The new Defender, disguised examples of which have been carefully ‘leaked’ to the media and fans around the world by Land Rover’s PR department over the past several years, has finally (supposedly) been unveiled, sans camouflage, and it looks like a Defe … I mean, a Discovery?!
When I first saw Land Rover’s DC100 concept about seven years ago I thought it was an interesting design study that the all-new Defender would draw from. But the design aspects I liked were limited to the DC100’s short front and rear overhangs, the seemingly generous ground clearance and the tailgate-mounted spare; to me, the rest of it looked like a cross between a Freelander and a Discovery 3.
Since 2012, Land Rover has ‘leaked’ photos showing short- and long-wheelbase versions of heavily disguised Defenders undergoing testing in all corners of the globe (except, disappointingly, Australia). It has even released detail shots that clearly show the new Defender’s Discovery-like fully independent suspension, much to the chagrin of diehard Defender fans the world over.
We already know the upcoming Defender will share its underpinnings with the Discovery and Range Rover, which means it will have a lightweight, monocoque body structure and height-adjustable fully independent air suspension, as per the current Discovery. What we didn’t know, until now, was that the Defender would also look like a Disco – like the previous gen Discovery 3/4, that is, not the current Discovery 5.
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Sure, we’re yet to see detail pics of the front-end or the rear styling, but take away the stepped roofline of the Disco 3 and 4, and the overall shape of the new Defender, as seen in recent publicity shots, looks remarkably similar. And while this new-look Defender might win over urban four-wheel drivers (especially those who don’t like the sleek Disco 5) it won’t find favour with many traditional Defender owners, especially those after a tough but simple go-anywhere 4x4 that can be easily modified by its owner.
However, Land Rover probably isn’t all that interested in appeasing the few diehard fans of old-school 4x4 technology, instead hoping to attract new customers to the marque with its new high-tech Defender. But I reckon this approach could be to Land Rover’s detriment.
At all the Land Rover launches and events I’ve attended over the years, there has always been a Defender lurking in the background in case a new Discovery or Range Rover needs a helping hand, no matter how off-road capable it supposedly is. But what’s going to happen if one of these new high-tech Defenders gets stuck at the model’s launch? I bet there won’t be any ‘proper’ old-school Defenders there to drag it out of its predicament.
Land Rover is a company proud of its heritage and until now has spruiked that heritage at just about every opportunity, but with the impending launch of this new Defender it seems as though the company might be too busy looking forward to keep reflecting on its past.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this, as recently proven by Jeep. The new JL Wrangler (and the upcoming Gladiator ute) successfully meld old-school 4x4 tech with new tech in the form of separate chassis architecture and live axles at both ends combined with state-of-the-art engines, transmissions and passive and active safety technology. And I reckon this is the route Land Rover should’ve taken with the next generation Defender.
I’d be more than happy to be proved wrong and sincerely hope the new Defender is so good that I’ll want one, but from what Land Rover has ‘leaked’ to date, I’ll stick with my old leaky Defender.