For off-road cognoscenti, there are few automobiles more iconic than Jaguar Land Rover’s Defender. Since its introduction in 1948, the rugged old workhorse has earned a reputation for go anywhere capability and durability as an article in the FT notes.
The Defender’s engineering simplicity meant that the car could be repaired in the middle of the desert with the sparsest of resources and spare parts. But that rugged simplicity also led to its downfall. The SUV’s body-on-frame construction meant that it failed to meet modern safety crash tests and the engine just polluted the air too much to meet European emission rules. JLR consequently halted Defender production last year to the anguish of its diehard fans.
Well, it would seem JLR has aspirations for a comeback. According to the FT, the group expect to relaunch the Defender in 2019 and its design group is working furiously to reconcept a new vehicle that meets modern environmental and safety standards, requiring a complete redesign from the ground up of the old Defender.
It would be inconceivable if the new Defender was less capable than the old, a betrayal of that once iconic brand and, by all accounts, JLR has no intention of letting them down. Like the old Defender, a new version will employ considerable use of aluminum in the body, but unlike the old steel chassis will have an entirely new aluminum frame construction.
The company says model options will stretch from the “base car” to “very luxury” while the group’s special operations unit will work on a beefed up version to meet demand in Russian and China for an alternative to the Mercedes G 63 AMG. Although the new SUV will be designed and engineered in the U.K., it seems unlikely it will be built in the old Solihull plant where the previous Defender was assembled. JLR just doesn’t have the space in the U.K. and says the new vehicle will probably be manufactured in their Slovakia plant.
Auto Express, in an article late last year, summarized one of JLR’s principal challenges, how it can deliver the sort of off-road capability and versatility that is at the core of Land Rover’s DNA, while still making money out of a car that sells in relatively small numbers. The group says it hopes rising demand for the SUV segment and a sufficiently wide range of model options will generate sufficient volume for the group to make money off of the new Defender via a larger market appeal than the old model.
For fans of the marque, the launch of the new model cannot come soon enough with the early reports suggesting demand at launch could be considerable if it proves, as promised, to be even better than the old.