The all-new 2019 Land Rover Defender has to be one of the world’s best kept automotive secrets. So much so that it’s existence (ever) is being questioned by more than a few of the Landy faithful.
We can confirm that the all-new Defender does exist and from the report we received – which was brief to say the least – it is a serious bit of gear. Think G-Class but better, and that’s not us pulling your chain: just don’t ask us how we know.
In recent weeks we’ve seen reports from various online sources claiming that the new-Defender is built and is now in the on-road testing phase of it’s development. We believe them.
We particularly believe this article from the UK publication Autocar.
Autocar had a chat with Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth at the Paris show and he confirmed that Defender ‘mules’ were undergoing testing and that the new Defender’s styling is complete, aside from a few details and looks “fantastic”.
You can safely put aside any misguided notions that there won’t be an all-new Defender – in fact JLR has always said that it’s future depends on three families of vehicles – Range Rover, Discovery and Defender.
The all-new Discovery – or D5 as it’s called in Landy Land – has none of the ruggedness that the outgoing Discovery 4 exudes. That’s not to say it isn’t ‘rugged’ underneath the smooth styling – we’ve no-doubt that it is – it’s just clear that JLR is positioning the Discovery to allow room for a more basic and overtly practical off-roader.
Based on Autocar’s discussions with JLR representatives and our own best guesses, we believe that the following will be true for the all-new Defender:
- It will be based on the aluminium architecture of the Range Rover and share its two wheelbases (2922mm and 3120mm) with shorter overhangs, break-over angles and more ground clearance.
- In addition to Range Rover’s aluminium architecture, Land Rover will incorporate “a number of different elements” to provide the strength and durability expected from Defender.
- The Range Rover wheelbases may mean that a short wheelbase Defender will not feature in the line-up, at least initially.
- Defender’s suspension will be a version of the all-independent setups found in the Range Rover and Discovery, but expect steel springs to replace airbags. While this makes sense in the basic models we believe that airbag suspension will be available either as an option or in one or more higher spec models as standard. Autocar claim that the ride height adjust-ability of airbag suspension will be a low priority for Defender drivers, but we disagree. We think Australian Defender drivers will want the more comfortable ride and the ability to adjust suspension height to deal with varying loads, that the airbag suspension offers.
- The engine will be mounted longitudinally (North-South) and Land Rover’s Ingenium four-cylinder and possibly – the yet to be released – six-cylinder turbo-diesel engines will feature. There will be one or more petrol engine options, given that the US and China prefer petrol over diesel.
- A choice of manual or automatic gearboxes will be available, as is currently the case with the Ingenium engined Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque.
- Defender will be the most capable off-roader in the JLR stable and possibly feature the widest range of off-road driver aids, including Terrain Response 2, and possibly some degree of off-road autonomous control. Rather than ‘old-school’ diff locks expect the Defender’s ABS and traction control systems to control the amount of torque each individual wheel receives.
- JLR’s new manufacturing plant in Slovakia has long been tipped to be where the new Defender will be built and this hasn’t changed. It’s cheaper to manufacture there than in the UK and the Defender will need to be more affordable than the Discovery.
- As far as an on-sale price in Australia is concerned, we believe that it will be somewhere between $60,000 and $70,000. That should slot it just under where we think the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class will be priced.
- It’s not impossible to imagine an AMG G-Class challenging performance variant of the Defender, with a larger capacity petrol engine, air-suspension and a luxury interior.
Whatever the case may be, the new Defender is real and expected to go on sale in Europe in early 2019.