Indecision delays the appearance of Land Rover’s Defender replacement for at least three years
16 February 2016

The make-up of the next-generation Land Rover Defender remains shrouded in uncertainty, even though JLR sources admit that they need to get the model into production as a matter of the highest priority.

Officials won’t admit it, but they’re acutely aware of the enormity of replacing the 68-year-old icon. However, in the wake of the recent sale of the two millionth Defender (for £400,000) and the assembly of the last Defender at Solihull, officials have admitted that no one feels good about proceeding without the model in the range.

It is known that there will be more than one Defender model in future, with an insider describing the model line-up as “a small family”. It is certain to be related to existing product, as no other approach would be viable for a model that may account for only 50,000 sales a year. Indeed, there are murmurs that making the business case for a lowish-volume, relatively cheap car is one of the key hang-ups.

The required relationship with other Land Rovers makes an aluminium monocoque structure and skin a near certainty for the new Defender. There will be at least two wheelbases and several bodystyles, but not the profusion of both that have been possible with the outgoing model. All-independent suspension appears a certainty, as does a longitudinal engine with a 4x4 system featuring a low-range ’box and transfer case.

The Defender is unlikely to grow much bigger, with slightly expanded versions of the outgoing 90 and 110 models likely. It’ll be modern and simple in design, although not like the heavily criticised DC100 concept shown some years ago. Insiders say design director Gerry McGovern “now knows what the new Defender will look like”, although the final details are not complete.

It is probable that the new Defender won’t be available before 2019. One source suggests 2018, but this might be the debut date for a close-to-production concept whose function could be to lessen the waiting time.

There has been strong debate about the next Defender being made outside the UK, with proponents of the idea highlighting that in a global car industry, models “can be made anywhere”. The official line is that “things like that” are being evaluated right now.

However, the Defender has been portrayed as a British icon for 68 years and has always been made here, so there is understood to be resistance to moving production overseas, possibly to a new factory in Slovakia. More capacity in the UK might be found. JLR CEO Ralf Speth and his board are aware that the Defender is an all-British property and will only take production overseas with the greatest reluctance.

Comment - Why did the Defender have to go?

The Defender has been on borrowed time for years. Even its best friends knew it.

Its crash structure couldn’t meet modern regulations and its engines, while much cleaner than those used in the old days, couldn’t cope with requirements beyond Euro 6 regulations. Underpinning all that, the outgoing model was made by a clunky, labour-intensive process, and it was only selling 15,000 to 20,000 units a year, which would be disastrously uneconomic but for the fact that the tooling, suppliers and processes are remarkably ‘well oiled’.

For a new model at those volumes, they wouldn’t be, especially since the armed forces of the world who have huge stocks of spares and service personnel of their own - and have done much to sustain the Defender - couldn’t be depended on to transfer universally to a replacement model.

In the JLR backrooms, they know life would be easier without either the Defender or the need to provide a replacement. The trouble is, whenever you ask people what a Land Rover is, they point out, or sketch, their version of the off-road icon.

The Defender embodies much of the image that is carrying Land Rover towards 500,000 sales per year. But for the original ‘farmer’s toolbox on wheels’, there just isn’tthe demand there was. That’s the problem.

Read more: 

Blog - celebrating the last Land Rover Defender

Gallery - the last Defender in detail

Saying goodbye to the Land Rover Defender - an Autocar special

Our Verdict

Land Rover Defender
The chassis and body are hugely strong and should last a lifetime. The detailing, such as the interior trim, is dreadful

The Land Rover Defender is an institution and unbeatable off road, if crude on it

Join the debate



16 February 2016

As I mentioned in another Defender thread, I was lucky enough to see the New Defender family in person 18 months ago. It was nothing to do with the DC100, (and for all I know they've scrapped it again) but what I saw was only waiting for the last few inches of the tail to be signed off.

We were shown 3-4 alternates designs for this area and they asked us to rate them. To be honest I think the designers already knew which tail design they would go with, and merely hoped to see if data gleaned at the clinic would confirm the 'rightness' of the design they had decided to go with.

The biggest version we only saw in sketch form on a very large monitor along with various tail designs to select from. The two other versions we saw were rendered in I assume fiberglass, and essentially looked like production vehicles. We only saw the interior in sketches as the concepts had blacked out windows.

I find it hard to believe LR's designers have gone back to the drawing and started from scratch once again, and imo we'll see the production version late next year, for production in 2018 at either the new JLR Slovakia factory or at Magna Steyr in Graz Austria.

For some reason the rake and shape of the windshield gave off a heavy Discovery 4/LR4 T5 platform vibe, although it may be that this platform is too heavy to re-purpose. It would sure keep costs down though. Autocar's 2019 production date I'm going to take with a grain of salt.

16 February 2016

Dear SKH
I am sure you must have signed an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) when you were asked to clinic said vehicles ??? Or??
enough said


16 February 2016

Very sure, and I haven't really told you much that hasn't already been mentioned by Gerry McGovern et al. I could have given a detailed description, but I didn't do that. So no details have been disclosed. saying what the windshield reminded me of isn't giving diddly away.

22 February 2016

Sorry, but not sure what planet you are on, having signed a JLR NDA, you are not allowed to mention ANYTHING AT ALL to do with any design clinic, i was lucky enough to see the SVR Sport before launch, accidentally, they quickly shimmied us into a room and got the NDA's for us all to sign, i even got video of the car well before the launch, and because if this we were allowed to crawl all over it, whilst the driver gave the gas peddle a right royal thumping, to see the wobble under that power was really cool....

So, if you have seen the new car, which i have reservations about as teh design has not been signed off fully yet, you are in breach of a legally bound contract you signed. I do hope that JLR does not decide to go for the jugular, as they have done to a number of people that have breached this contract.

16 February 2016

It's like no-one told them the Defender was for the chop until last Monday. Three year delay! You could build Rome in that time.

22 February 2016

The delay was on purpose, because they didn#t want the new car to be a direct replacement, and they wanted to take their time and get it right first time, after 68 years, i am sure we can wait a few more months before the concept is launched at Goodwood.... wink wink...

16 February 2016

But is it any good? My dad had three, and was one of the first farmers to have a Land Rover before all the rest in the area copied him. Most now seem to be driving various forms of pick-up trucks. Land Rover stayed the same; it was the world about it which changed. More comfortable, reliable, options are now available. As capable off road? Maybe not, but who ever used the extremes of that capability? Land Rover could learn a lot by just examining the types of 4x4 farmers are running for their next design. Because if farmers still use 4x4s then there's still a market for a modern Land Rover.

16 February 2016

Warlords and farmers the world over know that the modern equivalent of the Land Rover is the Toyota pick up truck. I wonder if JLR needs to be more radical here - something like a VW Amarok in size, available in two wheelbases and as a genuine station wagon or 2/4 seat and open bed. I'm not sure the aluminium architecture is the answer.

16 February 2016

Sold our aging l322 Range Rover and replaced it with a Ford Ranger Wildtrak. Needed something for carrying: bees, geese, dogs, bales of straw etc, things that at times we have put in the back of the RR. The Ranger is not perfect, but it cruises well on the motorway, tows 3.5 tons and you can throw anything in the back without worrying about the mess. JLR need to create a Defender for the modern times that will compete with the likes of this modern pickup. Here in North Yorkshire every other farmer has a Hilux or l200. JLR need to be targeting this market with the new Defender (I'm sure they are though). I would buy one (I also own a series 2 and a 110) but It needs to be a comfortable drive with the hose out durability of a pick up and good motorway cruising ability. A bit like the original Range Rover Classic I suppose.


16 February 2016

Farmers Pick-Up....I think that particular bird has flown willnrob. Farmers have got used to reliable 'hard to kill' Japanese Pick-ups, none I know want to go back to Land Rover product spending half its life being rebuilt.
LR would be better to chase the 'Lifestyle' freaks with more money than sense, prepared to pay over the odds for the kudos inferred on them by association.


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