Photos released by Land Rover show a heavily camouflaged pilot (or pre-production test) car that will be reasonably close to the final product underneath the padding. Previous spy shots have shown a ‘mule’ car, with a modified Range Rover Sport body on the Defender running gear. This pilot vehicle is a five-door wagon, the replacement for the 110, which was easily the most popular variant to come to Australia for the old model and will probably lead the charge in sales again. The photos are taken outside the Land Rover factory.
Official Word from Land Rover
Speaking from the 2018 Paris Motor Show, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief marketing officer Felix Bräutigam said: “It’s exciting to now start getting one step closer to officially announcing the rebirth of an icon.”
“These are what we call Pilot build cars and testing will increase on public roads from now,” said Bräutigam. “The first four cars are ready, and now the line is running you can expect the number of test cars to grow exponentially.”
“In time, as you’d expect, the Defender will go through all the usual test routines, from cold weather testing in Arjeplog in Sweden to extreme hot weather testing in Death Valley in the USA. It’s exciting for us to be able to now be one step closer to bringing the car to market, of course. We are talking about the rebirth of an icon and not just as a single car, but as a whole family.”
“Our brand is about passion, and it is icons that drive that passion. The truth is the world doesn’t need another premium brand doing what all the others do. These icons are what separate us; at Land Rover we are rooted in our heritage and that’s what makes us different.”
Defender family values
The pilot vehicle shows a wealth of design cues from the Defender as well as a few from the Discovery and Range Rover families. The offset grille badge has been with the family since 1994. The horizontal louvred radiator grille itself dates from the introduction of the Ninety and One Ten models of 1984.
The disguise includes padding on the doors and a taller, flat bonnet with prominent edge to distract the eye; the roof is also faux.
Rear cargo space appears to be shorter than that of a 110, making a seven-seater a tight fit and a roof rack or trailer a necessity for remote touring. Rear underfloor space appears taken by the exhaust system, and all concept art to date has shown a rear-hung spare wheel.
Progress never sleeps
Purists will dislike the full independent suspension, especially on the utility models, despite how well the Discovery handles off-road. The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel will be shunned by the big engine brigade even though the Ingenium engine family have proven to be strong performers for a number of years now. There is a high chance the drivetrain will be hybrid-electric, if not across the range but as an option. The tapered sides and raked roof isn’t as economical for interior space. Shallower window lines and Alpine Window (or in my old One Ten: spider habitat) deletion will take from the bright and airy feel of the Defender.
Bräutigam added, “If we had wanted to recreate the existing car then we could have moved quicker, but it is our view that for an icon to remain an icon it cannot only look backwards, but must move forwards too. The new Defender will move the game on again, and having the benefit for some perspective in order to achieve that should be to our advantage.”
“The one thing I can promise you is that the new Defender will do all that our customers expect of it, without being a copycat of what has gone before. It is a car for the modern world, and that means that it must move the game on if it is to be relevant.”
Land Rover bosses have said the first excited customers can expect to pick up their cars some time in 2020.