Overlandia: Land Rover Defender Finally Coming to the States

There hasn’t been a new Land Rover Defender for sale in the U.S. since 1997, when the iconic 4×4′s safety features fell short of American standards and it was no longer allowed to be sold, leaving fans little recourse but to lust at European Landies, run them illegally, or register in other countries and drive here. Mostly they, we, just lusted. But now, after almost 20 years of deprivation, the Defender is coming back to North America — in 2015.

What will it look like? That’s yet to be known. The current Defender, beloved for its que as mas macho lines, is long overdue for an upgrade. It dates to the 1980s, so long ago that competition in the off-road realm included the AMC Eagle and the Ford Bronco. The best hints come from the DC100 and DC100 Sport concept cars (in red, below), unveiled a year ago, but those are just hints. Vehicles shown at next year’s car shows should shed a little more light.

Here’s what we do know or can surmise:

The next Range Rover is coming early next year and it has an all-aluminum body that helps it drop more 800 pounds versus the 2012 model. It’s obvious Land Rover is teasing a smaller Defender, based on the concept DC100, but even if it does both two-box and three-box designs (shorter and longer wheelbases, like it sells today) you can pretty much bet that as much weight-shaving aluminum will be used as possible.

The concept showed a gas-saving stop/start transmission, common today on hybrids. It also featured an eight-speed transmission. Both are completely viable right now and it’s easy to imagine a very low range for the first two gears rather than a transfer case (at the very least the volume model would come without a low-range box). Weight and mechanical complexity savings would be huge, and fuel efficiency gains are paramount if Land Rover’s going to sell the Defender in a world where gas costs $5 a gallon here — and $12 a gallon in some parts of the EU.

Hybrid options, as well as diesel. Hmmm. Right now the 2013 Defender gets a 2.2-liter diesel that tells you everything you need to know about how very different American and European buyers think. Top speed: 90mph. 0-60mph: 14.7 seconds. Would that fly in the U.S., where, no matter what you might claim, the bulk of even the most hard-core off-road buyer driving is done on blacktop? At least the present diesel model puts out a decent 265 pound-feet of torque nearly straight from idle, so rock crawling performance isn’t compromised. As for the hybrid equation, that’s a maybe. Land Rover has to be thinking this direction because electric motors provide massive torque and it would enable a much smaller gas motor, but if the last Defender didn’t sell in part because of a steep cost of entry you’re looking at a big additional cost for going hybrid.

Terrain-i scanning device to warn of obstacles when off-road; Wade Aid sonar technology to assess water depth and advise optimum speed; driver-activated spiked tire system deployed at the touch of a button; permanent four-wheel drive…did you read the part about this being a concept? Wade Aid sonar would be rad, but we’re not even putting our $2 Power Ball ticket on that one; ditto, driver-actived spiked tire system. Just imagine the liability lawsuits.

Eyeballing Defender Special Editions below, available in 90 Hard Top, 90 Station Wagon, 110 Station Wagon, and 110 Utility Wagon (again, none for you, America/Canada) and with a six-speed manual gearbox and the aforementioned diesel motor it’s clear the new brand managers understand their image.

Carrying that through on a lighter, smaller, but still rugged off-roader that costs $40,000, not $60,000, will be Land Rover’s biggest challenge, because unlike a Jeep or even an Audi, it doesn’t have the volume for spreading costs. But getting close would be a huge win for Land Rover and for its rabid fans.

Overlandia is the art, science, and romance of driving in the dirt.

{ 18 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Craig Rowe

    It’s probably the vehicle I want more than any other. Found a couple sweet potential buys on eBay of late. Still, the price tags are always in places just far enough away so that, well, even the Defender can’t get to them.

  • Nick

    I was afraid this day would eventually come. First, last week’s post “I drive, get over it” that justified driving instead of pushing us to think creatively about transportation to the nature we love. Then a post with a dog peeing on an electric fence I can only assume you meant to share with old frat buddies because I cannot figure out where that fits in the Journal of Adventure. Now a post about a 4×4 made by one of the least-reliable auto manufacturers in the world that would be used to its true purpose by an exceedingly small segment of the population.

    Good-bye, A-J. It’s been fun while it lasted.

  • Mark

    So long Nick.

    This is one of the most exciting posts I’ve seen on here. Sorry dude, but Adventure and Defender are synonyms. Why wouldn’t it be on here?

  • Eric

    I love old trucks and I love road trips, backpacking ,camping, skiing, you name it. Adventure is where you find it, or rather where it finds you.
    Dont be a pansy Nick

  • Brazos

    I hope Land Rover gives the U.S. a Defender that resembles the timeless, rugged-yet-charming, no nonsense vehicle that adventurers world-round know and love. Please don’t let it look like that goofy DC100. That thing has no character at all.

  • Nicholas

    I heard the “Defender” concept had so much back lash that they scrapped it? It looks more Rav4 then Defender to me anyway. But, should an oil burner D110 with show up with solid axels in dealership stateside, I’d gladly drive one… well a friends anyway.

  • brian

    Nick must be used to driving his moms prius. The defender coming back is awsome news if it is a real defender, not a sickly looking thing with the defender name plate stuck on it. The defender is the only real 4×4 left in the word. If they change it, they could not give me one.
    Please keep the defender a REAL DEFENDER !!!!!!!!

  • Kevin

    The Defender is a wonderful vehicle. I can’t wait for Land Rover to bring them back to NA. But wait, not if it looks like that DC100. That’s not a Defender. If someone wants to buy that, they have several existing cheap looking little suv’s to pick from. I want the existing Defender. Defender 110 please.

  • Alan webber

    If they change the Defender dramatically from the original design they will make a big mistake.
    The DC100 is the silliest design I’ve seen in a long time.

  • Steve

    I had a Defender 110TD5 when we lived in South Africa. I’d love to have the Defender 110 six speed manual gearbox with the Ford Transit Diesel Engine here in the USA. My Defender worked daily on the Wild Coast and hauled everything from building supplies to visiting physicians. The Classic Defender platform is an amazing vehicle and I’d buy that vehicle in a heartbeat if offered here in the USA.

    There is a reason that people crave that machine. It works and it works well in situations that I’d never even think of taking my F150 or my wife’s Wrangler. We also had a Mahindra Bolero Double Cab Turbo which we beat on relentlessly. It was a great truck as well but didn’t come anywhere near the ruggedness or durability of the Defender. With fold down Bench Seats in cargo area of the 110, I could haul 7 adult passengers aside from myself with lots of room on the roof rack for any and all cargo.

  • Drew

    When I worked in Kosovo, I ended up with a right-hand drive 2000 110 country wagon. It had the TDI and the 6 speed manual if I remember correctly. It never failed me and we went everywhere. It was easy to repair, easier to clean, simple in that it had no fluff, like electric windows.

    I too have watetched the highway robbery on eBay for Defenders. I guess if you really want one…

    Like the decline and fall of the FJ40 Landcruiser, if they change the design to another RAV4, what is the point?

  • marcel.lippelt@gmail.com

    Hello,
    I´m arriving in USA by june 4th after driving my Land Rover Defender from Brazil to Alaska.
    17.000 km so far, and not even a flat tire.
    I have two options after driving the Americas, shipping back to Brazil, or selling it here in US.
    Anyone interest, please contact me by the following mail. marcel.lippelt@gmail.com
    Its a reliable Land Rover Defender Ninety in very good shape. Engine 200 turbo diesel intercooler.
    Thanks

  • Arthur Stevenson

    You know it’s a serious off-roader when there is a dual range transmission with a lockable centre differential. And the Defender has just that! The Defender also has a kit that isn’t generally fitted as standard like most of the German-badged SUVs. This definitely helps a lot when the going gets tough.

  • troy

    Keep the old word design updated it then build it and we will come !!!!!
    please dont build dc100 be true to its roots back when i was a boy and watched
    mutual of Omaha’s wild kingdom those where ROVERS

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