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Land Rover Defenders

By Ben Barry, 03 Jan 2012 Road Tests

The surreal deal: New Land Rover Defender Concepts

Having driven and relished the pure technology of the Defender and Defender Sport concepts...

Having driven and relished the pure technology of the Defender and Defender Sport concepts...

"The sky is falling," say purists! Having driven and relished the pure technology of the Defender and Defender Sport concepts, we're donning hard hats; with a smile.

Visit any sheep market and you'll see farmers driving Land Rover Defenders; flanks muddy, panels dinged.

In the back there'll be a long piece of wood kept to wedge between the lowered tailgate and the rest of the load bay. Without it, the sheep the Defender is supposed to safely transport could slip between the gap and, as one farmer we know has it, "snap their legs like carrots".

The Defender is a versatile workhorse, but it's also flawed: the driver's seat feels like it should slide back further; the steering wheel doesn't adjust and has no airbag; the handbrake is an awkward reach away; the turning circle is dreadful; it's loud and unrefined and the whole body shimmies and floats when you pass over bad surfaces at speed.

None of this has killed or will kill the Defender, which remains remarkably similar to the Land Rover Series I of 1948.

And with its flaws comes character often lacking in modern cars; that's why almost two million have been sold, and why it's one of the most iconic vehicles in history, with a fiercely loyal fan base and thriving businesses and enthusiast magazines.

But the end is nigh. In 2015, EU6 emissions regulations will force the current diesel engine into retirement. This, of course, is surmountable, but it'd be like keeping a brain-dead patient on life-support.

"We didn't intend to make the Defender EU5 compliant, but we did," says Land Rover PR manager Richard Agnew.

"So, yes, EU6 is possible, but in 2018 it really is game over with crash-testing legislation and pedestrian protection compliance in the US."

Hence Land Rover is readying an all-new model for 2015, and the DC100 concepts — Defender Concept, 100-inch wheelbase — are design studies to prepare us for what comes next.

Design studies that happen to move, that is, and today we're first to drive them, before the blue, more production-viable DC100 gets shipped to the LA show along with the yellow, further flung DC100 Sport.

As they roll off the delivery trucks at Land Rover's Gaydon test track — sans finishing details — it's hard not to be struck by the parallels with BMW's ‘new' Mini of over a decade ago.

Here's another replacement for a British icon that's evolved glacially over the decades, yet is suddenly being fast-forwarded while diehards froth at the mouth and rage incandescently on internet forums.