If there's one thing I've learned doing all these luggage tests, it's that boxy is better. Be it the Mercedes GLB, the Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler, it doesn't take a geometry teacher to tell you that trying to fit rectangular-shaped things into a rectangular-shaped area is going to be a lot easier.
Well, the Land Rover Defender 110 is certainly boxy. Perhaps not as much in the front as its illustrious predecessor, but at the rear? Pretty cubey. On paper, the D110 is listed as having 34.0 cubic-feet behind its raised back seat. It surprisingly gains 0.6 cube with the optional third-row seat. The two-door Defender 90, meanwhile, has 15.6 cubic-feet.
However, here is where the boxy point is important. Remember, cubic-feet measures a cargo area's volume, which includes space that typically goes unused due to a rectangular thing (a suitcase) being unable to fill some rounded trunk alcove or fit within an SUV's raked roofline. Something boxy like the Defender doesn't have that same issue, meaning you get more for your money (or cubic-feet).
Here is the D110's cargo area. Yep, sure is boxy. Also, unlike the Jeep Wrangler, you can pretty much put stuff all the way to the swing gate.
Now, as I have already spoiled the conclusion here that the Defender can carry a lot of stuff, let's put off how much stuff for a bit and take a look at some of the Defender's other cargo-related elements beyond its boxy-is-better capacity.
Yes, it has a one-piece swing gate. Since this is a British vehicle (made in Slovakia, but still), the gate swings "the wrong way" into the curb. This is obviously a pain when parallel parking. And regardless of which way a swing gate opens, you'll always run the risk of the car behind you being too close.
Thankfully, this giant door can be stopped and held at any angle. There are no set detents. And it is one giant door, as opposed to the Wrangler's two-piece unit necessitated by its removable hard top.
The swing gate design also means it won't bang into your garage roof or some other low-hanging thing.
Along those same lines, as a tall person, it sure is nice not having to worry about clonking my head on a liftgate.
The Defender comes standard with "Durable Rubber Cabin and Loadspace Flooring." This would be it, though the stuff in the cargo area seems more like hard, durable plastic rather than rubber, but I'll take the window sticker's word for it.
It not only covers the removable floor panel, but the seat backs as well. Should definitely make it easier to clean and make you less hesitant to chuck dirty stuff back there.
There is a downside, however ...
It sure is slippery. My hard-shell suitcases immediately drifted rearwards once placed inside. I was even parked on a flat surface. Oh well, this is more quirk than complaint. Moving on.
There is lots of bonus storage throughout the cargo area. None of my bags could fit in here under the floor, but a decent-sized something could.
There is the little shelf inside the swing gate.
There is a large mesh pocket on the passenger side plus a strap on both C pillars you can secure something long and thin. Water bottle? Tools? I don't know, be creative.
There are little drop-down hooks on either side of the cargo area adjacent to the swing gate. I'm honestly not sure how these would be helpful, but if you know, let me know!
I assume the little bean-shaped recess also on either side is for the "luggage retention net" included with "Premium Interior Protection/Storage Pack," or perhaps some other element of it.
This particular Defender had the $1,345 Off-Road Pack, which includes a domestic plug socket. Here it is.
Standard on the Defender 110 is an air suspension, which raises and lowers the vehicle in addition to constantly altering damping forces for ride and handling. As such, you get this button in the cargo area that does this ...
It's not a huge, "the LR3's suspension has collapsed" difference, but it should make hoisting heavy things aboard easier. Your dogs should also be appreciative.
OK, now let's get to the luggage. As with every luggage test, I use two midsize roller suitcases that would need to be checked in at the airport (26 inches long, 16 wide, 11 deep), two roll-aboard suitcases that just barely fit in the overhead (24L x 15W x 10D), and one smaller roll-aboard that fits easily (23L x 15W x 10D). I also include my wife's fancy overnight bag just to spruce things up a bit (21L x 12W x 12D).
It all fit with copious room to spare. And since it was rectangles fitting into a big rectangle, it was delightfully easy and Tetris-like.
And how much can you fit in that remaining space?
At least this much, including an additional pair of small duffle bags and a 38-quart cooler. Plus, there was room for extra stuff to be stacked upon the duffle bags. I just ran out of small bags for the job.
This is how that compares to ...
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (left): Swapping the long, narrow Pack n Play instead of the cooler effectively means it has less space, which makes sense since the specs say it has 31 cubic feet to the Defender's 34. All the weird nooks and crannies in the Wrangler because of the roll bars necessitates some creative packing and the tailgate's design means you have to leave a sizable gap in the lower left hand portion.
Toyota 4Runner (right): No contest. The 4Runner fits everything the Defender can plus the Pack n Play plus a double river-floating innertube box plus the optional slide-out cargo tray that decreases cargo capacity. The specs say it has 47.2 cubic-feet.
Now, getting back to that boxy-is-better point.
This is the Toyota RAV4 (left) and Honda CR-V. According to the specs, their cargo areas are larger than the Defender's at 37.5 for the Toyota and 39.2 for the Honda. Except, they hold less than the Defender. No little black bag, and the remaining space isn't particularly useful due to the sloped rooflines and rounded tailgate lips.
And finally, let's briefly touch on maximum cargo capacity ...
The boxiness continues should you really need to open things up. You also get a perfectly flat load floor, which I have to imagine has the added benefit of making for a great sleeping space.
You do need to flip the seat bottom forward first in order to get the perfectly flat floor, but even if you just quickly need some extra cargo length, the seat will still go down to a useful degree. You can see the difference above left.
Unfortunately, there's a design flaw. The middle head restraint gets caught on this metal loop. You can easily just push it down, but on the way back up, you have to pull the seat bottom forward and give it a lot of muscle. The front seats were as far forward as could make a difference.
Of course, one man's "design flaw" is another's "Land Rover quirk." That aside, however, I think this all shows that the Defender 110 is pretty damn great a bringing along whatever stuff you need for the adventure ahead.