There’s probably no greater challenge for a designer than redesigning an icon.
And they don’t get more iconic than the Land Rover Defender, a vehicle whose design hasn’t changed much in close to seven decades.
Land Rover was forced to end production of the Defender last year, with the most recent model unable to meet crash safety and emissions regulations.
Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern with DC100 Concepts
Mercedes-Benz has a similar problem with its equally iconic G-Class, though the German automaker has taken the easy route by making its redesigned G-Class almost a direct copy of its predecessor.
Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern will have none of that. Speaking with Automotive News (subscription required), McGovern said the new Defender, expected to debut in late 2018 or early the following year, won’t feature a retro design.
“I am a modernist,” he said. “I'm looking forward, not back.”
McGovern also said that the design of the new Defender had been locked in and that engineers were now working hard to ensure the vehicle is just as capable if not more so than the predecessor.
Last Land Rover Defender is built at famous Solihull plant in the United Kingdom - January 29, 2016
A teaser sketch seen by Automotive News was said to depict a vehicle with a flat roof and squared-off front end, like the original version. Based on McGovern’s comments about retro design, that’s probably all that will be common between the two.
As an indication of how tough the challenge has been, Land Rover in 2011 rolled out the DC100 concept as a potential design for a new Defender. However, the cheap, almost cartoonish look of the vehicle was quickly derided and the design scrapped.
Land Rover has also decided to ditch plans to make the Defender an affordable workhorse along the lines of the Toyota Hilux. Instead, the automaker will adopt the aluminum platform found in the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery. Using this platform means Land Rover can build the new Defender on the same production line as its other PLA-based models. The downside is that the vehicle won’t be as affordable as previously thought.