It’s been over 20 years since new Land Rover Defenders were sold in the US. The last of the previous generation, which had been around since roughly the Cretaceous Period, rolled off an English assembly line nearly three years ago. You can find these, the D90 (short wheelbase) and D110 (long wheelbase) used in the States, but if it runs properly and at least some of the lights work (pretty sure fully functioning electronics was only an option on those models), you’re still probably looking at north of $100,000.
To drive a Defender meant to quickly come to terms with what the vehicle was designed to do, with a ruthless, single-minded focus: drive over nasty, shitty, awful terrain, and not have any of the crucial bits break. To make that a reality, few crucial bits existed. Things like windshield wipers, a horn, stereo, climate control, are all *technically* attached to Defenders built right up until a few years ago, but they’re really more suggestive of a concept, rather than the thing itself.
Roads were not the Defender’s strong point. Comfort not particularly important to the designers. These things are tools, there to do a job, one which they excel at with a priceless kind of pluck.
But selling a rig with all the seeming complexity of a postwar Jeep for six figures in 2019 and beyond is a tall order. So, finally, after months, years really, of speculation, Land Rover is on the verge of releasing the newest generation of Defender, one that looks modern and possibly recognizable as a 21st-century truck in terms of upgrades, but still ready to drive into Mordor and back if that’s where your map points.
Land Rover has made it clear that they are not overly softening their flagship vehicle just to appeal a bit more to the mall-crawling crowd. These rigs are for people who drive into the undrivable parts of the world. The new ones promise to do that too, but also have windows that seal. And AC, probably.
So, as part of what, if true, is a staggering test load—Land Rover claims to be putting the new Defender through more than 45,000 tests to be sure they can still drive through a brick wall, then tow those crushed bricks through a barnyard—the new Defender has been assisting a Kenyan elephant conservation group called the Tusk Trust. Land Rover has actually lent their vehicles to the trust for 15 years.
For this test, the new Defender tracked lion prides, towed supplies in support of elephant researchers, drove through rivers, hauled heavy trailers, and drove over whatever the hell the engineers wanted. Within reason, of course.
Land Rover says the Defender will be available in the US in 2020. Specs haven’t been revealed yet. Test drives outside the biased hands of Land Rover have yet to be done. Or published anyway.
Finally, however, real, honest-to-god pics have been revealed. The paint scheme still obscures some details, but the bones are apparent.
Photos courtesy Land Rover.