New Land Rover Defender: fresh pics, details

Published: 02 August 2019

► Full details of new 2020 Defender
► Farewell UK: Slovakian build confirmed 
► Expect whole family of Defenders

The new 2020 Land Rover Defender simply has to be ace at off-roading, right? To be anything other than the mountain goat of 4x4s would be a letdown - so they've embarked on a rigorous prototype testing programme that this week teamed up with the Red Cross.

Emergency workers have relied on cars like the Landie for decades, and the off-roading gurus from the aid agency have been helping fettle mud-plugging systems. Cue the perfect photo opportunity for Land Rover, as the new Defender ploughs through Dubai deserts and across mountain passes at the hands of the gnarliest drivers imaginable.

2020 Land Rover Defender desert testing in Dubai with the International Red Cross

The short-wheelbase '90' version of the new Defender looks suitably stubby in the latest round of photos. No new details have emerged, other than a maximum tyre diameter of 815mm for a dune-friendly tyre contact patch, but the photos reveal a little more of the squared-off boxy aesthetic. 

We already know that a whole range of bodystyles is planned, with short- and long-wheelbase '90' and '110' models in the works, plus a few surprises along the way. It's telling that Land Rover is teaming up with aid agencies and safari workers - a commercial, heavy-duty version is planned. Which might explain why they've just renewed a supply deal with the Red Cross for the next three years.

The countdown to this autumn's Land Rover Defender launch is decidedly on. Read on to see our latest spy photos inside and out, and to read the latest official - and unofficial - details of the new Landie. We've pieced together the jigsaw to deliver the definitive story.

2020 Land Rover Defender interior spy photos

Our spy pictures show exactly what it’ll look like inside. These latest images were taken while Defender prototype was testing, and were snapped while the test driver was messing around with equipment at the side of the road. 

In the first of several shocks, die-hard traditionalists will be aghast to see a digital instrument pack on the new Defender. This reflects how the 4x4 is in fact heavily related to the rest of the premium SUV range, and will be dripping with mod-cons underneath its tough-boy exterior. Note the presence of a proper sound-system and sat-nav, and a shifter similar to the trigger stick so many other JLR products use sprouting from the dashboard. 

Everything you need to know about the new 2020 Land Rover Defender

We've been busy gathering more details on the new Land Rover Defender, codenamed L851 and due on sale in showrooms in 2020 - bringing the world-famous-but-dormant nameplate back from the dead. It is now certain that Land Rover will launch a Defender Sport model, as well as myriad bodystyles - and a battery electric version is in the works too, slated for launch in 2024, CAR can reveal.

New Land Rover Defender

According to JLR, prototypes of the new Defender have surpassed 1.2 million kilometres of testing, and that includes 45,000 individual tests. As with most cars, those tests are conducted in extremes of cold and heat – and now JLR says the car is going to be put to work in the 14,000 hectare Borana Conservancy in Africa.

For many, the Defender is the backbone of the brand, but there has been no out-and-out mud-plugger in the range since the original went off sale in 2016. Now that's all set to change with a major investment to relaunch the nameplate.

The new Land Rover Defender will form an entire family, in much the same way that the Discovery range has branched into the Sport sub-brand. The plan is to offer different models to laser-focused user groups - as evidenced by the plan to launch with an array of accessories such as roof-top tents and other outdoors-focused options.

JLR CEO Ralph Speth is bullishly talking up the new Defender. Dr Speth, speaking at the FT Future of the Car Summit in London, said: ‘It was one of my toughest days to stop the old Defender, the icon. I’ve driven the new Defender. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this, but it’s so sensational on the road and off. It’s pure fun and so capable.’

New Defender: a whole family of 4x4s 

Study the pics closely: they prove the new car will get independent rear suspension (a hint of its dual-purpose, on-road ability) and it looks like the side-hinged tailgate will return, too. The new Defender will dip into the JLR group's confection of aluminum platform know-how - the body-on-ladder-frame construction is out, and a new monocoque architecture is in, according to our sources.

The result is a lighter, stiffer and dimensionally more flexible vehicle which will in future cover the full spectrum from mountain bruiser to boulevard cruiser, from Heritage to Autobiography, from workhorse to boulevardier. Although all derivatives share the fixed points of the same basic architecture, LR will offer a choice of axles, tyres, transmissions and suspension calibrations to meet a wide range of customer requirements.

Land Rover copped some flak for its 2011 concept car, badged DC100 (above), but the spirit of its modernist approach - and variety of flavours - is said to live on. Further down the line, we hear word of Project L860, the Defender Sport due in 2026.

CAR understands the Defender is coming in at least two variations next year as JLR looks to capitalise on its cult status. Our sources suggest there’ll be a 90 and 110 version, and the short overhang here suggests that we’ve snapped the former. It’s also similar to the model we saw cold weather testing in Arjeplog, Sweden, just as few weeks ago (below).

New Land Rover Defender testing in Sweden


‘We are enormously excited to be revealing the first member of the Defender family during 2019 with UK customers taking delivery in 2020,’  said Rawdon Glover, Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director. 

‘The Defender nameplate stands for durability and alongside Range Rover delivering ultimate luxury and Discovery offering the best versatility in the market, we will have an SUV for every customer requirement.’

For everything else you need to know about the new Land Rover Defender, keep reading.

Land Rover Defender Sport: what we know

The Defender Sport is still a long way out. But L860 has our full attention because, similar to Defender, it has the premium entry-level outdoors niche all to itself. While the box-shaped classic is visually and technically off-road-biased, the Sport edition has more of an on-road and lifestyle flavour with plenty of convenience features in addition to the full set of mountain climbing gear.

Think of it as a modern Suzuki Jimny/Jeep Wrangler for the well-to-do in-crowd. To be built in low labour-cost Nitra, the Defender Sport will be available as a full battery electric vehicle.

See the Land Rover DC100 concept cars in full

Engines, specs

Electrification is coming to the Defender family, but most buyers will initially buy internal combustion engines, while battery tech and infrastructure play catch up. Engineering sources have confirmed to CAR quite a few details about the engines and specs of this quintessential reduce-to-the-max British SUV. Buyers will be able to select the number of doors as well as the bodystyle, trim level, character of the car and, of course, the flavour of north-south engine.

2020 Land Rover Defender front end

Expect the familiar JLR-group 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to provide the entry level, but you're also going to see a selection of new inline six-cylinder engines join the Ingenium family as the old V6s are phased out. Expect 3.0-litre petrol and diesel motors available. All engines are artificially aspirated; some even feature an additional electric charger for an extra helping of take off-grunt and acceleration boost.

The first three Land Rover Defender models to hit the showrooms are tipped to be a LWB four-door metal-top, the SWB two-door metal-top and its soft-top sister model. 

The boss on the new Land Rover Defender

These pictures of the new Defender emerged as the 2018 Paris motor show was in full swing on 2 October 2018. We took the opportunity to ask Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralph Speth about how the new Defender project is going. 'The Defender is an icon and we are working on it now,' he told CAR magazine. 'It's a true Land Rover, a key part of the brand.' He refused to be drawn on further details, but hinted it would be ready by early next decade. 

A spokesman added: 'Jaguar Land Rover runs a wide range of engineering and technology development programmes. We are unable to comment on the specific nature of these programmes. However we can confirm that the Defender programme is progressing well and has reached an exciting stage of its development.

2020 Land Rover Defender rear

'We can confirm that customers around the world will be taking delivery of and enjoying Defender again from 2020.'

New Land Rover Defender: on sale in 2020

This is the first official guidance on the Defender launch - and it points to a motor show debut at some point later in 2019, in roughly a year's time. Let's say the Frankfurt motor show.

Why is it not built in the UK?

‘When we decided to go abroad with the i-Pace we had no spare capacity whatsoever.’ As electrification spreads across the Jaguar and Land Rover ranges, PHEVs are being built in the UK, he pointed out. 

What about rumours of PSA buying JLR from Tata? He had seen Carlos Tavares but had not discussed a takeover with the PSA chief, he said. But he wouldn’t be drawn on whether PSA and Tata had spoken.

Although being part of a big global group might bring economies of scale, he liked the agility that comes from being a relatively small player. ‘We have freedom to do things in our own way. Overall I think we are very well prepared for the future as a British company in Britain.’ 

Asked about JLR’s need to cut its costs by billions of pounds, Speth said: ‘Every car company at the moment is stretched. But we have a clear plan. We have taken tough decisions prior to anybody else. We are on track. We are the fastest growing brand in the US with Land Rover. With Jaguar we are the fastest growing brand in France.’

There were many challenges ahead, with customers demanding petrol, hybrid and battery electric options, and with uncertainty about the long-term future of technology. ‘With batteries there are huge challenges to overcome in terms of production and performance, but also in recycling.’

The new Defender would leave its spiritual home in Solihull and be built in Nitra, Slovakia. It's one of JLR's newest plants, with the capacity to build 150,000 vehicles a year. The Discovery is also being built at the same factory.

By CAR's road test team

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