A Def’ner By Any Other Name

Keep yer supercars and your electric IDs, stuff the Kias and the over large grilles. My eyes on Frankfurt were directed to SoliSlovakia. 

AKA Tongue N Cheek Surveyors but in need of oil stains, mud splats for true greatness. (c) Autocar

I’ve been so looking forward to seeing the New Defender. I’ve pored over the camouflaged shots. I’ve scrutinised the form. I won’t be buying one anytime soon so why this lust for the Land Rover? Personally, I think it’s the bees knees and will trounce the faux-four-by-fours.

Certain that many more words will be written about New Defender, I wanted to get in there first.

I love the looks, the definitive three door which has the stance of a rugby player and the five door’s strength of two rugby players. They both possess a harmonious cheekiness, many a nod to that loveable old crate that ‘died’ three years ago (yet refused to die at all) and have more options [at cost) than Mac Donald’s can offer; impressive findings. If this car could be a tattoo, it would be Who Dares Wins.

Has the look of a desert soldier with a suitable combat-face. Ideal for Ikea car parks.
(c) Autocar

The Def’ner as the vehicle was graciously referred to in Solihull has come of age. Production ceased in early 2016 and the enthusiasts cried “why?” The ‘challenging’ panel gaps you could loose an infant in, the abysmal engine emissions and pretty poor crash ratings were the final coffin nails. Only JLR refused to seal the lid with final editions and V8 engines; just in time for camouflaged pictures of the new shape, the most definitely not DC100. This New Defender will be all new.

The industry enemies have moved on since the demise of the original. At a pace to break down doors, marching all over their once pristine and hard won ground, victorious with no Defender to shore up the perilous position. Until now.

Big plans for a big car in a big, new foreign factory; another instance for the die-hard Landie fan to wince – for Nitra in Slovakia is the new home to these beasts and not Solihull. Oh, the indignity. JLR has invested big and therefore big returns are asked. The New Defender and 5th generation Discovery simply must deliver. Today’s customer demands choice and the Land Rovers have that in spades. The only variant omitted (at launch as far as I can see) is the Pick-up. Surely I am not alone in thinking how popular this version would be: sign me up next week.

Truly quaking with anticipation at seeing a New Defender Pick-up truck with a crane, winch and the suitability oily detritus only a back street garage can generate. An electrical utility provider’s vehicle in the centre of a steep-sided snow covered field, battling against the elements to restore power to the village. A farmers hack daubed in muck, hay, possibly even blood in lambing season. Camouflaged for that particular theatre.

The dust covered quarry car with whip aerials avoiding the giant dump trucks. Can they dismantle a new one in order to be used in underground mining operations? These are the images I want to see the New Defender excel. Sadly, it’ll be more the car parks and school runs of our be-tarmaced lands this car will wage more battles. But I really do think the above operators will come back to Solihull, sorry, Nitra’s doors like a murmuration of starlings.

This car has solidity, those classless looks, the chiselled chin of a seasoned campaigner and in the correct livery will stand out a mile, for the better. The alloy wheels make for an aggressive statement but even Mr McGovern was impressed with the more humble white painted steel wheel. Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.

The New Defender has the looks, pricing, along with the determination to take a good swipe at that Austrian built behemoth, the G-wagen. I like the Gelandewagen for its ostentatious outlook and Devil May care stance. But this Stuttgart wunderkind may end up with a bloody nose on confronting JLR’s new bruiser. Spec a Defender up to the hilt and you can be king away from the football field as well as the moorland grouse shoot. It’ll cost you, mind but when did taste overpower money?

Axle articulations along with halogen hob lights, poetry in motion. (c) Autocar

For all their current financial woes, JLR in these eyes deserves to turn things around with this car, just like the original did seventy years ago. Back then, the world beat a path to Solihull and demanded these go anywhere vehicles. Will the in excess of £40k price tag inhibit potential buyers? Favourable PCP monthlies will surely mean we see Oliver and Olivia being transported in  Nitra sourced splendour anytime soon.

Even if the offer to take up an off-Road driving experience is declined, it’s wonderful to know just how capable this truck is, wherever it’s made, regardless of class. Three years away might just have done the four wheel drive scene the power of good. Now, is there a dam wall that needs ascending

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

19 thoughts on “A Def’ner By Any Other Name”

  1. Another brilliant article Andrew. I can’t wait to see one in the flesh, and like you, used as intended, by farmers, utility companies and the like.

  2. Design wise, it’s very good. McGovern has done a good job here.

    In product planning terms, Land Rover has another ‘premium’ SUV to capture the attention of wealthy families. Farmers and NGOs will shop elsewhere.

  3. I find it interesting that most commentators have expressed a preference for the white steel wheels, which I also like very much. It makes the new Defender look more down to earth and functional – indeed the ‘commercial’ livery shown in the main picture is by far my favourite look for it for the same reasons. I guess I am saying, the simpler the better. There’s more I could say about the styling, but I think I should wait until I see one for real.

    Agree with Jacomo that the product positioning creates a problem for LR in my mind as the Defender will end up competing with the bloated and clumsy looking Disco and possibly even the Evoque and Disco Sport. It’s not really a Defender replacement, is it?

    1. I am not the only person who thinks that Land Rover could have looked to vehicles like the VW Amarok or Mercedes X class when developing the new Defender.

      These pick ups seem to be growing in popularity all over the world – except in North America, where full size pick ups increasingly dominate the market.

      Imagine a similar Land Rover… but available in short or long wheelbase, hard top station wagon or load bed, van or passenger vehicle. Yes, it would have required investment in a new platform, but an inherently flexible one that could be adapted over a long life.

      The Defender we saw launched in Frankfurt really is an exemplary replacement for the Discovery 4. I think it will do well… but Land Rover have abandoned their original customers for this. I am struggling to see where the current Discovery now fits in.

      You could argue that Jeep and Mercedes G class have also abandoned their original, utilitarian roots – but both companies can point customers towards other models that fulfil the role of no-frills working vehicle.

    2. The X-class is now officially a disaster, so I wouldn’t suggest that car as a role model to anyone. The Amarok, on the other hand, was and is a convincing product that serves VW well – the question is: Does JLR, who are in the business of developing and building ‘premium’ vehicles, have the capacity to create a truly rugged product? Unlike VAG or Toyota, they have no other utilitarian models in production with which certain simple components could be shared. An all-aluminium Amarok competitor would certainly be rather too sophisticated for its own good.

  4. By Gad, sir, I’ll have some of whatever it is you’re having! I feel energized. The sun is up after a braw bricht moonlicht nicht, and I’m a’raring to go! But first, a full brekkie. No intrepid explorer keen to exercise his new power winch in a rock-strewn wadi somewhere in the wilds of the Sahara could forgo beforehand an English breakfast cooked on a Primus stove for that je ne sais quoi special taste, the fulsome provisions being handily stored within the Defender alongside a special bottle of champers and some premium Cuban cigars, while the jerrycans of fuel sit on the cunning new roof tray. My faithful companion Algernon is by my side, keen as blazes for the adventure ahead. We swig some chilled orange juice from the onboard fridge and hatch the day’s plan.

    My flights of fancy quite carry me away …. Oh to be ten years old again!

  5. While this is a very different proposition than the authentically utilitarian original, I can understand Land-Rover’s decision to pitch it more towards lifestyle rather than workhorse buyers. The company is likely to generate greater profits per unit from such buyers as they load up on nice, expensive optional extras. That said, it does create problems for the unlovely Discovery V and might well badly hurt sales

    Like Andrew, I think the design is Land-Rover’s best (and most original) effort in some time, but there’s one feature of the three-door that is pretty inexplicable, the broad (and, apparently, non-structural and therefore unnecessary) “floating” pillar that destroys visibility for rear seat passengers:

    I can only assume it’s there to reference the same (structural) detail on the five-door version, but the three-door would look much better without this bit of artifice.

  6. The floating panel is the item I limited myself from talking about, amongst others, but hey, we’re now talking about it. Again, I think one has to see it in the metal to properly understand its rationale, but I find it pretty unforgivable as a ‘signature’ styling gimmick.

    For all those who criticised the new Mazda3 5 door for its rear pillar, I give you Gerry McGovern, no less, and his optional floating C (??) pillar! It serves no function at all but to look good (?) and in so doing blotting out most of the precious daylight for the rear passenger and create the mother and father of all blind-spots for the driver.

    On a vehicle which is supposed to at least be modelled on such a workhorse as the Defender (let alone a Series III) I find it a bitter pill to swallow.

    While I am here, why the rear light treatment, with the lamps encased in a black panel, looking for all the world like a homage to the previous generation MINI Clubman? And, what is the point of that boxy plastic structure on the front, where the grille should be? Don’t get me started on the accessories which hang from the roof over the rear windows/ floating panels … kind of like a pair of panniers on a donkey, only styled and seemingly constructed like something off a Corgi toy.

    So, no, I am sorry for the rant, but there are too many unnecessary gimmicks, hence the car is at its best in its simplest forms.

  7. As I hoping for a bit of a discussion over this, I have had a brief look at the competition.

    Everyone is doing premium these days. The “humble” Toyota Hi-Lux starts at £25k in the UK rising to a price I find hard to digest, £55k. The Amarok hovers around the thirties. Both look far more suitable to be heading to the conference centre than the building site or wholesalers. The adverts say they are tough and built for hard work but having no actual experience of these I cannot argue.

    Personally believing most folk ordering a new Defender will neither know nor care it is no longer made in Britain but will like the badge, the grill and the grunt. To others it will remain British Car. I won’t be loosing any sleep either way but do hope they sell by the train load. My only gripe being the extras list; goodness, it does go on rather. For one who remembers just four television channels and maybe a colour and radio to add for options we today simply must have everything and more besides.

    So as I put earlier, get me a pick up version and be damned to blind spots, odd pillars and even more odd storage bins

  8. The idea that LR should have replaced the Defender with a pickup truck is, I believe, not realistic. For starters, the market is quite saturated with similar offerings competing mostly on price, where mass market providers have a big advantage against LR. Also, commonality with LR’s other offerings would have been marginal; not much but engines, the ubiquitous ZF gearbox and the transfer box.

  9. The floating pillar is a design gimmick and nothing else, and it has no place, I repeat, absolutely ni place to do on a Land Rover. Because the people on need of a “real” Landie have absolutely no use for non functional gimmicks. It’s up there with the non functional chequered plates mounted on the fenders that no rubber boots will ever check out. This is all about the appearance of practicality above actual functionality. Form over function, therefore a car for poseurs.

  10. I still think the only successful 4WD design of the last 20 years is the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

  11. A very curious vehicle. The old defender is no doubt a capable machine, yet the ones who actually need an offroad vehicle get a Land Cruiser. Most Defenders I see here are never used offroad. Some do hitch a trailer, though. So ultimately it became a lifestyle accessoire.

    The new Defender is perhaps even more capable than the old one, but JLR is targeting the lifestyle oriented customer by the looks of it.

    It’s mainly a good effort, I think, but I’ve got quite a few issues with it. I don’t like the grille, front bumper, skid plate arrangement. It makes the front look unnecessarily messy. The daft pillar has already been mentioned, lucky it’s an option on the 90. The rear lights are quite silly too. The main rear lights are in the black strip. The black strip again makes the rear unnecessarily fussy. What is really weird are the small additional rear lights close to the edge. Apparently they’re there to meet a viewing angle regulation. The viewing angle on the main rear lights is blocked by the spare wheel. But there seems to be enough space to put the rear lights at the extremities without the use of the smaller additional lights.

    For a more lifestyle oriented machine it seems strange to me that every package, ‘upgrade’ in wheels or accessoires make it look less attractive. There are plenty of cars for instance that look ‘underwheeled’ in standard trim. I’m not in the market for a Defender, but I’d get a commercial 90 with steel wheels. Pity too one can’t have the six cylinder with the steel wheels.

  12. The white steel wheels and the van format look best. The nose is indistinct but somehow manages to look vaguely like the last few generations of Freelanders and Discoveries providing you don’t gaze directly at it.
    The floating C pillar is some kind of lunacy but concentrating on that misses the really important points: will it still have front seats mounted on box sections with a sharp corner to bash you calves when you climb in and will it have LTI Taxi diesel rattle +transmission whine noise that made the Defender the only modern car recognizable by sound alone?
    £40,000? I can’t see North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service or the Royal Mail [Our local “Mail Centre” has an “Old Defender”, ominously it always seems to be on the inspection platform] paying up for them. It misses the point of what the “Landy” was meant to be, as JLR have confused it with what it became- a hipster wagon for couples who have Farrow and Ball painted woodwork and kitchens full of Kath Kidston gee-gaws.

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