2020 Land Rover Defender – what we know so far
The Defender is an icon among SUVs, and there’s an all-new model on the horizon. And this time, it’s not just for off-roading...
2020 Land Rover Defender – what we know so far
In January 2016, the last Defender rolled off Jaguar Land Rover's production line at Solihull, bringing an end to the iconic off-roader almost 67 years after the Series I Land Rover on which it was based went on sale.
Even now, the Defender remains the go-to off-road SUV for many, with the car having earned a worldwide reputation for tackling tough terrain. Owners have ranged from members of the royal family – the Queen has been pictured at the wheel of several Defenders – to the military and celebrities.
So when Land Rover announced it would be axing the Defender in 2015, there was considerable uproar for a new one to replace it. And Land Rover has responded, readying a new Defender to launch in 2020. So what can you expect from it?
Test mules out in the cold
The most recent test mules for the new Defender were spotted cold weather testing. These cars didn't show off the new car's design; they were wearing modified bodywork from a Range Rover Sport. Cold weather testing is crucial in proving the new Defender can function on any terrain – and, remember, that ability is part of what made the old car so successful.
A closely guarded secret
We're expecting to see a first glimpse towards the end of this year and, interestingly, the car shown will be pretty much production ready.
That's because Land Rover is very wary of showing concept cars (such as the DC100 concept that was intended to show how a 'new' Defender might look – more on that later) for fear of the design being copied in countries such as China. In fact, Land Rover sued Chinese car maker Landwind for its X7 model, which looked very much like the current Evoque.
Bold but modern design
Land Rover is said to be focusing on the phrase 'premium durability' – meaning that, while the new Defender should be every bit as tough as the old model, it won't look as overtly aggressive. Indeed, speaking to our sister title Autocar at last year's Frankfurt motor show, Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern said: "We have to stop thinking about function in a durable way. When you're buying into the brand, you're buying a premium product."
DC100 concept causes delays
The DC100 was a concept revealed in 2011 and originally intended to show a new, low-cost Defender model planned to go on sale in 2015. The project was canned, however, because public reaction was very poor. That reaction delayed Land Rover's plans for a new Defender as its designers returned to the drawing board – but it wasn't the only factor.
The other reason for the delay has been sales; the Defender, while considered iconic, is a niche vehicle that never sold in huge numbers. To make a new Defender viable, Land Rover is understood to be targeting annual sales of around 100,000 units, meaning offering buyers a choice of Defenders is neccessary.
A Defender family
Rather than having just the one Defender, Land Rover wants to make a whole family of models. As well as the traditional short and long-wheelbase versions, there are plans for a pick-up truck, an even smaller SUV and numerous trim levels that will prioritise either everyday use in towns or hardcore off-roading.
Premium and performance-oriented versions are also planned, with Land Rover keen to replicate the success of the plush Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Indeed, one of the most recent run-out special editions of the old Defender was a V8-engined version with a price tag of £150,000.
Tough new underpinnings
Those tough new underpinnings are crucial in ensuring the new Defender's success worldwide, in particular in the US and Canada, where the old car couldn't be sold because it failed to meet safety regulations.
Engines and off-road capability
Little is known about the Defender's engines at this point, but we know that they'll come from Jaguar Land Rover's Ingenium petrol and diesel line-up. Among the likely candidates is the 2.0-litre diesel we currently recommend in the Discovery Sport. A V6 diesel is also likely to be offered.
In terms of off-road prowess, the Defender should be one of the most capable SUVs around. It will be offered with the latest off-road technology, including multiple cameras and an evolution of the All-Terrain Progress Control system (in effect cruise control for off-roading) found in the latest Discovery.
A premium price tag
Land Rover is pitching the new Defender as a truly premium product, so it will come with a high price tag to place it into competition with rivals including the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as well as off-road stalwarts such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and new Jeep Wrangler.
The company has already shown, however, that Land Rover purists are willing to pay top dollar for the Defender badge. Indeed, special heritage versions of the old Defender launched in 2015 carried a price tag of almost £31,000, while the £150,000 Defender Works model we mentioned earlier sold out soon after going on sale.
Jaguar Land Rover's SUV offensive
The new Defender is just one of a number of new SUVs to be launched by Jaguar Land Rover between now and 2025.
The first will be a new Evoque, which is due to arrive next year, followed by the new Defender and then a new Range Rover in 2021. Jaguar is expected to launch its largest SUV, the J-Pace, in the same year. It will sit above the current E-Pace and F-Pace.
Other highlights further into the future include a new Range Rover Sport and a new road-focused Range Rover model in 2022.
Can't wait for the new Defender? Our comprehensive used car buying guide tells you everything you need to know about purchasing a used one, including how much to pay and potential problems to watch out for.
Or how about another used SUV? In this next story, we run down our favourites for less than £10,000.
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