By on August 17, 2017


Details have come to light regarding the return of Land Rover’s long-running Defender model to the North American market. This time around, things will be a little different. After a solid 67-year run (dating back to 1948 as the “Series” models), perhaps some changes were due.

And this time, North America gets to see the new Defender at the same time as the rest of the world.

Keen Anglophiles will recall the prior Defender was sold on North American shores between 1993 and 1997. Defender 90 and 110 models were available in various levels of trim, with both hard and soft tops in the case of the 90 model. However, changing regulations shut the import doors on the Defender after 1997. For 1998, federal regulations required dual front airbags in all vehicles, and new side-impact safety.

This “safety” idea had never been the Defender’s forte, so making updates was neither simple nor cost effective. Left with little choice, Land Rover was forced to discontinue the model in North America. This left the company with just two offerings at the time — the Discovery I and upmarket Range Rover. Rather limited supply has led to ridiculous pricing on stateside used Defenders in the years since.

Land Rover Defender (wikimedia commons)

A long time coming, Automotive News is now reporting details sourced from Land Rover about a brand-new Defender (UK production of the old model, seen above, ceased in January 2016). The new Defender should debut in 2019, and is intended for all global markets. Multiple body styles will be available, and the company assures us the new Defender will look plenty Defender-y, without falling into the retro design trap.

A two-door soft top and four-door hardtop wagon have been confirmed, along with gasoline and diesel power plants. The new Defender will make use of the new Ingenium engine family, the newest engine offerings from Jaguar Land Rover.

Unlike the old Defender’s aluminum panels stamped over a steel frame, the new model will be a modern aluminum unibody, much like the current Range Rover. While many will surely bemoan the Defender’s loss of a traditional frame, it’s quite necessary for crash ratings, emissions standards, comfort, practicality, platform sharing, and probably 210 other reasons.

And with the rest of this change comes a change of venue. The likely production locale for the new model will take place in Slovakia, which is certainly not anywhere near Solihull in Merry England.

[Image: Shelka04/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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9 Comments on “Land Rover Defender Will Return to North America in New Iteration...”

  • avatar

    Sorry, that first picture brings to mind an image of Andrew Steyn and his giant rock instead of a parking brake, and his misadventures while traveling on dirt roads in Botswana.

  • avatar

    The official vehicle of Nantucket….seems like every third car was one of these (D 90) when I was there a few weeks ago.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    New Bronco and new Defender on the way, and pants-crapping prices on used FJ Cruisers. I guess the two-door style offroadable SUV isn’t dead after all.

  • avatar

    I can’t wait to be disappointed by the new design!

  • avatar

    Body on frame is no great loss for something like this, unless you want to tow enormous weights with it. Somehow I doubt the new one will match the tow rating of my Disco I (which is mechanically identical to the old Defender 110).

    Going to be interesting to see what they do with this. So far I love the Discovery Sport and hate just about everything else in their lineup. Too much bling for me. Maybe the new Defender will be a return to their no-nonsense utility roots? One can dream.

    • 0 avatar

      The old Defender, used the frame to keep weight down low. The entire body was built from the same sheetstock soda bottlers use for their cans, hence weighed nothing. Which aids tremendously is keeping a large, tall vehicle, whose track is designed to match those of horse and ox drawn carts in The Congo, from rolling over in uneven terrain.

      Crash standards for soda cans perched atop a cheap to weld, easy to fix and heavy sturdy frame, aren’t all that, but probably still an improvement wooden ox carts. Of course, for the more realistic duty of hauling a commemorative edition Leica M around Nantucket while playing National-Geographic-in-the-50s, A modern unibody is undoubtedly better than both.

  • avatar

    This just in: the new LR Defender will share a platform with the Ford Fiesta, but the square looks it will be given make it build Ford, er, Land Rover tough.

  • avatar

    Never cared for the aesthetics of the Range Rover or Discovery, but an updated, modern take of the Defender, otoh…

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