Will We Ever See a New Land Rover Defender?

The fox-hunter’s dray of choice hits a (another) major setback.

byJonathon Ramsey| PUBLISHED Feb 17, 2016 7:19 PM
Will We Ever See a New Land Rover Defender?

Bad news for those seeking a motorized equivalent of a Hunter Balmoral Wellington or Barbour waxed jacket: Autocar reports the next-generation Land Rover Defender is delayed again, and likely won’t appear in dealerships before 2019. It seems the holdup this time is nailing down its design and where it’s going to be built.

We’re told that Land Rover chief designer Jerry McGovern “knows what the new Defender will look like,” and that it won’t look like the DC100 concept from 2011, which was pooh-poohed at auto shows the world over. We also expect an entire model range built using the same aluminum skin and PLA platform from Range Rover siblings, with independent suspension all around, and two wheelbases not far off the 90- and 110-inch variants of the recently departed model. Beyond those assumptions lies the unknown.

Delays are almost the only news we get about the Defender, which has already lived a thousand (theoretical) lives. Back in 2012, Land Rover was gunning for the Toyota HiLux, a quest for huge sales from something that’d be “functional, durable and affordable” even in sub-Saharan Africa. Within a year, the affordable Defender idea had been rubbished, the original 2015 target launch pushed back. The final design had supposedly been cemented circa 2014, presumably still in line with the composition McGovern had called, “the absolute dogs bollocks!” Which is a good thing. Or it would be, if we ever got it.

Now, the business case for a new Defender centers around a “modern and simple” vehicle that sells 50,000 units per year, at least 2.5 times what the now-dead model was doing. The demand for a reasonable price is another complication; at one time production was planned in India, with its low cost base; now Jaguar Land Rover’s new factory in Slovakia is a candidate, though there are factions that prefer to keep the Britain’s 4x4 icon built in Britain.

The conundrum is that execs “know life would be easier without either the Defender or the need to provide a replacement.” Yet the Defender remains the spiritual heart of the brand and part of what helps other Land Rovers sell as well as they do. We hope we see another before that heart gives up and gives out.