Land Rover's reborn 4x4 icon is previewed ahead of 2019 reveal and 2020 on sale date
James Attwood, digital editor
27 December 2018

Land Rover has released an image of the all-new Defender testing off-road, alongside confirming the 4x4 will be launched in 2019.

Due to go into production early in 2020, the rugged 4x4 was testing in North America earlier this month. Engineers are said to be subjecting the Toyota Land Cruiser rival to "rigorous test extremes", including temperatures as low as minus 40deg Celcius and as high as 48 deg, as well as at altitudes up to 13,000ft. 

The first sighting of Land Rover's reborn icon with more production ready bodywork came from official 'spyshots' of the five-door '110' variant, and soon after our snapper caught the short-wheelbase three-door '90' model testing in disguise. An even longer-wheelbase '130' version is rumoured, too.  

Recently, a prototype also hit the roads with a rear-mounted spare wheel for the first time. It's not clear yet if that's a feature that will make production, but it's likely given the car's off-road focus and the styling link to the old model.  

Celebrating the Land Rover Defender

The previous pictures showed the new Defender in camo livery on the roads near the Jaguar Land Rover factory. Asked about the official images at the Paris motor show, Felix Bräutigam, Jaguar Land Rover's marketing chief, admitted they were of the first prototypes to leave Gaydon, and said more would follow in coming months as the ramp-up to production begins.

“These are what we call Pilot build cars and testing will increase on public roads from now,” said 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.

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“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 liklihood 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. 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.

Talking to Autocar at the Paris show before the spy shots emerged, Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralph Speth confirmed he has driven a prototype of the new Defender, describing its off-road credentials as “sensational”.

Hinting that the machine could be revealed next year, Speth added: “It is quite clear the Defender is our icon and we have been working to bring it back. It is a founding element of our brand and I was excited to try the test car.

“I won’t talk about timings but it is coming. The decision to stop making it was the saddest day but we had to make that decision to invest in the factories and to build for the future. Now we are ready to return.”

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 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.

While the new Defender, which has the development codename L663, has previously been spied conducting off-road cold weather testing, the new spy shots are the first time it has been seen on public roads. Although the firm remained tight-lipped, sources have suggested it is likely to be launched in autumn next year, with first deliveries then following in early 2020.

With on-road running having started, the testing schedule is likely to ramp up from now on, and test mules of the new Defender are likely to be 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, launched 70 years ago in 1948.

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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.

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. :)

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.


3 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

... Is more likely to be closer to 63k than 33k.


8 November 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 been asleep at the wheel of your decrepit sofa?.


Stick around long enough...and no betting against that happening...decrepit sofas could become the next must have item and you would be leading the way...well, you're good for something after all. TwIT, the w is silent, as you should be.

2 October 2018

Seems a bit daft to apply all that disguise, then plaster the body with decals proclaiming it's a Land Rover.  It also looks like the driver was fully compliant with Autocar's photographer taking static and tracking shots (revealing independent rear suspension) with no apparent attempt to drive away. 

So was this really prototype testing, or just a bit of early marketing? 

2 October 2018

It's exactly as you say, a bit of marketing to keep interest alive, especuslly given the long hiatus between the end of production of the old model and the launch of this one.  I don't imagine Autocar's photographer had to search too hard to find it!

2 October 2018

If this truly is a disguised version of the new Defender, then I fear it is going down the path I’ve suspected for the last couple of years. It certainly has the look of more squared Discovery 3 and 4, and what appears to be airsprung independent suspension. To say ‘moving the game on’ is all well and good, but not apparently in the way the Wrangler, G-Wagen and Jimny have recently been re-invented. Perhaps if the pricing is genuinely competitive the new Defender will be a sales success, but it remains to be seen whether this is going to turn out as a rugged working tool, or just another JLR premium priced lifestyle vehicle.


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