Next-gen Land Rover Defender as imagined by Autocar
All-new Defender will be the most high-tech Land Rover yet, have exceptional off-road ability and be sold as a premium 4×4
However, a greater reason for the delay has been the difficulty in building a viable business plan for the model. Sales of the old Defender never rose above 20,000 units per annum in later years and as many as 100,000 annual sales are needed to make it viable this time round.
To that end, initial launch plans for the reborn Defender centre on two different wheelbases – both of which have been spotted testing – and two distinct bodystyles. The famous anniversary celebrations in 2018 to finally reveal its plans for a reborn Defender, which will go on sale in 2019.
It is now almost two years since the Defender went out of production – 67 years after the original Land Rover Series I it’s derived from entered it – and there has been a wall of silence around the company’s plans to launch a replacement.
However, Autocar can now reveal that the new Defender, codenamed L663, will finally be shown towards the end of Land Rover’s 70th anniversary celebrations – and the model revealed will be the final production car, not a concept.
Land Rover is now wary of revealing concept cars for fear of the design being plagiarised, so it has decided against giving an early flavour of the Defender.
The company did start to show the family of DC100 concepts in 2011, which at the time were said to preview a more low-cost new Defender then coming in 2015. But such was the reaction against that gave the old Defender 90 and Defender 110 their names will also inspire the naming strategy of the new model, which will be built on a version of one of Jaguar Land Rover’s aluminium architectures.
Those wheelbases will house both hard-top and soft- top bodystyle options for the new car, which are currently being experimented with in Land Rover’s design studio. An eventual series of Defender models will potentially include a pick-up and a line-up of different versions and trims ranging from the more civilised everyday use to the most hardcore, as well as more premium and performance varieties, with one eye onthe continued success of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
Indeed, Land Rover has long stated that the Defender will be not just a car but one of the three pillars of its entire business. The other two are the Range Rover and the Discovery range of models.
The new Defender will be based on a common Jaguar Land Rover architecture, a toughened-up version of the D7u underpinnings used on the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery models. This will enable the kinds of economies of scale in production that the old model never achieved, as well as allowing for a range of petrol and diesel engines from JLR’s Ingenium line-up to be offered.
It also means the model can be sold in the US and Canada, which the old Defender couldn’t because it failed to meet crash safety regulations.
Although the DC100 concept offered no clues about the final design of the new Defender, the recent Discovery SVX at the Frankfurt motor show does – not so much in specific design features but in terms of the execution. Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern described the execution of the Discovery SVX‘s design as “premium durability”. By this, he meant the fact that its toughness needn’t be displayed with traditionally overt off-road features such as snorkels and large rows of spotlights.
The phrase ‘premium durability’ has also inspired the creation of the new Defender, which will be pitched as a premium product and priced as such. The car’s final design is understood to have a much more understated and refined look than previous artists’ impressions have suggested.
“We have to stop thinking about function in a durable way,” McGovern told Autocar at the Frankfurt show. “When you’re buying into the brand, you’re buying a premium product.”
That decision will mark a clear design shift for the new Defender away from the original and, as such, it will not be a retro-styled reinterpretation of the classic model in the way that other post-war icons such as the Mini, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Beetle have been reinvented.
Although the design will contain no more than a few nods to the original, the new car’s capability will be beyond reproach. Indeed, the new Defender is set to be the most high-tech Land Rover yet. It will have a full and updated suite of off-road technology based on the Terrain Response II system that surpasses the tech offered on the new Discovery model introduced this year.
Land Rover is aiming for the new Defender to be designed and engineered to have the kind of ground clearance and approach, departure and break-over angles that will give it class-leading off-road performance and agility.
The crucial commercial balance Land Rover is working on is ensuring the car appeals to both hardcore off-road enthusiasts, who will use it as intended, and a broader, more general audience, who will put it to more typical everyday use. The whole premise of the brand is based on the credibility of its off-road message – a role the original Defender fulfilled many times over on a marketing level, even as sales dwindled. Whereas models like the Evoque and Velar, however capable they are, may not need the approval of the purists in Land Rover’s eyes, the Defender definitely does.
The firm also has a close eye on the plans of billionaire industrialist Jim Ratcliffe to launch his own rough and tough off-roader born out of the demise of the original Defender. Despite …read more