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What is it?
The debate over how Land Rover should replace its venerable Defender rages on. The Land Rover Defender DC100 concept twins undoubtedly poured fuel onto the flames of this when they were unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and now it's time to get behind the wheel of the most relevant of the two show cars, the fixed roof model. Can it offer more clues to how the 2015 Defender will turn out?
What's it like?
Parked up on a snowy piste in France the ruby red concept looks nothing short of dramatic. Many show cars look out of place away from the spotlights of the motor show, but the DC100 is right at home on the snow. The location of our drive somehow moves the concept closer to reality, and snow stuck in the grooves of the chunky off-road tyres serves to emphasise that.
The wheel-at-each corner stance seems more pronounced in the fixed roof model, and though some doubters liken the shape of the DC100 to the Skoda Yeti, it's unmistakably a Land Rover when you're standing next to it. Like the iconic Defender 90 it's relatively compact, though the show car is much wider than its predecessor.
That width makes itself known inside, where the two occupants have room to stretch out. You do step up into the car, but the seats are mounted right on the floor so overall it feels as if you sit lower than in the current Defender. Regardless, the upright windscreen and see-through C-pillars ensure that visibility is good.
Decent visibility is thought to be a basic requirement of the Defender's replacement and Land Rover cites several others, including industry leading approach and departure angles and an impressive wading depth. Since the first outing for the DC100 concepts there's been plenty of feedback and Land Rover is acutely aware that the new Defender must do everything the current one does, and more.
On one hand that means a chassis that can adapt to various body styles, from pick-up truck to open-topped safari wagon. It also means that the core vehicle must retain all of the current car's off-road ability, without resorting to fancy electronic sub-systems. And yet Land Rover's research team appears to have an arsenal of innovative technology ready to deploy that would make the vehicle not only more capable than ever, but also easier to extract that capability from.
Die-hard off-road enthusiasts may not like the sound of that, but murmurings from Land Rover suggest that this car would be available in many states, from the most basic to the highly advanced. And even possibly part-time four-wheel drive with an electric motor on one axle.
Our brief drive on compacted snow indicated that a car with this square footprint is a lot of fun. A quick steering rack and willing V8 petrol engine added to that for sure, but more importantly, the basics are in place already.
Should I buy one?
If Land Rover is incredibly clever it could conceivably create a new model that appeals both to the traditional Defender buyer and to the mass market that cares more about comfort, style and technology. The DC100 is a glimpse into that thought process and this drive further cements its relevance. Roll on 2015.