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Land Rover’s Defender could go out on a high note with special performance model

Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division is off to a great start with vehicles like the F-Type Project 7 and Range Rover Sport SVR, and its next project could be even more extreme.

SVO will send off the venerable Defender with a special edition next year, Autocar reports. Imagine this boxy, anachronistic four-wheeler getting the SVR performance treatment.

However, while the Range Rover Sport SVR was built with on-road performance in mind, SVO’s Defender will likely be more at home in the dirt.

SVO boss John Edwards identified the Camel Trophy and Paris-Dakar off-road races as possible inspiration for the new model, which could also be a credible rival to the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG.

Related: Icon 4×4 updates the Land Rover Defender

The special edition vehicles will probably be among the last Defenders produced when they roll out of the factory sometime next year. Land Rover is retiring this old soldier after 2015.

There’s been much talk of a replacement – which could even be sold in the U.S. – but Land Rover hasn’t confirmed any details.

Like its German rival, the Mercedes G-Class, the Defender would likely become modernized and civilized in any upcoming redesign. So the SVO-badged Defender could be the last of a breed, even if the Defender nameplate carries on.

Jaguar Land Rover’s skunk works is reportedly looking for other projects as well. It wants a “Project 8” to succeed the retro Jaguar Project 7, and is even considering future all-wheel drive Jag performance models, as well as diesels for the European market.