An old Defender, like a classic Mini, would have looked novel to our eyes once but is as comfortable as old slippers now. So reinventing such an icon is a fraught business. Certainly, Land Rover didn’t know how to do it for quite some time.
But as with the Mini or Fiat 500, the time has come. The basics that served the original Land Rover well have, to an extent, been maintained on this new model. The windscreen is as upright as crash regulations and aerodynamic efficiency will allow (the Cd is 0.40), and there are relatively flat flanks, a low window line and a bluff rear end with side-hinged door, on which the full-sized spare wheel is mounted.
And the body is still aluminium. Beneath the Defender sits a variant of Jaguar Land Rover’s D7 architecture, which provides the basis for all of its longitudinal-engined vehicles (and the electric-only Jaguar I-Pace).
There are shared modules with other JLR products, then, but with the D7x suffix, here the platform is more rugged than ever. The Defender’s bonded and riveted body-in-white is unique to this car and, with steel subframes front and rear, it sits higher than any other Land Rover.
Its towing limit is 3500kg (3700kg in the US) and its wade depth is up to 900mm on air springs. JLR says this car is a 4x4 and not an SUV, and although it’s not a distinction we tend to make ourselves, we know what it’s getting at.
What the new Defender cannot do and the previous one did so ably was to have exceptionally compact dimensions: crash regulations and a technology overload – plus deigning to make its occupants comfortable – have put paid to that. In this long-wheelbase 110 form, the Defender is a 5018mm-long car. The 90 takes half a metre off of that, making it a similar length to an old 110.
We also expect a 130, with more body behind the rear wheels, and commercial versions of all three, with a 900kg payload. Land Rover admits that a pick-up would be “technically possible” but one won’t come. The Defender departed the trad pick-up market long ago, JLR is too small to re-enter it and the Defender is a premium vehicle. Prices for 110s start at £45,000, but this X-trim-only P400 model starts at all but £80,000.