Disguised prototype first up the hill to mark the start of 2019 Festival of Speed

Land Rover's reborn Defender has officially opened the 2019 Festival of Speed by being the first car to tackle the famous Goodwood hillclimb.

A camouflagued prototype, which made its public dynamic debut at the event, was driven up the hill by the Duke of Richmond. It will be taking part in the Festival's First Glance category throughout the weekend, with Land Rover's Chief Engineer Mike Cross behind the wheel.

The protoype has just returned from field testing in Kenya, where it was undergoing the final stages of its global engineering development program, ahead of an official debut later this year.

The long-awaited Defender reboot was most recently spotted in digital form, in a leaked shot appearing to show the 4x4's instrument dial display. The shot, sent to Autocar by an anonymous reader and first posted in various Land Rover forums, seems to have come from a development prototype judging by the fabric around the edge, usually used to keep the interior away from prying eyes. 

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It shows the new Defender will feature familiar styling cues from the original, including a vertical rear tailgate at a 90 degree angle from the roof, a wraparound roof edge with rear sunroof and, of course, the classic rear-mounted spare wheel. While a screen render such as this won't be totally accurate, it still gives us a good glimpse of Land Rover's landmark debut well in advance.

All the news from the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019

The British maker previously released images of a prototype which wears less disguise than previous test mules, having completed work with the Tusk Trust wildlife protection charity. In the shots, it is seen pulling loaded trailers, carrying supplies and tracking lions across the Trust's 14,000-hectare reserve in Kenya. 

Engineers have also completed 1.2 million kilometres (750,000 miles), putting the rugged 4x4 through its paces in some of the world's most inhospitable environments.

Land Rover has also confirmed for the first time that, as expected, the new Defender will be built alongside the Discovery at Jaguar Land Rover's new £1 billion manufacturing plant in Slovakia. That could prove somewhat controversial, given the Defender's status as a proudly British machine, although Land Rover has noted that all the design and development work was undertaken at its Gaydon base.

The Defender has been sighted testing numerous times in recent months, including at the Nürburgring, where engineers were fine-tuning the chassis and brake set-up to suit a variety of conditions. 

Due to go into production early in 2020, the rugged 4x4 was also previously spotted testing in North America. Engineers were said to be subjecting the Toyota Land Cruiser rival to "rigorous test extremes", including temperatures as low as -40deg C and as high as 48deg C, as well as at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet. 

The first official 'spy shots' of the five-door '110' variant were followed last year by images of the short-wheelbase three-door '90' model testing in disguise. An even longer-wheelbase '130' version is rumoured, too.  

The new model sits on independent rear suspension for better comfort and, Autocar understands, a new monocoque chassis replaces the body-on-frame construction of the old car. This will make it more rigid, lighter and more modular, allowing for numerous bodystyles to be offered. Some use of aluminium is likely to bring the weight down further stil. 

Celebrating the Land Rover Defender

“These are what we call Pilot build cars and testing will increase on public roads from now,” said Jaguar Land Rover marketing chief Felix Bräutigam. “The first four cars are ready, and now the line is running you can expect the number of test cars to grow exponentially.

“In time, as you’d expect, the Defender will go through all the usual test routines, from cold weather testing in Arjeplog in Sweden to extreme hot weather testing in Death Valley in the USA. It’s exciting for us to be able to now be one step closer to bringing the car to market, of course. We are talking about the rebirth of an icon and not just as a single car, but as a whole family.

“Our brand is about passion, and it is icons that drive that passion. The truth is the world doesn’t need another premium brand doing what all the others do. These icons are what separate us; at Land Rover, we are rooted in our heritage and that’s what makes us different.”

Bräutigam added that he felt the time taken between the Defender going off sale in 2016 and relaunching could be a positive for the new car, including the likelihood that it will be offered with electrified powertrains as well as petrol and diesel units.

“If we had wanted to recreate the existing car then we could have moved quicker, but it is our view that for an icon to remain an icon it cannot only look backwards, but must move forwards too,” he said. “The new Defender will move the game on again, and having the benefit for some perspective in order to achieve that should be to our advantage.

“The one thing I can promise you is that the new Defender will do all that our customers expect of it, without being a copycat of what has gone before. It is a car for the modern world, and that means that it must move the game on if it is to be relevant.”

According to the DVLA database, the vehicle registered with the numberplate seen in our spy shots is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine.

In one of the spy shots captured by our photographer, the window is wound down and a driver can be seen. It appears to be Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover's executive director of product engineering, although the firm refused to comment.

The reborn Defender is being developed in at least two forms: a short wheelbase 90-badged model and a larger 110 version. Autocar has previously revealed that the two wheelbase sizes will allow the firm to develop a whole family of vehicles, ranging from basic, utilitarian machines up to luxurious high-end models.

With prototypes now having been seen on public roads, at the track and in extreme weather environments, test mules of the new Defender are becoming a regular sight on public roads as Land Rover hones the vehicle. The aim for the new machine is to offer the “biggest breadth of capability of any model to wear the badge”, with prices tipped to range from over £45,000 to £70,000.

The previous Defender went out of production in January 2016, and the firm has been working since then to develop a successor. 

The original Land Rover Series I, from which the Defender is derived, was launched more than 70 years ago in 1948.

Read more

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James Ruppert on how to buy a used Defender

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Join the debate


2 October 2018

With posh pick-up's becoming ever more popular, X-Class etc, and farmers using them instead of old 'Landies' would a £33k Land Rover be such a dumb idea? Troll away

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

2 October 2018
xxxx wrote:

With posh pick-up's becoming ever more popular, X-Class etc, and farmers using them instead of old 'Landies' would a £33k Land Rover be such a dumb idea? Troll away


I agree with you, the new Defender will clearly be a big step away from the old one. But JLR’s course is so set... let’s hope make a good car, even if it’s not a faithful replacement for the dear old Landie.

30 April 2019
scrap wrote:

xxxx wrote:

With posh pick-up's becoming ever more popular, X-Class etc, and farmers using them instead of old 'Landies' would a £33k Land Rover be such a dumb idea? Troll away


I agree with you, the new Defender will clearly be a big step away from the old one. But JLR’s course is so set... let’s hope make a good car, even if it’s not a faithful replacement for the dear old Landie.

why would you replace the “dear old Landie” with something the same?, keep the general outline, but improve its icon status by making it perform even better than that “dear oldLandie”.

Peter Cavellini.

28 June 2019

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4 July 2019

A F@ck!ng Canadian Plumber - bellend

12 May 2019
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3 October 2018

It's not impossible for Land Rover to actually produce a Land Rover.   A basic utility vehicle that doesn't cost a fortune.




You have to look at the pick-up trucks they make in the USA.   Body on chassis; exactly as a Land Rover should be.   If they can do it in the USA, why can't Land Rover do it now?


Here's a suggestion.   Get Ford to build it.   They've got the plant, you're in one of the biggest markets for this type of vehicle.   Why not use their build process to build a proper Land Rover?


3 October 2018

.... build a "classic" defender on a TATA chassis in India. Cheap as chips and ideal for the UN and various warring African militia, then get Kahn to bling one up and knock em out for £150K on the Kings Road.

I'm in the wrong job me. :)

4 June 2019
I think you comment wreaks of ignorance. Various warring African militia? How? I am surprised Autocar allow such statements to filter through.

1st loads of life anywhere in the world due to war should not be trivialised.

2nd - Africa is a continent rich in tradition and the idea that it's war ravaged is a clear lie that has no foundation.


12 January 2019

New defender, too late, too expensive, the boat has been missed. Farmers are buying Japanese, more reliable and cheaper.

£40 k starting price, get real!! Buy an L200 or Hilux, basic tech and very reliable.



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