► Full details of new 2020 Defender
► Farewell UK: Slovakian build confirmed
► Expect whole family of Defenders
The new Land Rover Defender is imminent, and now new 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 testing equipment.
It’s clear that the new Defender a robust cabin with a decent-sized infotainment display, but there’s little else to make out – save for a dashboard-mounted gearstick, too. Interestingly, these new pictures also confirm a few other leaked images that were seen on Twitter earlier this year.
Everything you need to know
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.
Alongside a few new pictures of the car in testing camo – and one with a little less disguise – Land Rover has revealed a few new details about the 4x4, and exactly where it is in the development cycle.
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.
In October 2018 we first published photos capturing the first prototypes of the new Defender on test near the Jaguar Land Rover test facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Before this only heavily disguised, cut 'n' shut test hacks had been seen on the public road and now more pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.
Land Rover is busy readying its most important new launch for years. 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.
So 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.
The boss speaks
JLR CEO Ralph Speth is bullishly talking up his financially challenged company’s prospects. 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.’
He was also ebullient about the multi-award-winning all-electric i-Pace: ‘I am very proud about the i-Pace. It shows that in the UK there’s advanced technology. The UK team can do it. It has a completely new design language, with far more space in the interior, as well as the technology.’
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.
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).
‘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
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.
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.
'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.
What's key for the new Defender? What has to stay the same and what needs to change? Have your say in the comments below...