The world’s favourite mud-plugger and city street fighter, the iconic Land Rover Defender, is finally about to enter the 21st century.
After more than three years of development, in the harshest conditions on the planet, an all-new Defender is expected to go public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September ahead of a local launch in 2020.
Land Rover is stoking the excitement with a pictorial roll-out that now includes the first clear, but still camouflaged, pictures of the Defender from all angles.
The look is modern, with a touch of the Discovery and Range Rover, as test cars are put through a variety of tests from deep mud to rocky boulders.
It’s the long-awaited replacement for the boxy original that starred in 1948 and survived right through to 2016.
Along the way it was used for everything from Arctic exploration to plowing, firefighting and warfare with military units including the Australian army.
But, surprisingly, it also became a counter-culture hero in many of the world’s major cities including London and Sydney with hippies, greenies and weekend urban escapees.
Trying to tick all those boxes, while staying true to the unbreakable spirit to the original Land Rover, has provided a major task for the development team at Jaguar Land Rover in the UK but their work is nearly done.
“We’ll see it in early 2020. We don’t have final timing yet because the details of the launch are still being finalised,” the spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover Australia, Tim Krieger, tells Australian Business Traveller.
But it’s not just about off-road work and heavy lifting and towing, as Krieger says JLR is expecting strong demand with city dwellers who want something different in the garage.
“With the previous model, the highest selling dealers tended to be in the centre of Sydney and Melbourne. It had that cache,” he says. “The appeal is the authenticity. It looks like nothing else. There is something unique and authentic about Defender that you cannot get in any other brand.”
Krieger has no doubt that the new-age Defender will be a hit when it lands.
“The appetite in Australia is very strong. You only have to look at the resale values for the old Defender. Some of those are going for more than people paid when they were new.
“And you have to remember that Australia was one of the few countries that sold the Defender right to the end. It’s still a fresh nameplate here. So there is a lot of excitement around the new car.”
Testing has now topped 1.2 million kilometres and fresh pictures, reflecting both World Land Rover Day – the anniversary of its debut in 1948 – and an involvement with the Tusk Trust and the Borana Conservancy in Kenya. In Africa, test cars will be put to work with towing, wading and carrying supplies.
“You can only go on what’s been stated, and chief designer Gerry McGovern has been very strong that it will be as tough and durable as the previous model. It is the Defender DNA.”