It’s been nearly four years since the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the assembly line at the automaker’s plant in Solihull, England, and a full 22 years since the last of the go-absolutely-anywhere SUVs made it into the U.S. But the long drought is coming to an end.
Parent Jaguar Land Rover finally rolled back the silks at the Frankfurt Motor Show to reveal an all-new version of the Defender that, it boasts, has been “reimagined for the 21st Century.”
“The new Defender is respectful of its past but is not harnessed by it,” said Gerry McGovern, chief design officer, Land Rover. “This is a new Defender for a New Age. Its unique personality is accentuated by its distinctive silhouette and optimum proportions, which make it both highly desirable and seriously capable – a visually compelling 4×4 that wears its design and engineering integrity with uncompromised commitment.”
Dating back to the earliest days of Land Rover, the Defender has attained cult status, something that may have grown even bigger in the years since it went out of production. The challenge for the British automaker was to find a way to maintain the ute’s classic proportions and capabilities and yet move it forward.
The first step was to develop a new architecture, a platform known internally as the D7x. As JLR has hinted at in a series of teaser pics and videos, it has put the new model through some of the most rigorous testing ever, “above and beyond the normal standard for SUV testing in the industry,” it claims.
At the same time, the new model has added a range of features, some of them now familiar to Land Rover owners from its various other product lines. These include an updated twin-speed transfer box, locking center differential and active rear and locking differentials, as well as a driver configurable terrain response system. The latter allows a driver to switch from one mode to another, such as snow or sand, to rocks or mud and ruts. With a single switch, a variety of vehicle functions, including gearing, throttle response and vehicle height, are instantly optimized.
One of the more novel new features has been dubbed “Wade Sensing.” When switched on, using the touchscreen infotainment system, it automatically softens the throttle response, raises ride height to maximum, locks the driveline and switches the HVAC system to recirculate cabin air.
“This allows drivers to observe the depth of water under the vehicle and is designed to provide knowledge when fording deep water – allowing drivers to take full advantage of the new Defender model’s maximum wading depth of 35.4 inches,” the automaker explains, adding that when the vehicle claws its way back onto dry ground it briefly drags its brakes to dry and clean the discs.
The 2020 Land Rover Defender will be offered with a variety of gas and diesel powertrains, depending upon the market. In the U.S., two powertrains will be offered, the turbo four-cylinder package badged P300 making 296 horsepower. The P400 is a
six-cylinder mild-hybrid pairing a twin-scroll turbo gas engine with a 48-volt electric booster that essentially functions as a motorized supercharger. That option makes 395 hp and 406 pound-feet of torque, enough to launch from 0 to 60 in just 7.7 seconds.
Both engines are paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic and a twin-speed transfer box.
The new Defender will be able to tow a trailer of up to 8,201 pounds and, to make it easier for those who don’t haul trailers often, a small rotary controller on the center console will assist during back-up maneuvers, essentially letting a driver aim where they want the trailer to go.
While durability and capability are words that have long defined the Defender, the new SUV has been plugged into the digital era. It gets the new ClearSight system that allows the driver to seemingly see through the hood to get a good sense of where the front wheels are at any moment – a particular plus when off-roading.
There are requisite features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth. And the onboard navigation system, notes JLR, “is designed to use self-learning algorithms and dynamic guidance to help optimize routing.” Maps can be updated regularly using over-the-air, or OTA, software downloads.
Initially, the Defender 110 will be offered with five, six or 5+2 seating, the shorter Defender 90 will follow into showrooms after launch.
As one might expect with a Land Rover Defender, a variety of Accessory Packs, including ones aimed at “Explorers” and “Urban” adventurers, will be offered, as will classic accessories like a deployable roof ladder and a portable rinse system.
The new Defender will go on sale early next year.