Land Rover Land Rover 110 Tdi 1983 - 1990

This series of articles offers buying tips and advice on some of our all-time favourite used four wheel drives. Vehicles that have proven themselves and stood the test of time. These vehicles, if serviced and looked after properly, can represent good value for anyone searching for a used 4x4. In this article we deal with the Land Rover 110 Tdi.

Joining the Land Rover Fraternity
Land Rover 110 Tdi

Land Rover owners don't purchase a four wheel drive - they join a club. Land Rover owners wave at each other and chat about their 4x4's in car parks. They exchange tips, ideas and experiences and feel good about driving a car whose ancestry was largely responsible for opening up the interiors of Africa and Australia. In short they are passionate about their choice of 4WD. Land Rover owners probably know more about their vehicle and the Land Rover ancestry than any other group of four wheel drivers.

And they need to get involved - because Land Rover ownership can be a quirky experience that often requires a level of dedication not demanded by other marques.

The Good, The Bad and The…

Many models had a reputation for poor build quality and agricultural design and ergonomics. Larger drivers found the driving position cramped to the point of being unserviceable and road and wind noise made owning a radio pointless. Leaks could be found in the cab (wet feet in the rain) and under the hood, almost like they were factory fitted.

With a reputation for being urban unfriendly and not the best handling road car it's a wonder any were ever sold. You may ask why we have bothered to review the Defender 110 TDi at all

Simple. They were an unbelievably good off-road unit that could tow a train.

The chassis was formed from 2mm box section which mounted to coil suspension complemented with front and rear live axles.

The Defender 110 was named for the 110 inch wheelbase (2794mm) while a Defender 90 and 130 were also available. These shorter and longer wheelbase versions each have their own fans.

The combination of coil sprung suspension and wheelbase gave great articulation, making for a very nimble performer. Good ground clearance and approach and departure angles meant the Land Rover easily straddled awkward lumps and resisted bottoming out in ditches and wallows. Which is a complex way of saying it didn't get stuck as often as some of it's Japanese rivals.

The Tdi Powerplant

The Tdi had a 5 cylinder 2.5 litre diesel engine that produced 300NM of torque at 1950rpm. A turbocharger and intercooler were added in 1986 and coupled to a 5 speed manual gearbox provided a competitive answer to Japan's 4WD onslaught.

The Tdi turbo increased power by 13% and torque by a whopping 31%. Combined with fuel economy that embarrassed the thirsty Japanese motors, these upgrades helped built the models desirability.

The 5 speed transmission provided constant four wheel drive with high and low options and a 'lockable' central differential that made for sure footed off-road performance. What Land Rover lacked in creature comforts it made up for in intelligent design like the drive-train and suspension. To understand this is to understand what Land Rovers are all about.

These five door station wagons quickly developed a reputation of being able to tow or carry anything. With a payload over a tonne and the ability to tow 3500kg braked - the Tdi hardly murmured when expected to work and perform.

As a Used Proposition

Confidence in the Land Rovers abilities was continually reinforced with sales to armies across the world and Australia was no exception. Perhaps this is part of the intrigue of being a Land Rover owner. The knowledge that the Land Rover heritage lies firmly entrenched in it's use as a military vehicle and continent explorer.

Certainly the off-road capabilities of the 110 Tdi are garnered from knowledge gained in outfitting the British and Colonial military. This is reflected in the fit and trim and the fact that comfort plays second fiddle to performance.

Land Rover 110 Tdi's had their share of reliability issues. Shock absorbers were known to wear quickly and create some handling quirks while some earlier models had gearbox problems. Avoid anything with suspect gear shift actions and noise.

The diesel engine needed valve clearance adjustment at 20,000km intervals and a new timing belt at 80,000km but parts are plentiful and the overall cost of running a 110 is reasonably economical.

Tdi diesel engines that have had a caring service life should return 250,000km before any major replacements are required.

The famed alloy body panels did rust as did various other areas but nothing severe.

If you are prepared to get involved with your four wheel drive, can accommodate the spartan design and don't mind being considered mildly eccentric - then a Land Rover 110 Tdi will replay you with enviable off-road performance and great towing capacity.

Allied with a huge and loyal fan base that can provide information regarding anything Land Rover then owning one of these units may just make you a convert.

Correction from Adrian -'You mention that the TDi was a 5 cylinder diesel engine. The TDi 200 and the TDi 300 were 4 cylinder engines. In April 1998 Landrover in Oz began selling the TD5 which was the 5 cylinder diesel which has a completely different animal.'


The article 4WD Accessories, What do you need? offers some tips on outfitting a four wheel drive.

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