Land Rover will launch its next-generation Defender next year, 71 years after founder of The Rover Company, Maurice Wilks, created the iconic first-generation car.
We think that’s still the plan within Land Rover, but no one seems to know anything about what it might look like, or where the flagship Defender might sit within the wider line-up, or the breadth of its appeal.
That’s important because, where the now-defunct Defender was lucky to sell 20,000 units a year, Land Rover has maintained the view the next-generation version would need to appeal to a much wider audience, with 100,000 annual sales the ultimate goal.
With this new business model in mind, will the new model version be as capable off-road as the one it replaces? It’s certainly the question on everyone’s mind, and one we put to Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover.
“The better solution is always the enemy of the good one. The old Defender was very good, but be assured the new one will be exceptional,” he told us.
Where the previous Defender was light on technology, the upcoming version is almost certain to be loaded with a full suite of both on-road and off-road active systems, as well as all the latest safety kit – something sorely lacking in the old version.
“Technology is going to be mandatory in the new Defender. You simply can’t build this kind of vehicle without it anymore. You can’t achieve the emissions levels and you cannot achieve the CO2 levels required of vehicles these days," Speth explained.
These new emissions regulations require a vehicle to take aerodynamics into greater consideration. In fact, tougher pedestrian and occupant protection regulations force an entirely different design to that we've come to expect of the Defender.
“It requires a state-of-the-art design and technology in this kind of vehicle, so looking only forwards, not backwards,” Speth said.
We countered by arguing Mercedes-Benz has redesigned its new G-Wagen, which hits the technology and safety targets demanded by the current market, but still maintains its trademark boxy design.
“I think it’s a very interesting approach to keep designing the same vehicle but move ahead with new technology inside, but at the end of the day it’s only a halfway approach," Speth responded.
“To be really relevant while using the latest technology, and to hit all our environmental targets, we can’t keep looking back. We have to move forward in this regard."