2020 Land Rover Defender SUV: what we know so far
The Defender is an icon among SUVs, but there’s an all-new model on the horizon, and this time it won't be just for off-roading...
On sale: Early 2020 | Price from: £45,000 (est)
In January 2016, the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line in 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-roader for many, with the SUV having earned a worldwide reputation for tackling tough terrain. Owners have ranged from celebrities and members of the royal family – the Queen has been pictured at the wheel of several Defenders – to the military.
So when Land Rover announced it would be discontinuing the Defender in 2015, there was considerable uproar for a replacement. And the firm has now responded, readying a new Defender to launch in 2020. So, what can you expect from it?
2020 Land Rover Defender styling
The most recent test mules for the new Defender were spotted cold-weather testing. These didn't show off the new car's design – instead, they were wearing modified Range Rover Sport bodywork. Cold-weather testing is crucial in proving the new Defender can function on any terrain, and that ability is what the model is all about.
We're expecting to see a first glimpse later this year, and 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 of 2011 that was intended to show how a new Defender might look – more on that later) for fear of the design being copied. In fact, Land Rover sued Chinese car maker Landwind for its X7, which looked very much like the outgoing Range Rover Evoque.
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 basic. 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."
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 latterly couldn't be sold because it failed to meet safety regulations.
2020 Land Rover Defender interior
The above image was posted on Twitter, and while it hasn't been confirmed as being official, it does appear to show a late-stage mock-up of the Defender's interior. As you might expect, the interior is far more modern than the the original Defender's, with highlights including a fully digital instrument display, a stubby gear selector for the automatic gearbox and a wide infotainment screen, likely running the latest version of Jaguar Land Rover's InControl system.
The materials used inside the car look to be durable and hard-wearing, too – exactly what Defender drivers will be looking for. A third front seat is hinted at in the photo, although this can't be confirmed.
2020 Land Rover Defender engines
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 four-cylinder diesel we currently recommend in the Discovery Sport. A V6 diesel is also likely to be offered, and both manual and automatic gearboxes should 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.
2020 Land Rover Defender price
Land Rover is pitching the new Defender as a truly premium product, so it will rival the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as well as the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser and new Jeep Wrangler. Prices for the most basic versions are expected to start at around £45,000, rising to £70,000 for range-topping models.
The company has already shown, however, that purists are willing to pay top dollar for a Defender. Indeed, special heritage versions launched in 2015 carried a price tag of almost £31,000, while the V8-engined Defender Works special finale sold out quickly, despite costing £150,000.
Land Rover DC100 – a tough start for the new Defender
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 this wasn't the only factor.
The other reason for the delay has been sales; the Defender, while 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 wide choice is necessary.
A family of Defender models
Rather than having just the one Defender, Land Rover will make a whole family of models. As well as the traditional short and long-wheelbase versions, with three and five doors, there are plans for a pick-up truck, an even smaller SUV and numerous trim levels that will prioritise either hardcore off-roading or everyday use in towns.
Premium and performance-oriented versions are also planned, with Land Rover keen to replicate the success of the plush Mercedes-Benz G-Class and its Mercedes-AMG G63 offshoot.
Can't wait for the new Defender? Our comprehensive used car buying guide tells you everything you need to know about purchasing an original one, including how much to pay and potential problems to watch out for.
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