Land Rover is bringing back the Defender for the 2020 model year, including a return to the U.S.

It’s been nearly three years since the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the assembly line at the automaker’s plant in Solihull, England, and more than two decades since the last of the go-absolutely-anywhere utes made it into the U.S. But the long drought is coming to an end.

Land Rover officially announced today that an all-new version of the Defender will soon go back into production. We’ll get an official look at the new model next year, though the Defender won’t actually make it into American showrooms until 2020. But here are some very lightly camouflaged images to keep your imagination busy until then.

“There are a handful of automobiles that are beloved around the world and stand for a brand, a country and a distinct way of life. The Land Rover Defender is such a singular vehicle,” Kim McCullough, vice president of Marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America, said in a statement accompanying those images. Think of them as “a holiday gift…and a hint of what’s to come in the New Year.”

The Defender, which faces only a handful of competitors like the recently updated Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, has a storied history, officially dating back to when it was originally known as the Land Rover Ninety – with a stretch version dubbed the One Ten. In fact, what became known as the Defender was pretty much just a subtle update of Land Rover’s original Series 1, 2 and 3 models.

(Range Rover redux – second gen Evoque breaks cover. Click Here for the story.)

The 2020 Land Rover Defender will be the company's most capable off-roader yet, officials say.

Though the Defender has become something of a status symbol not just as a cute-ute or soft-roader, but a vehicle designed to take on pretty much anything and anywhere you might hope to travel on four wheels.

The Brits make it clear that testing of the next-gen Defender is still underway and that will include some really extreme conditions.

“Engineers will subject the vehicle to rigorous test extremes to make sure the new Defender is the most off-road capable Land Rover vehicle ever; operating in temperatures from -40F to +120F while driving the test vehicles on- and off-road at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet above sea level,” the company noted.

The last Defender did evolve, at least to some degree. In 1983, when it first debuted, it was about as bare bones as you could get, down to the hand-cranked windows. The next-generation model is all but certain to offer a wide range of luxury features, from power seats, mirrors and windows to onboard technologies like navigation and cameras that will make it easier to traverse tough trails.

Land Rover promises the new Defender will be “a revolutionary product … with even broader appeal,” incorporating “70 years of innovation and improvement in just one model year.”

(Click Here for more about the new Evoque.)

At the Paris Motor Show nearly three months back, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Marketing Officer Felix Bräutigam said, “The new Defender will not simply be a copy-cat, something retro. It will be something that moves the game on for Land Rover.”

The new Defender isn't likely to hit U.S. shores – or steeply graded hills – until well into 2020.

That said, these images make it clear that the next Land Rover Defender won’t stray far from the original, visual formula. That includes familiar design cues like the squared-off body seen here, with round headlights and the rear-mounted full-size spare tire. The taillights will likewise be familiar to Defender fans.

You’ll quickly note that these pics all show a four-door version of the new Defender, but a two-door model has also been caught by spies a few times while testing.

We’ll have to wait for more information, though Britain’s Auto Express noted that early prototypes of the Defender have been running a mix of gasoline and diesel engines, the latter believed to be 2.0-liter turbos.  A mild hybrid system is believed to be in development and could be used on some, perhaps all, versions of the new SUV.

The new model, meanwhile, is expected to have an independent rear suspension and use an all-aluminum body and chassis shared with other JLR products, albeit heavily beefed up to meet the demands of Defender users.

(Land Rover’s wants to take autonomous vehicles off-road. For the story, Click Here.)

Precise timing of the new Defender unveiling hasn’t been announced but we expect to see the production model in the U.S. before the middle of 2020.

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