29th January 2016. The final Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line, and the deafening sound heard directly afterward was that of regret. Land Rover knew they’d made a mistake of epic proportions. Even Ralph Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover admitted to the mistake, and said that “it was one of my toughest days to stop the Defender, the icon.”
A new Defender has been in the planning for a long time, and it was never meant to be just the revival of the name, attached to some posh-roader that couldn’t cut it when the going was hard. It had to be a worthy successor.
And the new 2020 Defender is exactly that. Right down to the white, steel wheels.
If you manage to catch any of Land Rover’s social media feeds, you can’t help noticing that it’s full of ‘reimagined’ or ‘of the moment’ and ‘reassuringly recognisable silhouette’, and while that’s more than just marketing hype (there really is something to it), the fact is that the Defender really isn’t like anything we’ve seen before.
Sure, the ‘powerful, squared-off wheel arches’ give it a fantastic style, the ‘solid shoulders’ do share more than a passing resemblance to the predecessor, but let’s not get too hung up on what was, look to the future and you’ll see that Land Rover have created something special. (And unlike the original Defender, it will be just as capable on-road as off).
Land Rover use a monocoque architecture for the new Defender, which gives it triple the torsional rigidity than the older body-on-frame engineering. This isn’t soft and soggy like the original, but thanks to the clever suspension (a mixture of traditional coil suspension and electronic air suspension) it isn’t firm enough to be uncomfortable. You’ll never feel under-damped or over-sprung.
There are some gestures that point to its past – the Alpine lights and side-hinged rear tailgate for example, but Land Rover have done it in such a way as to make you feel that it’s all brand new, never seen before, fresh thinking for the modern age.
Of course it’s a little softer, or perhaps that should be ‘friendlier’ than the original, it’s easier to live with, and is more capable as an all-rounder; the original Defender might have got you up Ben Nevis, but the new one will get you there in comfort, and still climb like a mountain goat. Looking at the result of the 2020 Defender, you’d have to say that Land Rover absolutely made the right choice to finish production, to concentrate on bringing the model back as a ground up, completely reengineered model.
To add further credence to the whole ‘proper off-roader’ theme, Land Rover have given it a wading depth of 900mm, a towing capacity of 3,500Kg, load space of 1,075 litres unless you fold the 2nd row seating flat, which adds a further 1,305 litres (expedition anyone?), short overhangs, an active electronic differential and of course, configurable terrain response.
On the inside, things are still geared toward off-road and utility without being sparse or uncomfortable. Neat little touches like flush mounted door sills means the clean up is easy, exposed structural surfaces give an air of ruggedness, and hard-wearing fabrics on high wear points of the seats help to keep everything looking fresh. Small details, great thinking.
Still looking for more? How about a HUD (Heads Up Display), heated seats across all three rows, adaptive cruise control, wireless charging, USB ports, connectivity … imagine a Range Rover with the ultimate in off-road ability and you’re somewhere near.
Forget everything you knew about the older Defender, or imagine it 100x better.
Thankfully, Land Rover haven’t done away with everything to do with the Defender – it will still be available in the 90 and 110 variants, with deliver of the 110 expected to be early 2020, and the 90 coming slightly later in 2020.
Four choices of engines – two diesels, and two petrols, ranging from 2.0 litre to 3.0 litre, and of course, featuring mild hybridisation. All things to all people.
And finally … the finishing touch, the coup de grâce for the competition … those perfectly formed, white steel wheels. They absolutely finish the job perfectly.
Interested in finding out more? One of our friendly team is always on hand to answer questions, why not pop by or give them a call.