By on August 29, 2019

Image: JLR

With less than two weeks to go before its Frankfurt Motor Show debut, Land Rover has sent its upcoming Defender SUV on a road trip to the Rhineland. Kicking off the continental slog in a remote and cinematic valley near the China-Kazakhstan border, the Defender will presumably score some rough-and-tumble bragging rights — as well as all-important photo ops — on the way to its German unveiling on September 10th.

Too bad we’ve already seen it.

While Jaguar Land Rover did provide a carefully cropped photo of the returning model’s grille, it’s only useful in confirming the identity of a next-generation Defender leaked to the internet this week after showing up on the set of a James Bond movie. That pic gave us the full front three-quarter view.

Aside from the missing badge on the film vehicle, it’s a match — right down to the mud. These high-end European SUVs have a knack for getting dirty, if only on film.

We’ve detailed what to expect from the 2021 Defender already (three body lengths, three engines), as well as the circumstances surrounding the old model’s disappearance from European roadways some three years ago. All that’s left to do is wait for Frankfurt. The model makes its triumphant U.S. return (it vacated the market in 1987) at the L.A. Auto Show in November, going on sale later next year.

Like its premium rivals, Land Rover sees not just the return of a key piece of its heritage in the new Defender — it sees sales and revenue, especially in the North American market. Long denied the Defender, the automaker no doubt hopes American status seekers rush headlong into dealerships in a frantic bid to not be that guy with the black Escalade.

Despite strong sales at Land Rover (last year saw the brand reach an all-time high in the U.S.), Jaguar’s limited utility vehicle range and unpopular sedans have weighed down the automaker’s balance sheet, earning it sharp losses in 2018 and a rap on the knuckles from its stern parent, Tata Motors. JLR has pledged to turn things around. And in the United States, last month brought pleasing news.

The company’s sales, spanning both brands, was up for the month. This alone was enough to warrant a mention from Joe Eberhardt, CEO of JLR North America.

“We are proud to end the month with an increase in sales across both Jaguar and Land Rover,” he said, adding that a year-over-year sales increase in July (5 percent) matched sales growth of the calendar year thus far.

“With the industry experiencing significant headwinds, we remain confident that our award-winning SUV product offering, supported by our dedicated retailer network, will continue this sales momentum.”

In the Land Rover family, the second-generation Range Rover Evoque saw its sales rise 38 percent for the month, with the traditional Range Rover up 20 percent. Earlier introductions like the Velar and Discovery Sport served to place more sales on JLR’s ledger, but the Defender’s unannounced-but-no-doubt-lofty MSRP will help boost the automaker’s income at a time when it needs it most.

[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]

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