The 2020 Land Rover Defender is set to redefine what a Defender can do, both on and off-road.
Here, we take a deep dive into what the new super-SUV is made of – and why – with Land Rover's chief engineer, Nick Collins.
The new car is based on what Land Rover calls the D7x architecture; the 'x' is for extreme. It’s a 100 per cent new aluminium monocoque, which Collins says is the right choice to deliver the capability required for a Defender today.
It's fundamental to the toughness of the car, and there ‘are no corners cut’.
Land Rover says the Defender’s chassis is three times stiffer than the next best in market, and can withstand a 6.5-tonne recovery load and 7.0-tonne vertical load through the suspension.
It can support 300kg of weight on its roof when static or 168kg when on the go. The Defender has a tow rating of 3.5-tonnes.
There are two models on offer, the 90 and 110, with the larger five-door model arriving first in June next year and the smaller three-door set to show up before the end of 2020.
The Defender 90 has a wheelbase of 2.59m, the 110 measures 3.02m. Overhangs are minimised to 845mm at the front and 891mm at the rear.
That leaves an approach angle of 38 degrees at the front and 40 degrees departure angle at the rear. Collins says with the 291mm ground clearance, “if you can get the front of the car over an obstacle the rest of the vehicle is going to follow it”.
The new side-hinged boot door, a requirement for off-road driving to remove the spare wheel from beneath the car, can hold itself open at any angle up to 90 degrees and is properly mounted to the right side of the car with supporting structures Land Rover says will stop the ‘saggy door’ problem suffered by previous models.
On the inside, there are plenty of options for how to configure the new Defender. Even in the 90 models there's space for six occupants, even though the car is actually shorter than an Audi A3.
There are three console configurations in the car; open space to walk from row one to row two, a larger centre console with a fridge option, and a jump seat for that 3+3 option. Options for seating will be five and six for the 90, and five and seven for the 110.
The driving position is even 35mm higher than that of the tallest Range Rover, and all the handles and internal structures are designed to be as tough as the car.
Collins claims if you leave the car in neutral you can push it forward with the grab handle on the instrument panel.
Independent multi-link front double wishbone and integral link on the rear (optional air) suspension holds the car up. One of the tests Land Rover has done is repeatedly run the Defender into a 200mm block at 40km/h, which gives the 7-tonnes of load into the body structure.
The optional air suspension gives a 500mm articulation, raising the front by 135mm and the rear by 145mm allowing for a 900mm wading depth.
The 815mm wheel diameter for the 18-inch wheel is designed for extreme off-roading when required (Collins says you can drive up a big sand dune in Dubai without lowering the tyre pressures) with 12 wheel designs and three wheel sizes (18-, 20- and 22-inch).
The extreme structure and suspension are added to permanent all-wheel drive with a twin-speed transfer box, locking centre differential and optional active rear differential.
Power is routed through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission – Collins says you can drive up a 45-degree slope thanks to the strongest driveshafts ever deployed on any Land Rover.
The brakes are no longer physically connected to the master cylinder, now the pedal connects to the actuator which controls a piston-driven hydraulic system. Collins says it produces far more precise and linear brake pressures on-road and allows the traction control system to work better on-road. The system can brake each wheel individually in 150ms from when slip is detected.
Despite its look and purpose, the Defender is also relatively aerodynamic. It has a flat underfloor compromising of reinforced fibre mats with aluminium protective shields, and sophisticated detailing that has brought an aero efficiency of 0.38 Cd. This is even helped by the spare wheel being mounted on the tailgate.
In regards to powertrains, there are four and six-cylinder engines offered at launch. Two petrols and two diesels, all manufactured and engineered by Land Rover in the UK. The new six-cylinder petrol is electrified as a mild-hybrid (MHEV) with a 48V system, offering 294kW and 550Nm of torque.
It uses an electric supercharger which is a compressor driven directly by the 48V electric motor. The twin-scroll turbocharger helps with reducing lag.
Its engine start-stop can restart in just 600ms, but Collins also says the electrical components don't compromise the packaging of the car.
Other engines include a 220kW four-cylinder petrol which won't be sold in Australia, and two diesel engines – 147kW and 177kW (both with 430Nm of torque) – which we will. There will also be a plug-in hybrid Defender coming in 2021.
The car has been tested for 1.2 million kilometres, more than any other Land Rover before, from Nevada to the Arctic Circle, to Dubai and even at the Nürburgring.
Collins says the new Defender remains analogue in how it feels to drive, however, it is not tiring and can be driven on-road for extended periods of time and become an everyday car and gives it a new "character and personality all of its own but grounded in the history of the cars before it".
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