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2021 Land Rover Defender 90: The Bench-Seat Blues

land-rover-defender-90-2021-02-angle-exterior-front-green 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 | Cars.com photo by Jennifer Geiger

Land Rover does capability very well when it comes to off-roading, but what about inside? I’m talking specifically about the Defender’s front jump seat. Available on both the two-door (90) and four-door (110) models, it essentially turns the front seat of the SUV into a three-position bench, allowing the short-wheelbase Defender 90 to hold up to six occupants. But does it really? Like, really?

Related: 2020 Land Rover Defender Review: Tough Luxe

As a mom who routinely ends up carrying more people and stuff than she planned for, I applaud the addition of the jump seat — in theory. In practice, driving around with someone in it was like being the bread in a human sandwich: It was too close for comfort, literally.

land-rover-defender-90-2021-03-interior 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 front seat | Cars.com photo by Jennifer Geiger

I tested this feature by accident in a Defender 90. A friend needed a ride from Chicago to the Milwaukee airport, and I happened to have an extra seat … in the middle of the Defender. The friend (an adult of average weight and height) rode shotgun, and my husband got the cheap seat next to me, the driver.

The trip was around 70 miles, and we giggled for about one of them. After that we settled into what was a very awkward ride from both an ergonomics and comfort stance.

First, the occupant in the middle seat had nowhere to put his legs, so they were crouched up in front of the gear selector, blocking access to the shifter. Also blocked was the view — by his head. The entire rearview mirror was taken over by my uncomfortable husband’s face. Lastly, the three of us had no personal space — zero, zilch — as our arms jockeyed for real estate smashed up against each other.

land-rover-defender-90-2021-04-bench-seat-front-row-interior-legroom 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 front seat | Cars.com photo by Jennifer Geiger

The setup doesn’t really work for three adults, at least not for a medium-to-long trip. It’s also not car-seat-friendly, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids stay in the backseat until age 13. So who’s it for?

“The front jump is the perfect seat for that sixth passenger — child or adult — for a quick trip to the beach, market or wherever your next adventure may take you,” Andrew Brudnicki of Land Rover communications told me via email.

land-rover-defender-90-2021-06-oem-bench-seat-front-row-interior 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 | Manufacturer image

Even though it didn’t exactly work for me, it could come in handy on occasion, and it’s a pretty rare feature among SUVs, so it makes the Defender stand out. This isn’t the only SUV available with a jump seat in front, but only a few exist: On base trims of the 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, the front jump seat is offered in the form of an optional 40/20/40-split front bench. The Defender 90 is, however, “quite possibly the shortest new vehicle in overall length (170.2 [inches] without spare wheel; 180.4 [inches] with the spare wheel) that can accommodate [six] occupants,” Brudnicki said.

Just be careful who you put in there, and make sure you like them — a lot.

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