Land Rover unveiled the DC100 (that’s Defender Concept 100-inches as a translation) at Frankfurt this week, but it also had a surprise in store for the world’s press, in the guise of the DC100 Sport.
In essence the Land Rover DC100 concept is probably the most significant new model development that Land Rover has ever undertaken in its 63-year history. The current Land Rover Defender represents the core brand values of the company more than any other vehicle in the model range, despite its dwindling sales. After all, this was the vehicle that started it all for Land Rover, so it can’t afford to get it wrong, not one little bit wrong.
If it gets it right though, and ends up producing a Land Rover that has the same, if not better, off-road capability than the current Defender along with 21st century technology and ergonomics, then sales of the Defender badge could quadruple in the first year of production.
Land Rover boss John Edwards is both cautious and confident of being able to deliver the right car for the time, and if the DC100 and DC100 Sport are any indication of what that vehicle might be, then most people think he’s on a winner.
But if you’re thinking you might like one of these in your garage any time soon, then you’ll need to wait until around the end of 2015. Land Rover is pulling out all stops with this vehicle and intends on making no mistakes in the final design.
Edwards reiterated the need to consult with current Land Rover owners, prospective owners and dealers about the final design and inclusions on the new Defender. He also said that the Defender nameplate wasn’t sacrosanct, but that it was unlikely to dropped, due to the off-road credibility and durability it has built in the 170 countries Land Rover is currently sold in.
For those sceptics and die-hard Defender enthusiasts out there who maybe thinking that the final production version won’t be able to live up to its well earned reputation that has been forged over 63 years, you might want to reconsider.
Edwards is adamant that the new Defender will not only match the current vehicle’s off-road ability, but it will exceed it. Moreover on-road dynamics and performance should be nothing short of a revolution when compared with the vehicle it will replace. The new Defender must first and foremost be able to do what it has historically been able to do in an off-road sense.
Expect the new Defender to ride and handle more like a Freelander 2 on-road than the current model. Edwards went on to say:
“The characteristics of the original Defender will virtually all stay. This car needs to be durable, useable, abuse-able, functional, versatile and configurable. It also needs to have a good payload and towing capacity. All of those things need to be built into this car.”
Land Rover also indicated that the new Defender would need to be relevant to both the retail market and the commercial world, like the booming mining industry and NGO’s such as the Red Cross organisation who is an official partner of Land Rover. These industries and organisations have specific needs, such as a longer wheelbase for additional seats, and will be consulted along the lines of 'what do we need to do for you to want to buy this vehicle?'
The DC100 and DC100 Sport is the first such concept that Land Rover’s design team led by Gerry McGovern has produced, but it’s not the only one. We are told there are other similar designs on the drawing board or that may even be in various stages of actual build. Once completed the other designs will be shown to dealers, owners and the press for their feedback. That said, the fact that it has built the DC100 concepts seems a strong vote in its favour and a clear indication that this design is well liked within Land Rover headquarters at Gaydon in the UK.
Both the DC concepts are based on the current Discovery 4 platform, but Land Rover hasn’t yet decided on what platform it will use in the final production vehicle. What we do know is that whatever platform Land Rover decides to use, it will be strong, lightweight and CO2 friendly, so that it can be sold in every conceivable market. That also means that there will be a need for a suite of different powertrains that meet the needs of a model that is to remain in the Land Rover range until 2026 or beyond.
Ergonomically there is huge room for improvement, which in itself will mean that customers will hopefully enjoy driving the vehicle on-road as much as they enjoy the off-road experience. This of course will be vital if the new Defender is to attract a far broader audience than it currently has.
Ground-breaking technology is also likely to play a major role in the Defender’s development and success. Land Rover is talking about a removable touch screen display that will have its own power source for out-of-car navigation and a camera that can take video and stills. Naturally it will also be waterproof and highly durable.
Let’s hope all the other intelligent off-road systems such as Intelligent Terrain Mapping; Wade Aide and On-demand Spiked Tyres make it into the production, as some of this tech is reason enough to buy this thing.
The DC100 Sport open-top Defender is likely to be a huge success in markets such as sun-drenched California for example, but what it mostly demonstrates is the potential for an entire family of new Defenders from vans, station wagons, utes, and beach buggy-style machines like the DC100 Sport.
There will always be those die-hards that will expect another vehicle in the style of the same 63-year-old current model, but for the most part, we can’t wait to get behind the wheel of DC100 family.
Edwards says once the new Defender is launched the minimum sales volume would need to match the model’s best ever year of 60,000 sales in 1970.
Land Rover has well and truly nailed it with the Evoque with over 26,500 deposits taken already and that number is growing each and every week. If that same success can be achieved with the all-new Defender, then there will be a lot of overtime at the Halewood factory on offer, as we predict sales will hit 100,000 per annum if the production model looks anything like the DC100 and DC100 Sport.