MOTOR’s editor, Ray Leathern, is on the frontlines, bringing you the reveals that matter from this year’s IAA motor show in Frankfurt. Here’s the long-awaited new Land Rover Defender.
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It’s time to dust off the old pith helmet and celebrate the arrival of the new Land Rover Defender, revealed to the world at the Frankfurt motor show today. It’s been a long time coming, since 2015, and the news that Land Rover’s parent company, Tata, would birth the first all-new version of the quintessentially British off roader in nearly 70 years. Hallelujah!
Like the sands of time, all the worlds’ erstwhile off roaders are being reimagined in a modern context. Take the Suzuki Jimny, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Land Cruiser and Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as regular cars follow each other off the production line like cookie-cutter copies; rough and tumble off roaders retain a sense of style and character. And yet, Land Rover, sitting on a veritable goldmine of goodwill and potential profit with the Defender, held back, making sure the vehicle was built correctly and ready to live up to its illustrious name.
The important bits on the new car are these. It doesn’t just look tough, it is tough, using a durable new D7x (x stands for extreme) architecture tested to breaking point – the new Defender has been through more than 62 000 tests for engineering sign-off and prototype models have covered more than 1.2 million km. Land Rover’s new purpose-built chassis is 95 per cent new and based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction, creating the stiffest body structure Land Rover has produced to date. It is three-times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, providing perfect foundations for the fully independent air or coil sprung suspension. It also supports the latest JLR electrified powertrains.
The original Series Land Rovers (later called Defenders) are incredibly old, more than 70 years old in fact, and yet, the new one shares a recognisable silhouette featuring signature Defender elements, including short front and rear overhangs that’ll make it excellent off road. JLT design chief Jerry McGovern says the new car was, ‘Inspired by the past, not constrained by it.’
Where it has made an unconscionable leap forward is in the modernised interior. Functional, durable and flexible, it’s unique with exposed structural elements and a central front jump seat. It carries with it 21st Century technology though, debuting new Pivi Pro infotainment featuring a more intuitive interface while Software-Over-The-Air updates provide the latest updates at all times.
So it’s made from a blend of lightweight alloys so it’ll be as green to the environment as Richard Attenborough. But that doesn’t mean its go-anywhere, do-anything flame has been snuffed out entirely we hope? Of course not, says its makers. The new vehicle features intelligent off-road tech: Land Rover’s pioneering Configurable Terrain Response 2 technology enhanced with new 900 mm wade programme. It’s a car that comes expedition ready with a maximum payload of up to 900 kg, static roof load of up to 300 kg and towing capacity of 3 000 kg to ensure the new Defender remains the ultimate 4×4 for overland adventures. After all, the original Series-1 Land Rover of the late ’40s was the vehicle it was because it traversed the farthest ends and most inhospitable climbs on earth.
It will officially arrive in South Africa in 2020 in a myriad of body styles: The family includes a Defender 110 available with 5+2 seating in four distinct Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban), this will be joined at a later stage by a smaller, shorter-wheelbase Defender 90. There’s a choice of advanced petrol and diesel engines. At South African launch next year, the 110 will include a powerful 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder P400 with 294 kW/550 Nm, along with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder D240 turbodiesel with 177kW/430Nm.
So, it’s time to get all misty eyed with a soily dose of automotive substance, only time will tell if fans of the original Defenders will be proclaiming, ‘They just don’t make ’em like they used to anymore!’ But quite honestly, in the case of the new Land Rover Defender, we can be happy they don’t make them like they used to anymore. Let’s just hope you’ll still be able to wave ‘hi’ to other Land Rover Defender drivers in traffic.