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Out with the old: Land Rover’s brand new Defender will be offered in five body styles

Land Rover is developing a successor to the Defender, and one of the company’s top executives has provided insight into what we can expect from it.

The British car maker concedes that replacing the Defender — an iconic off-roader that has been in continuous production for decades — is a Herculean task. The Defender is known for its nearly unrivaled capacity to go far off the beaten path, so Land Rover can’t simply slap a retro-styled front fascia on a crossover and call it a day.

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s design director, revealed to trade journal Automotive News that the next Defender will borrow numerous styling cues from the outgoing model.

“When this vehicle comes out, people will know it’s a Defender, it’s a modern Defender,” said the designer. “It will bear no resemblance to those Defender concepts,” he added, referring to the DC100 design study that was introduced at the 2011 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Automotive News reports the lineup will be made up of five body styles: a pair of two-door models — most likely a hardtop and a convertible — that will replace the current Defender 90, a long-wheelbase four-door version built to replace the Defender 110, as well as two- and four-door pickups. The SUV models will be sold in the United States, but the pickups will be kept at bay by the decades-old Chicken Tax.

Recent rumors claim the Defender will ditch its rugged, body-on-frame construction and instead ride on a unibody platform made largely out of aluminum, but Land Rover is keeping technical details under wraps for the time being. All we know at this point is that it will be offered with four- and six-cylinder gasoline- and diesel-burning engines, and that it will come with a full-time four-wheel drive system.

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Of course, execs have plenty of time to tweak the design and make modifications to the specifications sheet because the next Defender isn’t scheduled to make its debut until 2018, meaning it won’t land on our shores until the 2019 model year.

Land Rover hopes selling the Defender in the United States for the first time since 1997 will give sales a much-needed boost. The company predicts it needs to move at least 100,000 units of the off-roader annually, a massive increase over the roughly 10,000 examples it currently sells each year.