Like many folks, I was excited to hear that Land Rover was resurrecting the Defender nameplate. I grew up admiring the boxy go-anywhere Defenders of days gone by, and I was hoping Jaguar Land Rover could recreate that magic.
Imagine my consternation when instead the brand came up with an SUV that seemed to be quite the departure from the old-school Defender. Still, after seeing it up close at auto shows, I became cautiously optimistic about this modern-day interpretation of the Defender. After driving it, I came away mostly impressed – but the usual British reliability issues complicated things.
Land Rover lit up my inbox this morning with more news about the reborn Defender. It seems there’s just always more to talk about with the new version of the iconic SUV.
The news for the 2021 model year is that there will be a three-door 90 model. Another piece of news is the X-Dynamic trim, which is meant to slot in between lower and upper trims. Jaguar Land Rover’s materials say the X-Dynamic is meant to have a “tough” exterior look and “unique” interior “fittings” but what does this corporate-speak really mean?
This interview should’ve been posted months ago.
I sat with Jaguar Land Rover North America Product Planning Director Rob Filipovic at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show (remember those?) to talk about the reborn Defender.
Then, I screwed up. I didn’t write the piece right away due to other work and travel. Still, the first drive was scheduled for mid-April, and I thought maybe the interview would work well as a companion piece to our first drive of the Defender.
You know the rest.
Jaguar Land Rover is reportedly working a system for the new Defender that would allow for low-speed maneuvers with all occupants outside the car. While it sounds like a good way to guarantee the safety of friends and family when traversing a cliff face that might be a bit too narrow, recent hiccups with Tesla’s new summoning tech has proven it’s best to exercise caution.
Fortunately, Land Rover says it wants to utilize the Defender’s 3-D Scout system to map the area surrounding the vehicle and allow drivers to control the Defender remotely from the outside in off-road environments (minimizing collision risks). This will likely require the addition of some level of vehicular autonomy, as JLR stipulates drivers will be controlling the model via the automaker’s wearable “Activity Key.” Present incarnations of the device are basically proximity sensors without the necessary controls to accomplish any meaningful level of remote control.
Land Rover’s Defender has returned and, based on the marketing materials furnished by the manufacturer, you’d think every model came with Jesus riding shotgun. The 2020 Defender is all things to all people. Exciting, powerful, comfortable, rugged, efficient, and on the bleeding edge of automotive technology, the new model really gave Land Rover an opportunity to pat itself on the back when it debuted in Frankfurt on Tuesday.
However, we’re not wholly convinced the company deserves to be relentlessly mocked for its enthusiasm — at least not this early in the article. There has been a clear effort made to ensure the off-roader has the broadest appeal possible, which has kind of been the model’s trajectory for as far back as memory allows. Besides, we don’t know for certain that the Defender’s evolution into a Swiss Army Knife is even a problem until we’ve driven one. But there will be a few issues we’ll have to address on principle, especially its move to unibody construction.
Hoping to generate some buzz ahead of its reveal, Land Rover released an incomplete, low-resolution side-on image of the upcoming, reborn Defender on Tuesday. The model, which disappeared from European dealers after its aging body was declared a danger to modern pedestrians, will return next year as a 2020 model. Apparently, it will hold on to its beloved boxy shape, as anything less would inspire French-style street protests on United Kingdom carriageways.
Also, unlike the last Defender, this one’s coming to America.