Land Rover has officially launched its 21st century successor to the iconic 71-year-old Defender 4X4 – the quintessential British off-roader loved by millions, including Her Royal Highness the Queen.
The new Defender is built to be tough enough to tackle any adventure at home or abroad – from Sandringham, to the school run, to the Serengeti.
Unveiled on Tuesday morning at the Frankfurt Motor Show following a stream of high-profile leaks, the hi-tech and hardcore off-roader is the modern day successor to the original rufty-tufty 1948 Land Rover, but ‘reimagined for the 21st century’.
That means it will be ideal for the impenetrable jungles in Africa and Asia, but also just as capable when it comes to navigating the trendy urban jungle of London’s Shoreditch, or collecting a family takeaway in the Shires – with the help of six curry hooks.
It’s back! Land Rover has unveiled the all-new Defender (right) – the return of the iconic model that’s ready for 21st-century living, the British brand says
The eagerly-anticipated new Land Rover Defender was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday morning and is the car maker’s most significant new model for years
Land Rover describes the new Defender – which has been proved to be one of the car industry’s recent worst kept secrets following a string of image leaks – as ‘expedition ready’ and ‘fun without the flaws’ of the ageing original.
But although the new incarnation of the British icon has been designed and engineered in the UK, the new Defender will be built abroad – at Jaguar Land Rover’s massive new factory at Nitra, in Slovakia, giving the firm a foothold within the EU if, as planned, the UK leaves following the growing Brexit row.
The boxy and upright new off-roader promises the traditional go-anywhere ability to traverse deserts, mountains, rocky terrain, and Arctic ice.
It can paddle through rivers and streams to a depth of up to 900mm, aided by the car maker’s first electronic wade programme that’s been tested to the extreme.
In fact, the new Defender has been subject to 62,000 different tests over 744,000 miles in some of the world’s harshest climates from 50-degree desert heat to minus 40 degree Baltic conditions to ensure it is ready to take the iconic mantle.
Ground clearance of up to 291mm means it can tackle steep angles easier – downhill and uphill.
But it also includes hi-tech features including the ‘X-ray vision’ mode first seen in the new Range Rover Evoque.
This uses exterior cameras to allow drivers to see on the central touchscreen what’s under the vehicle, plus a digital rear mirror – also using cameras – to give motorists a clear view behind unimpeded by passengers.
A new generation infotainment system can connect two smartphones at same time and the wi-fi connected car is 5G future-proofed by allowing software updates to be downloaded over the air. It can even handle satellite phones, just in case you are taking your Defender into remote areas.
The new Defender has been subject to 62,000 different tests over 744,000 miles in some of the world’s harshest climates from 50-degree desert heat to minus 40 degree Baltic conditions to ensure it is ready for every eventuality
Gloss white steel rimmed wheels echo those on early Land Rovers for the most basic version available
The boxy and upright new off-roader promises the traditional go-anywhere ability to traverse deserts, mountains, rocky terrain, and arctic ice
Its practical contemporary interior means it’s also perfectly suited for the school run and shopping trips and can tow trailers up to 3,500kg
And you don’t need to be an expert explorer like Bear Grylls to enjoy the new Defender.
The vehicle’s pioneering ‘terrain response’ system means that experienced off-road drivers can choose the setting they want want for the ground being covered – such as ruts, mud, sand, rock or snow – while novices can simply put it into automatic and let it do it do the work for them.
Land Rover said the new Defender ‘raises the threshold for both off-road ruggedness and on road comfort’ offering ‘first class long-haul comfort’ across any terrain and noting: ‘It can negotiate crowded city streets as effortlessly as climbing mountains, crossing deserts and withstanding freezing temperatures.’
Land Rover Defender: Will it fit in my garage?
Price: from about £40,000
Seats: 5 or 6 (with front middle ‘jump seat’ for three-abreast travel)
Length: 4323mm (without spare wheel) /4583 (with spare wheel)
Width: 2008mm (mirrors folded) / 2105mm (mirrors out)
Height: 1969mm (air suspension) / 1974mm (coil spring)
Ground clearance: up to 291mm
Towing capability: 3,500kg
Engines: Four variants at launch;
Diesel: 2.0-litre 4 cylinder diesel (in 200HP and 240HP variants)
Petrol: 2.0-litre 4 cylinder petrol (300HP), new 3.0-litre straight 6-cylinder petrol (400HP with mild hybrid)
Plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV): To follow next year
Transmission: Permanent all-wheel drive 8-speed automatic .
Fuel consumption (depending on variant): from 29.4 to 37.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 199g/km to 219g/km
Top speed: from 109mph to 129mph
0-60mph: from 6 seconds to 9.6 seconds
0-62mph: from 6.3 seconds to 10.2 seconds
Wheels: 18, 19, 20 and 22 inch
Wading depth: 900mm (aided by first ‘wade’ programme)
Price: from £45,240
Length: 4,758mm (5,018mm with spare wheel)
Width: 2,008mm (door mirrors folded)
Maximum roof load: 300kg static/ 168kg moving
Wading depth: 900mm
There are two versions at launch – the three-door Defender 90, priced from around £40,000, and the five-door 110 costing from £45,240.
They come in five trim levels: S, SE, HSE, First Edition and top-of-the range Defender X.
Although a brand new vehicle, the new Defender has many styling and practical cues which hark right back to the original of 71 years ago, updated for modern lifestyles.
Inside, structural elements usually hidden from view have been exposed to emphasise its industrial nature and simplicity.
The first back-to basics utilitarian Land Rovers – for use as agricultural workhorses – were designed to be easily cleaned and hosed out, and the next-generation Defender has continued these traits.
The modern version has durable rubberised flooring allowing the interior to be easily cleaned with a brush or a wipe. And a portable rinse-system to washout mud is also available.
A central jump seat – like the one available in the original – gives the option of having three seats up front.
It means the smaller Defender 90 can have up to six seats, while the larger four-door 110 can be specified as a five, six or seven-seater.
Also reflecting the design of the original are the tread-plates on the bonnet and the side-hinged rear tailgate and the option to have the spare wheel on the back.
What is new is the ‘alpine lights’ options, which are small windows near the roof that allow in the light but also let passengers to look up at mountains…or the city high-rises.
An optional folding fabric roof – also echoing the original Defender – gives an open-top feel and allows passengers in the second row of the 110 to stand up when parked to provide the full safari experience.
Gloss white steel rimmed wheels echo those on early Land Rovers for the most basic version available and there will even be side-saddle storage panniers built into the side windows on some models.
But the Defender is not all about extreme outings.
For modern families needing somewhere to hang their takeaways safely when driving home, there is not one but SIX curry hooks and storage space for a couple of two-litre bottles of water – or wheatgrass juice if you’re a hipster.
There are lots of accessory packages geared for every eventuality, too – readying you for the rainforests of Kuala Lumpar or the red carpets of Knightsbridge.
The main packs are: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban – you can work out who each one is aimed at.
The most hardened customers looking to make the most of the Defender ownership can customise their SUV with an electric winch, a roof-top tent (taking up to 300kg of weight, which is around four medium-sized adults), a roof rack platform plus the specially designed extendable ladder on the side to get you up there, tow-bar, inflatable waterproof awning, and bespoke air-intake snorkel.
Those who want to get their 4X4s muddy and dirty – without spoiling or scratching the original paintwork – can have a factory-fitted special protective satin film wrap over the bodywork in seven shades, such as Pangea Green, Indus Silver and Gondwana Stone, which can be removed later if desired.
A panoramic glass roof is an option.
But Land Rover thinks the smaller three-door Defender 90 will be particularly popular with young urban fashion-conscious customers – and has created personalisation kits and big 22-inch wheels to add edgy bling to the mix.
Both the Defender 90 and 110 have four engine variants at launch: a 2.0 litre direct injection 4-cylinder inline diesel with either 200HP or 240HP; a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder inline petrol (300HP); or a new straight six-cylinder 3.0 litre petrol (400HP) with mild electric hybrid. All are linked to an eight-speed automatic gear-box with permanent all-wheel drive. The diesels promise fuel economy of up to 37.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 199g/km.
A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is to follow next year, allowing the vehicle to run for periods in electric-only mode.
Land Rover said the new Defender had been ‘engineered with capability and safety for all the family’.
State of the art ‘cyber security’ is also pledged to deter thieves.
Jaguar Land Rover’s executive director for product engineering engineering Nick Rogers said: ’Our mission was to reimagine the icon.
‘We have also been obsessed about its off-road capability and about its practicality.. But it must also have agility on the road as well. It has. Its manners on the road are stunning.’
Chief designer Gerry McGovern added: ’The new Defender is respectful of its past but is not harnessed by it. This is a new Defender for a new age.’
The modern version has durable rubberised flooring allowing the interior to be easily cleaned with a brush or a wipe
Land Rover features and technology at a glance
– Five trim levels: S, SE, HSE, First Edition and top-of-the range ‘Defender X’
– Front middle ‘jump seat’ for three-abreast travel (made possible by dashboard mounted ear-stick)
– Optional folding fabric roof, echoing original, gives an open-top feel and allows passengers I the second row of the 110 to stand up when parked.
– Durable rubberised flooring for easy brush or wipe clean
– Portable rinse-system to washout mud.
– Optional satin protective film ‘wrap’ to protect paint-work
– Six ‘curry hooks’ for carrying take-aways
– Tread-plates on top of bonnet reflect those on the original
– ‘Alpine lights’ – small upper windows allowing passengers to look up at mountains.
– Exposed interior structural elements emphasise its industrial nature and simplicity.
– Side-hinged rear tail-gate.
– Exterior spare wheel on the back
– Lots of interior grab-handles
– ‘Side-saddle’ storage over side windows.
– Gloss white steel rims wheel option, like original.
– Storage space for two 2-litre bottles
– Four accessory packs: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban
– Electric winch
– Roof-top tent
– Roof rack platform
– Specially designed side extendable ladder
– Tow bar
– Inflatable waterproof awning
– Bespoke air-intake snorkel
Land Rover Defender: An iconic British car…built in Slovakia
Jaguar Land Rover – which holds three royal warrants – from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles – announced in late April that new generation of its rugged Defender 4X4 will be built abroad in Slovakia rather than Britain.
The shock confirmation to build what is considered a legendary British car on the Continent will be seen by many as a bitter blow for the UK – but the firm has insisted that Brexit ‘had not played a role in the decision’.
Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Professor Sir Ralph Speth, born a German national, has taken UK citizenship and was recently knighted.
The new Defender will be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s new £1billion state-of-the art factory stretching over 30,000 square metres and with capacity for 150,000 vehicles a year – with the option to double that – in Nitra, Slovakia, where the the Land Rover Discovery has been built since it opened last October.
The most hardened customers looking to make the most of the Defender ownership can customise their SUV with electric winch
Land Rover said the new off-roader and been designed and engineered in Britain – at its growing engineering centre in Gaydon, in Warwickshire – with petrol and diesel engines supplied from its factory in Wolverhampton.
It said switching production to Slovakia would free up capacity at Solihull to build the flagship Range Rover and Land Rover models, including electrified versions of its 4X4, and would be ‘balanced by significant new investment’.
Much is riding on the new Defender which replaces the original iconic, boxy and massively popular Land Rover which went into production in 1948 after its debut at that year’s Amsterdam Motor Show priced from £450.
There is also some sensitivity over whether the new model can recapture the spirit of the original. So much so that Billionaire British petro-chemical tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe is planning a rival back to basics Projekt Grenadier 4X4 to fill the gap left by the original Defender.
The outgoing 71-year-old Defender model was built at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull factory near Birmingham until production ceased in 2016.
Land Rover Defender: A brief history
The original Land Rover started life as a squiggle in the sand when, shortly after the Second World War, Rover director Maurice Wilks sketched out a car on a beach near his holiday cottage in Anglesey. It was the workhorse 4X4 vehicle he needed to replace the American army surplus Jeep he was then using.
The first pilot pre-production model called ‘Huey’ after its registration number ‘HUE 166’ and is fully working.
The original Defender began life in 1948 when it made its debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show as the first Land Rover, created out of aluminium as a practical vehicle for farmers and was meant to be Britain’s answer to the Jeep during the immediate post-war austerity when steel was scarce.
The outgoing 71-year-old Defender model – much loved and often driven by the Queen, other members of the Royal Family, and Winston Churchill – was built at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull factory near Birmingham until production ceased in 2016. Since then second-hand prices of existing Defenders have soared as they become ‘collectors’ items’ – and increasingly a target for thieves.
Astonishingly, some three-quarters of the 2 million Defenders ever built since then are said to be still in regular use.
The Defender name itself can be traced back to 1990. It was created to avoid confusion with a new Land Rover launched the previous year called Discovery.
To cheering and applause from the workforce at Land Rover’s Solihull factory near Birmingham, the final Land Rover Defender 4X4 drove off the production line in January 2016 and joined the firm’s heritage collection.
The Royal relationship with Land Rover goes back to 1948 when King George VI viewed the original Land Rover.
The Queen, who is regularly photographed at the wheel, took delivery of her first one shortly after coming to the throne in 1952 and has driven or been driven in Land Rovers ever since. She used a specially adapted one for her first world tour in 1953.
Winston Churchill was given one as an 80th birthday present at his home in Chartwell, while another was used for Pope John Paul II’s tour of England in 1982.
Prince Harry became the first person to enjoy an exclusive sneak-peek at the new Defender at a pre-launch event in Holland ahead of next May’s ‘Invictus Games The Hague 2020’, of which he is patron.