Watch the Red Cross put the new Land Rover Defender to the test in Dubai

Land Rover is doing things differently for the launch of its new Defender. The highly anticipated off-roader will make its public debut later this year, but in the meantime Land Rover is giving camouflaged prototypes to organizations that can make use of the Defender’s off-road capabilities. The Defender has already been tested with a wildlife preservation group in Africa, and now Land Rover has revealed that the vehicle spent some time in Dubai with the Red Cross.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been using Land Rovers since 1954. The vehicles’ off-road capability has been vital in getting aid workers to rural communities, Ilir Caushaj, IFRC team leader for global fleets and logistics, said in a statement. The Defender is expected to take over that job from older Land Rover models.

Land Rover gave the IFRC a prototype Defender to test out at the organization’s global fleet base in Dubai. The Defender was subjected to the extreme heat of the desert, driving over sand dunes to test out its off-road capability. Land Rover claims the new Defender will be comfortable to drive on pavement as well, and to prove that, the SUV was driven on the Jebel Jais highway, which climbs the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The IFRC’s interest in the new Defender shows the expectations Land Rover must meet. While other models grew more luxurious, the original Defender stayed true to Land Rover’s roots of off-road capability and simplicity, right up until production ended in 2016. The old Defender was so popular that Land Rover built a limited run of V8-powered versions after production officially ended, and recently announced a range of upgrades for older Defender models.

We won’t get the full story on the new Land Rover Defender until its public unveiling later this year, but Land Rover is expected to offer it in multiple sizes — just like the old Defender. The new model is also expected to incorporate more technology. Land Rover’s challenge will be to balance technology with the ruggedness customers expect of a Defender. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has done a pretty good job of that, so it will be interesting to see if Land Rover can pull off the same feat.

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