14 June 2023

LEGO® Icons review: 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90

Posted by Zachary Hill

Renowned for its aid in off-road adventures, scientific expeditions, or even just pulling stumps from farmers' estates, the Land Rover Defender is one of the world's most iconic four-wheel-drive vehicles. For the off-roader's 75th birthday, The LEGO Group and Land Rover are celebrating with a new  LEGO® ICONS™ vehicle: 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90.

This Classic Defender built with Sand Green LEGO® System bricks contrasts 2020's modern Olive Green LEGO® Technic Defender, but that hasn't stopped designer Kurt Kristiansen from incorporating numerous Technic functions and customization options. With its 2336 pieces and $240 price tag tying it with 10274 Ghostbusters ECTO-1 for the most massive LEGO Icons vehicle, the Land Rover has a lot to prove. Read on to see how the Rover does that, including insights from the designer.

Products in this article were provided by LEGO®; the author's opinions are their own.
LEGO® ICONS™ 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90
US$239.99/ £209.99/ 239.99€/ AU$369.99
2336 parts
1 April 2023
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The parts in 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90

Its signature Land Rover color – Grassmere Green, as it's called on real Rovers – gives us a primarily Sand Green set. Various incarnations of the Statue of Liberty are the only others to do the same, such as 70840 Welcome to Apocalypseburg, which introduced 17 elements to this pale green family.

The Defender 90 nearly matches that number with 15 recoloured elements and one new mould.

New mould in 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90

  • 4x Wedge 10x4x⅔ Cutout (Mudguard) (6422774 | 3166)
The distinctive flared fenders of the Defender necessitated a new fender piece, a 10x4 angular arch with rounded corners. A row of six antistuds and two bottom antistuds all provide clutch power while cutouts accomodate studs where the part wedges. 

With the generous clearances within the angled sides, the bottom antistuds can be used to hold parts at an angle, loosely secured by the canted openings above.

The origin of this part echoes the bespoke fender tiles made for LEGO Icons 10304 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. Although highly specialized, those Camaro fenders were still incorporated into 71799 Ninjago City Markets.

The Defender fender — DeFender, if you will — already intrigues me more than the Chevy bits, despite my greater interest in muscle cars than British off-roaders. The Camaro fenders have some matching curves to existing parts, but those were to curved slopes and macaroni shapes which have relatively large geometry familes.

The DeFender on the other hand matches slopes which have never had precisely matching geometry: cheese slopes. Yes, many of the 33° slopes are close to cheesiness, but this is the first true match for Slope 30° 1x1x⅔ (54200) and the wider double cheese Slope 30° 1x2x⅔ (85984). While the DeFender's odd shape might not be useful for every build, it's still exciting to see the first ever true expansion to the 30° slope family since its introduction in 2004.

As well as the bottom edges matching cheese slopes, the outer diagonals slant one module across four modules, to match numerous wedges in the LEGO System. This makes the DeFender the first wedged cheese slope as well.

At a roundtable discussion with set designer Kurt Kristiansen, New Elementary naturally asked if this part was soon to be seen in other sets. At the time, Kurt couldn't comment at the time, but now the DeFender is seen framing the windows of LEGO City 60378 Arctic Explorer Truck and Mobile Lab in White. We pressed to ask if there were more cheese slope family parts on their way; again, Kurt couldn't share more.

Recoloured elements

  • 2x Window 1x2x3 Train (6438924 | 3233)
  • 6x Wheel 43.2mm D. x 18mm - Flush Axle Stem (6423381 | 86652)
For a vehicle this size, naturally some vehicle-specific parts are recoloured Sand Green. Its six wheels are more than the four-wheel-drive beast needs; the two extra are optional spares to be placed on the rear door and atop the bonnet.

  • 2x Slope, Curved 1x4x1⅓ (6433993 | 10314)
  • 10x Slope, Curved 2x4x1⅓ with 4 Recessed Studs (6423395 | 6081)
  • 2x Slope, Curved 2x2x1⅓ Corner with Recessed Stud (6423407 | 67810)
  • 4x Slope 75 2x1x3 - Hollow Stud (6423394 | 4460b)
Lots of recoloured slopes make up the beltline of the Ninety and its bonnet. There's something about the curves in classic British automotive design that keeps requiring the recolouring of these one-module-radius curved slopes in shades of green: Creator Expert 10242 MINI Cooper brought lots of the 1x4 curved slopes in Earth Green/ Dark Green, although most of those were printed.

  • 2x Brick, Modified 1x4 with Studs on Side (6423405 | 30414)
  • 14x Bracket 1x1 - 1x2 Inverted (6423396 | 73825)
  • 10x Bracket 1x1 - 1x1 Inverted (6390504 | 36840)
  • 20x Bracket 1x1 - 1x2 (6423397 | 79389)
Building a whole, large truck body of Sand Green requires a truckload of brackets and SNOT bricks. Generous quantities of the newly recoloured brackets abound.

  • 8x Plate, Modified 1x2 with Pin Hole on Top (6425490 | 11458)
  • 5x +1 extra Tile, Round 1 x 1 Half Circle Extended (6423386 | 35399)
  • 7x Hinge Plate 1x4 Swivel (6416689 | 80133 / 80134)
  • 6x Plate, Modified 2x3 with 1x1 Cutout (6432746 | 73831)
  • 11x Tile, Modified 2x2 with Studs on Edge (6423384 | 33909)
Given how often plates are used in modern LEGO System builds, it's no surprise that lots of plates — some new, like the C-shaped 2x3 plates and some old, like the 1x4 hinge plates — have been recoloured for use in the Defender.

  • 8x Tile 1x8 (4162)
One Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan recolour makes up the interior door panels. After appearing in over 1,700 sets, the long-running 1x8 tile is finally seen in this now-widespread colour. Eight copies are enough for me to loosely arrange them into a wooden pallet!

Rare parts

  • 1x Windscreen 3x14x4 in Transparent/ Trans-Clear (6319998 | 70495)
  • 2x Plate, Modified 1x2 with Clip on End (Horizontal Grip) in Sand Green (6354613 | 42923)
  • 1x Technic, Brick 1x2 with Holes in Sand Green (6283412 | 32000)
  • 1x Arch 1x3 in Sand Green (6223713 | 4490)
  • 2x Hinge Brick 1x2 Top Plate in Sand Green (6223168 | 3938)
  • 1x Wedge, Plate 4x2 Left in Sand Green (6258329 | 41770)
  • 1x Bracket 1x1 - 1x1 in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6413106 | 36841)
  • 1x Plate, Modified 1x2 with Pin Hole on Bottom in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6396058 | 28809)
  • 1x Cone 1½x1½x⅔ Truncated in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6340333 | 33492)
  • 2x +1 extra Plate, Round 1 x 1 with Bar Handle on Long Stem in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6378136 | 79194)
  • 1x Slope, Curved 1x4x⅔ Double in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6402876 | 79756)
  • 2x Plate 3x3 Corner in White (6428165 | 77844)
  • 1x Wedge, Plate 2x2 Right in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6388214 | 24307)
The massive, round-cornered windscreen returns from LEGO Icons 10279 Volkswagen T2 Camper Van; its second appearance. The other parts here have appeared in five or fewer sets, some from being new moulds (see the white 3x3 corner plate) or from simple rarity, such as the 1x2 hinge top. Oddly, its counterpart 1x2 hinge base (3937) is quite common in Sand Green. Similarly, the right 4x2 wedge plate has been included in a couple more sets than the left wedge plate pictured here.

  • 4x Plate, Modified 2x6x⅔ with 4 Studs on Side (6227190 | 87609)
  • 15x Bracket 1x2 - 1x2 Inverted (6423391 | 99780)
More SNOT pieces wrap up my look into the rare parts in the Classic Defender. The 2x6 SNOT plates have been included in five other sets, while the 1x2 brackets return from 2014's 10241 Maersk Line Triple-E in this set and 71799 Ninjago City Markets.

New prints

  • Tile 1x2 with Groove with Land Rover Logo Pattern in Sand Green (6439020 | 3069bpb1147)
  • Tile, Round 1x2 Oval with Land Rover Logo Pattern in Black (6439019 | 1126pb002)
Unlike some other LEGO Icons / Creator Expert vehicles like 10295 Porsche 911 and the Camaro Z28, which use exclusively printed elements, most of the few decorations on the Land Rover are stickers. There are still a few printed elements, like these 1x2 tiles which emblazon the grille and rear wall with the United Kingdom's best-known truck brand.

LEGO Technic parts

Most of those rare elements are regular LEGO System bits, but designer Kurt has used plenty of Technic pieces for some impressive suspension and other details. 

Judging by the size of these piles, about one-third of the parts in this set are Technic pieces (on the right). Of course, it's not unusual for sets to contain a mix of mechanical Technic parts to build its framework like in LEGO® Star Wars™ 75318 The Child — one of dozens of examples. We'll dive into how this set extensively uses the pin-and-axle dominated system in the build review.

The built model

As with other LEGO Icons cars, customization options abound. I took the fully-equipped model out, loaded with a rollcage, traction boards, and more goodies for an extended expedition. No matter which variant you build, the front-and-back four-link live axle suspension is true to the real thing. You'll see a live axle twisting over the rocks, with abundant telltale Technic pinholes and axles visible under the front bumper, which is also mostly made of Technic connectors.

That dynamic suspension needs a solid chassis to support it. Hard springs hang from liftarm-built pickup points, all supported by long Technic bricks underpinning floorpan plates. There are a couple of disconnected dark gray links in this photo above; look below to see how those and two more per axle provide a realistic four-link suspension setup.

All connected up. Red ball joints host each axle's four link ends, mimicking the real suspension on Land Rover Defenders and many other off-road vehicles. Yep, those tires are a little dirty from testing outside. Those solid axles wiggle up-and-down, side-to-side, and in a stunning series of flexible connections, the steering wheel is completely functional through all of those linkages. No driveline connects the rear axle to the engine, however.

As for the engine, a choice awaits builders. Before picking which equipment to strap to your Defender, instructions are given to build two engines. There's a V8 petrol engine on the left — described with affectionate terms such as "thirsty" and "underpowered" by Land Rover enthusiasts — or a turbocharged inline-five diesel known as the Td5 which is generally well-regarded. Me being a fan of odd-pot engines, I put the five-banger in my LEGO Defender 90.

An implicit choice is which side to put the steering wheel on. Of course as a British brand, the Land Rover has instructions to build a UK domestic right-hand-drive auto. Check the engine bay above again and you'll see the steering gears passing input from the driver's station to the front axle, and some gears are copied to idle on the left side of the truck (screen right). Mirroring instructions takes a little effort, but the engine bay is ready to accept a left-hand-drive cabin config for stateside gearheads or others who want to sit on the southpaw side.

As obsessed with engines and suspension as I can be, we've got to look at the bigger picture. Two engines and three configurations are printed in the instructions, but that doesn't need to dictate how you outfit your Grassmere Green offroader. 

Optional items include:
  • Roof - yes, the whole dang roof comes off if you like open-air ruggedness
  • Roll cage
  • Ladder
  • Intake snorkel
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Beefy front bumper with winch
  • Tools, including an axe, sledgehammer, pickaxe, and shovel
  • Two fuel jerry cans
  • Toolbox
  • Farm jack, which ratchets and can support the weight of the Land Rover
  • Traction recovery boards
  • Running boards
  • Two spare tyres
Inventing LEGO-scale versions of over a dozen pieces of equipment wasn't a one-person job. In our roundtable discussion, Kurt spoke to the collaborative spirit of TLG's design team, who would leave random overlanding accessories they had built at his workdesk to accompany the development of the Land Rover.

All those accessories add play value and are fun to outfit the Ninety with, but not all are created equal. I found the farm jack to be mechanically fascinating and the design of the jerry cans are reminiscent of the smartly-designed cans found atop LEGO Technic 42069 Extreme Adventure. Some of the tools' proportions are limited by the parts they're constructed with, for example the sledgehammer handle is made of candlesticks (37762) and its head is Mjolnir (75904), making for a thick-handled sledge with a small hammerhead at this scale. The toolbox itself has a fun and smart opening design, but a whole tool multipack (11402) is included and it has simply too many tools to comfortably fit in the box. This leads to some tools falling out during play, meaning it's best the toolbox is best placed inside the cabin or some tools are left out.

The rollcage let me down the most. The largely-Technic exoskeleton is meant to be tough, right? Adding the rollcage unfortunately just makes the overall build more fragile due to weak connection points to the truck body. Pressing down on the top of the cage (as you'd do while securing the above accessories) puts stress on the clip-to-bar connections at the sides of the Ninety. Since that force splays outward as pictured above, the black bricks connecting the rollcage easily come loose, leaving you to reconnect everything before driving off.

Even the roof sans rollcage has some small fitment issues. The front corner wedge slopes are easily popped loose by firmly pressing the roof onto the body. Interference between the windshield's top corners, each capped with white 1x1 D-tiles (35399), touches those wedge slopes and I can't be sure if it's a little chassis flex or approximate LEGO math which allows this to happen.

If you're fully expedition-ready, you'll likely build the Defender with a spare tyre atop the bonnet. Go for the power dome hood instead and you could be met with an unsightly gap which I found in this configuration. Check the center-top of the hood above — see the uneven spacing between 2x4 tiles (87079) in the middle and screen right? The underlying light gray plate is visible through the gap, inconsistent with The LEGO Group's typically tight tolerances.

After checking 2x4 tiles in ten different colours all stamped with design ID 87079, I found most to have variance between the long sides' wall thicknesses, varying about 0.1 mm. That sounds minimal, but looking closely the difference in groove width is easily identified. This effect is exaggerated when the scant sides of two identical parts are put together as above, revealing a larger gap than normally seen in LEGO connections.

Despite these shortcomings, does 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90 defend its position as the most costly LEGO Icons vehicle? No LEGO set is perfect and I've put on my pedant's hat while reviewing this one. It looks tough, but looks can be deceiving. Fans of the tough offroaders might enjoy displaying the Defender at its US$240 price point, but if you're expecting to engage in heavy play, the numerous minor bits coming loose might lead you to resent the premium cost.

As a parts collection though, it's hard to get this much Sand Green in one place, especially with fifteen new elements included with generous quantities of each. LEGO Icons / Creator Expert cars offer increasingly solid customization experiences, none of which approach the flexibility of the Land Rover. If you enjoy swapping car parts the Defender 90 beats its lower-priced partners at every turn.

If you're buying it from LEGO.com (US$239.99/ £209.99/ 239.99€/ AU$369.99), please consider using our affiliate links, we may get a commission: USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop | UK LEGO Shop.

READ MORE: LEGO® Monkie Kid™ review: 80048 The Mighty Azure Lion

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  1. Thanks for this review! Isn't the ideas typewriter also sand green? If I am correct, then there are some lovely pieces and curves between the two sets that should allow some wonderful MOCs.

    1. Yeah! Lots of Sand Green all over 21327 Typewriter, that would have been a good one to mention alongside the Statues of Liberty. I'd love to see a MOC with the Sand Green wheels here combined with the Sand Green Porsche bows (77180, 77182). There are lots of minty cars to be built!

  2. When should we expect these to show up in the pick a brick store?

    1. We've heard The LEGO Group aims for about four months after a set's launch, though this timeline may vary per set and location.