De­fender breaks cover

First look at cru­cial new 4x4

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - JIM HOLDER

The new Land Rover De­fender has been spied test­ing on pub­lic roads for the first time as de­vel­op­ment of the rugged 4x4 ramps up ahead of its of­fi­cial 2020 on-sale date.

The pic­tures show the new De­fender in camo liv­ery on the roads near the Jaguar Land Rover fac­tory in Gay­don. Speak­ing at the Paris mo­tor show, Jaguar Land Rover mar­ket­ing chief Felix Bräutigam ad­mit­ted their au­then­tic­ity, con­firm­ing they were of the first pro­to­type to leave Gay­don.

Be­hind the usual dis­guise, the De­fender’s body­work looks to be ap­proach­ing that of the fin­ished prod­uct and the trade­mark boxy pro­file re­mains in­tact. Hints of the pre­vi­ous­gen­er­a­tion Land Rover Dis­cov­ery can also be seen in the front end, although the De­fender looks to be shorter, with a lower roofline.

“The first four test cars are ready, and now the line is run­ning, you can ex­pect the num­ber of test cars to grow ex­po­nen­tially,” said Bräutigam. “In time, the De­fender will go through all the usual test rou­tines, from cold weather test­ing in Ar­je­plog in Swe­den to ex­treme hot weather test­ing in Death Val­ley in the USA. It’s ex­cit­ing for us to be able to now be one step closer to bring­ing the car to mar­ket. We are talk­ing about the re­birth of an icon and not just as a sin­gle car but as a whole fam­ily.”

Bräutigam added that he felt the time taken be­tween the De­fender go­ing off sale in 2016 and re­launch­ing could now be con­sid­ered a pos­i­tive for the new car, es­pe­cially as it is ex­pected to be of­fered with elec­tri­fied pow­er­trains as well as petrol and diesel units.

“If we had wanted to recre­ate the ex­ist­ing car, then we could have moved quicker, but it is our view that for an icon to re­main an icon, it can­not only look back­wards but must move for­ward too,” he said. “The new De­fender will move the game on again, and hav­ing the ben­e­fit of some per­spec­tive in order to achieve that should be to our ad­van­tage.

“The one thing I can prom­ise you is that the new De­fender will do all that our cus­tomers ex­pect of it, with­out be­ing a copy­cat of what has gone be­fore. It is a car for the mod­ern world and that means that it must move the game on if it is to be rel­e­vant.”

A Jaguar Land Rover spokesper­son added: “We can con­firm cus­tomers around the world will be tak­ing de­liv­ery of and en­joy­ing De­fender again from 2020.”

Ac­cord­ing to the DVLA data­base, the ve­hi­cle reg­is­tered with the num­ber­plate seen in our spy shots is pow­ered by a 2.0-litre diesel en­gine.

In one of the spy shots cap­tured by our pho­tog­ra­pher, the win­dow is wound down and a driver can be seen. It ap­pears to be Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of prod­uct en­gi­neer­ing, although the firm re­fused to com­ment.

The re­born De­fender

is be­ing de­vel­oped in two forms: a short-wheel­base 90-badged model and a larger 110 ver­sion. Au­to­car has pre­vi­ously re­vealed that the two wheel­base sizes will al­low the firm to de­velop a whole fam­ily of ve­hi­cles, rang­ing from ba­sic util­i­tar­ian ma­chines up to lux­u­ri­ous high-end mod­els.

The new De­fender, which has the de­vel­op­ment co­de­name L663, has pre­vi­ously been spied con­duct­ing off-road cold weather test­ing, but th­ese new spy shots are the first time it has been seen on pub­lic roads. Although the firm re­mains tight-lipped, sources have sug­gested that it is likely to be launched in late sum­mer next year.

Land Rover in­sid­ers have pre­vi­ously de­scribed the car’s brief as be­ing to of­fer the “big­gest breadth of ca­pa­bil­ity of any model to wear the badge”, with prices tipped to range from £40,000 to £70,000. A Land Rover source has told Au­to­car that there could be up to 12 dif­fer­ent vari­ants of the 4x4 on of­fer.

The orig­i­nal Land Rover Se­ries I, from which the De­fender is de­rived, was launched 70 years ago, in 1948.

This is the first De­fender test car to leave Gay­don New De­fender line-up likely to span £40,000 to £70,000 from 2020

Boxy sil­hou­ette is clear, de­spite the dis­guise

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