On Sale: 2020 (possibly late 2019)
Status: Extreme terrain/weather/altitude testing underway
Camo comes off: 2019, date TBA
After a few weeks of online buzz and sightings of the camouflaged prototype on U.S. shores, Land Rover formally announced today that it would bring its storied Defender back to the U.S. The company released images of the off-roader, still in camo, while teasing that the full reveal would come sometime in 2019.
Nevertheless, there’s still much that can be learned about the coming vehicle by peering at the spy shots and the released images. Of course, the Defender – sold here for just over a decade until 1997 – was valued for its iconic, straight-edge and boxy design, and its prioritization of utility over comfort. The new Defender clearly won’t have quite that same aura. Though definitely boxier than the already boxy Range Rover, it will be a bit thicker at every surface than previous Defenders thanks both to meeting U.S. regulations and to the market’s preferences for luxury and comfort.
So it feels at the outset like perhaps a slightly more rugged Range Rover, and it clearly carries the design cues from its stablemates. The language of the teaser release, extolling the versatility and rawer virtues of the previous generations, bears that out: “With an all-new exterior and interior design, as well as a suite of the latest driver assistance and connectivity features available, the next-generation Defender will be a revolutionary product for Land Rover with even broader public appeal. When it debuts in 2019, the new model will represent 70 years of innovation and improvement in just one model year, honoring the model’s history for rugged durability, while thoroughly remaining a Defender for the 21st century.”
Many will likely find that need to serve two roles – luxury and utility. Disappointing, especially because Mercedes proved you can still build a vehicle faithful to its own vibe and heritage when it released the second-generation G-Class last year. In the Mercedes lineup, that SUV is clearly the odd man out, which is precisely how its fans like it – though even that SUV had to still ride the luxury wave, and neither is necessarily the kind of machine that you’ll rip around your sheep farm in all day then hose it out in the evening. But the Defender looks, at first blush, like it will be visually very similar to the Discovery, Range Rover, Evoque, etc. On the other hand, it does appear to sit lower and wider than other current Land Rovers, and is a bit more vertical, as well. So perhaps the vehicle will have a rougher edge to it despite the need to still rank as a “luxury” ride. Once the camo comes off later in 2019, prior to going on sale in 2020, we’ll know for sure.
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