Few motor cars fuel the sense of adventure quite like the Defender. Since its inception in 1948 as the Series 1 Land Rover, this straight-lined angular vehicle, with its almost childlike graphic composition, has ruled the off-road world. The vehicle maintained the clear vernacular of the Series when it was reintroduced as the Defender in the 1980s. Today Jaguar Land Rover presents the much-anticipated evolution of this car. The 21st-century Defender retains a strong sense of its past while harnessing today’s technological advancements.
The biggest challenge, says Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern, was for the car to be relevant to this world – “it needed to be design literate and capable,” he tells me at a preview before today’s reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The answer was to optimize the proportions but keep it simple – not add too many embellishes. There is, therefore, deliberate emphasis on creating robust proportions with the height, the interplay of lines, the sense of verticality. The lights are simple geometric forms at the front and rear; the wheel arches are squared off. Inside follows a similar rational theme, a rugged modular architecture embracing the spirit of adventure for a car that truly is a fine evolution of the Defender.
The Defender needs to be identified by its silhouette alone, which requires an emphasis on maintaining very clear proportions. Everything has to have a purpose: the high sills, short overhangs and externally mounted rear wheel supports the car’s off-road capability. McGovern explains: “The clean body side contrasts dramatically against the sheer verticality of its front and particularly its rear to create a reassuringly purposeful stance. The overall impression is of an elemental design, yet this clean reductive approach is underpinned by the sophisticated surfacing of the highest quality.”
The Defender comes in two shapes: the smaller 90 and larger 110 with prices ranging from around £40,000 to £45,000 ($50,000 and $56,000). The cars can be ordered in S, SE, HSE packages and a unique First Edition is available throughout the first production year. There is also a pinnacle Defender X on offer with four accessory packs: Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban. There is a choice of 12 wheel designs to include 18-inch white-painted pressed steel rims and 22-inch Luna alloys.
There are some thoughtful design elements with the new Defender. This is the first Land Rover available with a factory-fitted satin protective film which can be easily removed making it quicker to repair damages than standard paint finishes, essential for a car that is encouraged to go off-road and get muddy. The PU-based wrap is solvent-free and contains no volatile organic compounds. It is also durable and developed to withstand extreme conditions.