Land Rover walks a fine line as it prepares a Defender for a new generation

2015 Land Rover Defender
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends
In 2015, Land Rover ended the Defender’s outstanding 32-year production run. We’ve been Defender-less ever since, but the company is working on a brand-new model that’s scheduled to make its debut soon. New details shed insight into what we should — and, importantly, shouldn’t — expect from the truck.

Replacing the Defender is a Herculean task. That’s partly because it’s a model that has never been replaced before, and partly because it’s become a true icon in the automotive world. The new model needs to appeal to current owners, including some who have been driving a Defender since the Reagan administration, while luring in a new generation of buyers, including some who have never set foot inside the original car (pictured).

Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern is thus walking on a tightrope. He told industry trade journal Automotive News Europe that the next Defender won’t be a “facsimile” of the original model. In other words, the boxy styling that traces its roots back to the very first Land Rover model won’t return. Instead, the Defender will borrow styling cues from recent additions to the company’s portfolio, like the Velar which was introduced a couple of months ago and the fifth-generation Discovery.

When we drove the Defender, we noted the interior was about as high-tech as a 1990s VCR. Tech features will trickle down from other Land Rover SUVs to propel the venerable nameplate into the 21st century. Ultimately, it could even receive some of the trick semi-autonomous software the company is developing for off-road use. But fear not, the truck will be at least as rugged as its predecessor.

“You’ll be able to kick the hell out of them and they’ll get up for more,” McGovern said.

So, when will we see the next Defender? McGovern told Automotive News it’s “not far away,” which could mean anything. If you ask us, there’s a good chance we’ll get a few more morsels of information this fall at the Frankfurt Auto Show. And, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the metal next year in Geneva. The good news is that the Defender nameplate will finally return to the United States after a decades-long hiatus.

Stay tuned, we’ll update this page as soon as we hear more.

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