Redesigning an automotive icon like the Land Rover Defender is no easy feat. The original was characterized by its legendary rugged off-road abilities, simple construction, and tough appearance. For 2020 (codenamed L851), the changes are huge; forget what you know about its predecessor(s), as the all-new Defender now treads into premium territory.
So, let’s take an illustrative first look into what the short and long wheelbase versions will look like; and just how much it’ll change underneath the skin.
Re-imagining An Icon
Whilst retaining a boxy silhouette, the new look is a mix of Land Rover Discovery and the DC100 Concept from 2011. Frontal styling has an upright, blocky appearance with straight, horizontal grille openings and rectangular LED headlamps. The DLO (daylight opening area) features slim-framed windows with blacked-out pillars for a floating roof-effect.
The exposed door hinges on the original have been eschewed for more modern bodywork, which is simply contoured and devoid of excessive styling flourishes. Fender vents sit flush with the front doors, and the back features a side-hinged, tailgate-mounted spare wheel and led tail lamps.
Under The Rugged Skin
The Defender’s tough new underpinnings are a strengthened adaptation of the MLA platform that sits underneath the Range Rover Sport and Land Rover Discovery. Moving to this architecture means the new Defender is able to compete on a global stage, where safety standards ruled out previous iterations being sold in markets like USA and Canada.
As for the cabin, “premium durability” is the new catchphrase. It has chunky, horizontally-themed styling, melded together with quality materials and technical detailing. It also blasts into the 21st century with hoards of tech and driver assistance; expect goodies like heads-up display, wireless charging, dual-view SatNav with wifi, lane keeping aid, adaptive cruise and ClearSight ground View – which uses cameras to project a see-through hood onto the touchscreen to assist with parking and off-road wheel placement.
Whilst yet to be confirmed, we anticipate 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel units from Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium powertrain family. A petrol-electric hybrid is also tipped to be in the works; this unit in the Ranger Rover Sport pumps out 398 combined hp and offers up to 31 miles of all-electric driving range. It’s unknown if this configuration will be plug-in or aided by regenerative braking.
Power will be fed to all four wheels via automatic and manual transmission options. Independent rear suspension will be standard, as will a terrain management system with selectable drive modes.
Tested To Defend
Some might perceive the new look as a softening of its capabilities, but don’t be fooled – Land Rover promises it will be the most capable and robust Land Rover ever developed.
In developing the 2020 Defender, Land Rover has already completed 1.2 million kilometers of testing to date, with more still to be done. The development team has been to various corners of the globe to test the Defender, from the scorching heat of Death Valley USA, the freezing cold in Sweden, the hot sands of Dubai and even the Nürburgring – perhaps a hot SVR version is on its way?
Designed In Britain, Made In Slovakia
Another break in tradition with the all-new Defender is that it’ll be made at a new, state-of-the-art Nitra manufacturing facility in Slovakia. The new plant which was opened last year utilizes an advanced Kuka Pulse carrier system which is 30 percent faster than traditional conveyance setups.
Jaguar-Land Rover anticipates up to 100,000 vehicles will be built there, including some Land Rover Discovery models too.
Off-Road Rivals & Launch Timing
Since the 2020 Defender is going premium, it’ll have stronger credentials when compared against the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s iconic G-Wagen. Expect a range of different variants in 90 and 110 formats, plus a plethora of accessories.
While Land Rover has yet to give us a specific date, the all-new Defender will be officially revealed later this year (possibly in September), with sales starting early 2020.
What are your thoughts on the new Defender; should Land Drover have kept more faithful to the original, or do you like its modern take? Tell us in the comments below.