfected steering, and so it’s unsurprising that the steering feel is crisp and snappy. Peek inside through either open door and you can also flick the D/N/R shifter and range selector, or roll the gear shifter to notch up and down. It works admirably and Technic aficionados will find a lot of interesting techniques to absorb.
As impressive as the gearbox is, though, it’s more of a showpiece than a play feature. Shifting the gears works, but makes little difference to how things feel when rolling the vehicle around. The Defender isn’t alone in this, as many other large Technic vehicles similarly have complex gearboxes that appear more as a technical demonstration than a usable feature. Milan says the Defender cannot easily be motorized, which I suspect is a statement that fans will view more as a challenge than anything. At $200 already, I understand the decision to not introduce costly motorized elements to the set, but if ever there was a licensed Technic vehicle that I wanted to drive around and crawl over random floor debris, it’s this one. I’ll just have to settle for the recent 42099 4×4 X-treme Off-Roader to get in my R/C needs instead.
The one thing the gearbox does do is set the pistons pumping in the inline six while the Defender is rolled in Drive or Reverse. The basic engine design with the pistons is borrowed from one of Milan’s last sets, 42078 Mack Anthem, but here it’s fancied up with extra details. As the car moves, each piston jumps up in turn.
That’s not all the Defender’s got to show, though. There’s also a built-in winch in the front bumper with a locking mechanism to ensure it doesn’t slip under heavy loads.
Of course, both doors open wide to the dark tan interior. I’d have liked to see a folding seat design to allow access to the rear seats.
Many of the large stickers in the set are employed on the interior and don’t enhance the final model much. Several tricky-to-apply stickers are positioned on each of the interior door panels, and more on the floorboards.
While I’m always a proponent of minimizing sticker use, many of the other stickers decorate the front grille and headlights, and they do a good job of adding detail, especially to the lights.
Around back, the Defender has a spare tire mounted on the back gate. Twisting it engages the gate’s lock through a very simple yet clever mechanism.
One thing that doesn’t come across well in the photos is just how big the Defender is. It’s definitely a smaller scale than the premium 1:8-scale Technic Porsche 911 and Bugatti Chiron, but that’s more a testament to how massive those $400 sets are.
At about 8″ (22cm) high, 16″ (42cm) long and 7″ (20cm) wide, the Defender is still a seriously big set. LEGO doesn’t provide an official scale for the Defender, but it’s not too far off the 42096 Porsche 911 RSR from earlier this year.
Conclusion & recommendation
If you’ve been a fan of any of LEGO Technic’s previous licensed street vehicles, then you’ll find a lot to love here with a solid build, complex mechanicals, and a great color scheme. The removable roof rack and extra cargo boxes are fun and the suspension delightful. And of course, there are all the new elements, both wholly new and newly olive green, to excite longtime Technic fans. The $200 price point for more than 2,500 pieces makes the set a fair deal, especially for a high-profile licensed product. So if you’re ready to leave the slick city streets and their Technic supercars and head to the wilderness, the Land Rover Defender is an excellent way to start.
42110 Land Rover Defender includes 2,573 pieces and is available now from the LEGO shop (US $199.99 | CAN $249.99 | UK £159.99). It is also available on Amazon as well as from third-party sellers on eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.