UPDATE - 10.05.2019
As part of its plans to really emphasise that the upcoming Defender will be tougher than ever, Land Rover has brought one of its prototypes to 2020 Invictus Games host city, The Hague. Founder of the games, Prince Harry, and medal-winner Jack Pastora met the 4x4, which was dressed in the games colours, offering a closer glimpse of JLR’s next model – and providing an effective distraction from speculation of an impending PSA company takeover…
Even with thinner camouflage to hide it, the prototype’s front-end still looks to take heavy inspiration from the Disco 4, with a similarly squared-off face and squarer headlights than anything else in Land Rover’s present line-up. There remain hints of DC100 in the lenses, while the rest of the body looks to continue that concept’s boxy theme – as have all the other prototypes that have been seen testing around the world (more on that below).
Some may be disappointed at the lack of retro design features to draw links to the old Defender – although it’s never looked likely that we’d see a G-Class-esq reimagination of the original. Instead, it seems JLR wants to expand the remit of its Defender to increase sales, with an exterior to be accepted by a wider audience and much, much better on-road usability – as illustrated by the inline-six car we spotted at the ‘Ring – alongside its tough, off-road credentials.
PREVIOUS STORY - 03.05.2019
You might assume that Land Rover’s pledge to make the next Defender its most capable model yet applies to the vehicle’s off-road abilities, but the most recent sighting of a test car at the Nurburgring suggests the brand’s ambitions go much further than that. In the spy video below, the inline six-powered Defender we saw in March is back out being driven in a manner that would have put the original on its roof by the third turn, backing suggestion a performance version is due with some very undefenderlike road holding.
Using JLR’s new turbocharged 3.0-litre engine, it could have a power output to rival the old and better-endowed Defender Works V8, a 380hp model that was produced last year and sold out in just four weeks – confirming there’s no shortage of demand for potent, boxy Landys. But unlike the 2018 cars, the 2020 Defender will use JLR’s state-of-the-art MLA aluminium underpinnings with independent rear suspension. The effects of this modern setup are clear on our sighted test car, which looks fairly comfortable being driven at pace on circuit.
Still, that doesn’t mean we’re looking at a full-blown road-biased Defender; the large profile tyres hint at an off-road focus. Which might help to appease those who can’t imagine a Defender as anything but the most rugged option of its class. More on JLR’s ambitions for that below…
ORIGINAL STORY - 30.04.2019
We don’t need Land Rover to tell us how extensive the testing programme for the next-gen Defender has been; numerous sightings of development cars on and off roads the world over have confirmed that. But for anyone doubting the workload, JLR has revealed the far-reaching locations that prototypes of its fleet have been driven for a combined 750,000 miles of testing – which, we should add, excludes the rig and simulation tests it had done before that.
These days, big numbers for testing are commonplace, but the extremities of JLR’s programme are among the greatest we’ve seen. Sure, Gaydon and the Nurbugring have played some of the biggest roles in evaluating the Defender’s tarmac handling abilities, with the latter backing speculation around the arrival of an inline six-version. But its most challenging tests, like those in the freezing climate of Sweden’s Arjeplog and contrastingly scorched rock paths of Nevada’s Death Valley, emphasise JLR’s desire to make the “toughest and most capable Land Rover ever made”.
This requirement will, of course, include life in the city, which is why London, New York and Dubai have hosted Defenders as well. European proving grounds MIRA and Lommel, alongside Italy’s Covara (for its challenging mountain routes) have allowed engineers to fine-tune performance, while reliability has been tested on inclines higher than 10,000 feet above sea level and temperatures ranging from -40 to 50 Celsius. And the testing continues, as JLR is now supplying its prototypes to the Tusk Trust animal conservation charity in Africa.
“We’ve driven the new Defender across all terrains and in extreme climates,” said Nick Rogers, JLR’s product engineering boss, “and the incredible opportunity to put it to the test in the field, supporting operations at the Borana Conservancy in Kenya with Tusk, will allow our engineers to verify that we are meeting our target as we enter the final phase of our development programme.”
Although production cars won’t reach roads until 2020, the Defender’s design will be revealed later this year – an event likely to send the PH forums into overdrive, judging by the extent of the discussion so far. Because while few of us would doubt the off-road capabilities of JLR’s aluminium Modular Longitudinal Architecture-based 4x4, its design is arguably as important in ensuring it picks up the baton from one of British industry’s greatest legends. If it looks like a boxier Evoque, would any of us lot embrace it? Or will JLR take the G-Class route and keep things retro? We know where our money is...