Land Rover will soon crown its Land Rover Defender range with the largest 130 model – but it is already investigating plans to turn the Defender nameplate into a model range in its own right. Under consideration is a luxurious version based on the next Range Rover’s underpinnings, along with a pick-up based on the standard model – but plans for a smaller version based on the Discovery Sport have been axed.
Sources say Jaguar Land Rover bosses believe the Defender has the potential to become another high-profit business in the mould of Range Rover, with a line-up of distinct Defender-badged models in dealerships set to arrive by early 2025. If they prove successful, JLR’s fortunes would be transformed, with at least six of its nine future Land Rover nameplates generating high profit margins.
JLR has increasingly focused on strengthening its three Land Rover model families – Defender, Range Rover and Discovery – in recent years. Under the new plan, it could become a kind of supercharged Porsche: selling high-margin vehicles (JLR is targeting 10% margins) and generating enough cash to continue to invest in new models, as well as paying down its existing debts.
The stakes are particularly high with the Defender because a successful expansion of this revered model line could eventually put JLR in the best financial shape of its existence. Although JLR has not officially revealed any fine detail of the Defender plan, Autocar understands that a high-specification range-topper is planned, built on the new MLA platform, but a smaller and more affordable model on the upcoming EMA range-extender platform has been put on ice. The highly sophisticated MLA platform will make its debut underpinning the all-new Range Rover at the end of the year. It will also be used for the next-generation Range Rover Sport, Velar and Discovery 6.
The MLA is what’s known as a ‘flex’ platform with an electric bias. It can be produced in mild-hybrid combustion-engine form, as a plug-in hybrid and in solely battery-electric guise. It has been designed to be “highly capable off road” but also to deliver exceptional refinement in road use.
An MLA-based Defender will inevitably be more of a luxury car than today’s Slovakia-built model. It is expected to have a less rugged-style interior but distinguish itself from the forthcoming Range Rover’s. The Defender already has a near-£100,000 luxury range-topper in the form of the new V8 version, but the larger, more sophisticated MLA underpinnings could open up the model to a wider audience, while allowing for a full-electric version to rival the inbound Mercedes-Benz EQG. However, the Range Rover and Velar are likely to be initially prioritised as EVs on the MLA platform.