2019 Land Rover Defender will be fully reshaped

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Land Rover will use its 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018 to finally disclose 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. Land Rover is now wary of revealing concept cars for fear of the design being plagiarized, 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 the DC100 becoming the new Defender that the firm returned to the drawing board. 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 ideas for the reborn Defender center on 2 different wheelbases and 2 distinct body styles. The famous 90in and 110in wheelbase 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 aluminum 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 possibly comprise a pick-up and a line-up of different versions and trims ranging from the more civilized everyday use to the most hardcore, as well as more premium and performance varieties, with one eye on the continued success of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Certainly, Land Rover has long stated that the Defender will be not just a car but one of the 3 pillars of its whole 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 construction, 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.