By on September 30, 2016

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The regulator-friendly replacement for the recently departed Land Rover Defender is on the way, and has already begun on-road testing, the automaker’s CEO confirms.

Speaking to Britain’s Autocar, Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth says the new Defender adopts the lightweight aluminum architecture of the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery.

The platform and design upgrade is good news for those hoping to see the model return to North America.

Speth told Autocar that the new Defender looks “fantastic,” and will be “fairly different” than other models in the Land Rover stable when it appears in 2018.

The previous model, which traced its lineage back to the original Land Rover of 1948, was put out to pasture in January of this year. Passenger safety regulations pushed Defenders out the North American market in 1998, and European pedestrian safety regulations did the same for the overseas model. While owners loved the archaic, boxy body, which oozed utilitarian brawn, the march of time rendered it obsolete in the eyes of regulators.

Speth admits that the previous Defender is a hard act to follow, and that his company must get it right. And new Defender must have world-class off-roading capability and durability, he said. It also needs to look the part.

“There is no question of the new Defender just being an icon,” said Speth. “We are working on an authentic successor to the old Defender. The architecture will contain a lot of elements that are different (from other Land Rovers).”

A design concept, the DC100 (seen above), appeared in 2011 as a suggestion of what the new Defender could look like.

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