The Defender replacement, somehow also named defender, has been officially announced to be revealed in 2019 and go on sale in 2020 (MY 2020 or actually 2020 is unclear...probably the later).
So what’s my take?
Let’s unpack the video above for a kickoff.
We start in New York City, the standard bearer for rugged adventure, and the words - “The new Defender has to be the most anticipated launch EVER.”
I know this was edited and she probably said “for Land Rover” or something in there, but edits are made by the people crafting the message and they thought they needed to take that out. Because...EVER!
So we’re off to a flying start here.
The Defender [Series] represents the heart and soul of Land Rover. True.
“The next generation Defender is the most capable durable yet.” That’s a high bar.
To all out fans...
...and new customers
It’s been a long time coming but you will not be disappointed.
We want to make sure this is instantly recognizable as a Defender (shows camouflaged shape totally not of reminiscent of the Defender against NYC skyline?) I realize this isn’t the final form but I’d bet this is close to the final shape.
So...you can hopefully catch my tone that I’m unimpressed here with the video and the messaging already. It’s pretty obvious to me that the message here is - “Listen up American we’ve seen you like off-road style as a vanity and you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is and we’d love to be in that mouth!”
Business is business...nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s fairly obvious from the context of the video that they are aiming at city being the home of most new defender owners, not the country (front or back).
I don’t think it’s necessary to dip into the well of nostalgia regarding the series and defenders past, if there is water left there to dip into, but it’s enough to say that the Defender was never meant to be anything but a tool for work and war. However, much like the Jeep that birthed it, its beat its swords into
ploughshares lightbars and is a very different thing than it used to be. Again, fine; The times are changing and you have to change with them. And what are the times? Romance and adventure, these are all things people like...to imaging themselves doing but rarely experience. Coupled with nostalgia at an all time high and the IDEA of a defender is what people want.
Don’t believe me?
Defender/Series = Fashion.
Land Rover is no dummy, they aren’t like Toyota...they don’t mass produce vehicles that do work anymore, they mass produce a brand, a lifestyle and an image.
You may be drawing parallels to Jeep here, and that’s appropriate for a large part of their buyers as well, with the exception that another large chunk of their buyers (Jeep says more than half) actually go Jeeping. Come visit Utah and try and play the roof tent tent game, where if you can go more than 20 minutes without seeing one driving around...you win.
Okay, enough about what Land Rover is and isn’t...will the new Defender be any good?
Things we know
Uniframe - Very VERY likely this defender will be unibody with formed in frame rails like the Disco 4/5. This has worked fine for years for Land Rover and I don’t see any real problem with it. No, it’s not as durable as a ladder frame, but it allows for stiffer hard points for suspension mounting and that pays dividends everywhere. The truth is that the Ladder frames flexibility isn’t as much of an asset on its own, its more a function of stress concentrations. i.e. a frame that flexes over its length has its stress distributed over a wide area. In truth the ideal would be a perfectly stiff chassis with uniform stress distribution and while the ladder frame still wins here, the uniframe isn’t that far behind these days.
IFS/IRS - Independent suspension all around. We’ve seen the mules with full ind. and we can expect. Okay let’s say it right here and now - Solid axles are better off road, but not by as much as they used to be and they are HEAPS worse everywhere else.
The truth is that most IFS isn’t that good because most companies don’t prioritize off-road ability but that doesn’t mean its not possible. Take a look at the cross linked Discovery 3.
That’s frankly not that bad at all. Or the fully independent Patrol Y62
Does a land cruiser’s rear axle beat it? oh yes.
But not by a huge margin anymore.
Besides, its really not as big an issue as it used to be. The 2 things articulation buys you are.
1. traction - A wheel on the ground will keep you moving where a wheel in the air wont...obviously.
2. comfort - If the suspension moves to conform to the ground, the body doesn’t and you feel better
For 1 this is largely a non-issue as traction control systems are extremely good and Land Rover has at least one locking diff that will for sure be making into to the Defender, at least as option. Yes, wheels that stay on the ground AND have traction adders are better, but truthfully this is plenty good for most people.
At the end of the day, its getting up the hill that matters, not how cool you look doing it
The truth is that most solid axle trucks don’t flex that well up front anyway, I know my Land Cruiser doesn’t and when I disconnect my sway bar for off road work, it’s mostly for #2, comfort. When the wheels can move independently of one another the body stays level and comfort goes up as head bob goes down.
As for the rest? We don’t know much. Though we can speculate it will have a version of Land Rovers Terrain response which is very good but as Disco owners know - reliance on the electronics can leave you in trouble from time to time. I would hope for more manual control than terrain response II has to offer.
Lets be honest though, the Defender will be pretty much the Disco 5 with a nostalgic body and a little more off-road focus.
The word on the street is that Land Rover wants to offer a variety of wheelbases from short to long and a variety of bodies...though that one becomes tricky with unibody and I have my doubts.
Removable roof? no, probably not. Sorry.
Pickup truck? I have my doubts.
Powertrain - Ingenium 2.0 gas/diesel in most markets. supercharged 3.0 gas and turbo diesel 3.0 for the US.
Water wading? who cares but probably a lot.
Cost? Word is that they are aiming for high 40's low 50's. About where Wranglers and 4runners top out and before Disco’s and Land Cruisers (Prado/200).
So how do I feel about it? Frankly Gerry McGovern is a Doos, and he’s “taking the brand in new directions” much the way Rian Johnson did with Star Wars: The Last Jedi...and we know how well that went over with fans. I suspect we’ll get the same reaction from current Land Rover fans (disruption, etc) and you know what? I don’t know if Land Rover cares. The reality is that the bulk of buyers are only going to go off road at the Land Rover Discovery course and it will mostly be used as a fashion icon, a time machine for the ego and something for the marketing department to churn out the content.
Will it be used for clothing catalogs in 20 years?