Land Rover’s iconic Defender off-roader will finally cease production next month. The vehicle, which features a design that’s barely budged from the original boxy shape of the utilitarian-and-mechanically-bulletproof ‘Land Rover’ unveiled in 1948, has been in production since 1983 but needs to be phased out due to emissions and crash safety. The good news is that a successor is planned, though we won’t see it until the 2018 calendar year.
Land Rover originally planned to have its new Defender ready by this year, even previewing the vehicle in 2011 with its DC100 concept car. The original plan was to launch an affordable, go-anywhere vehicle along the lines of the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ Cruiser but the concept didn’t prove popular and the project got delayed while Land Rover formed a new idea.
That new idea will see the Defender positioned between Land Rover’s mainstream Discovery and upmarket Range Rover. Like its siblings, the Defender will feature a variety of models, with Automotive News (subscription required) reporting there will be at least five different versions: closed and open three-door versions; a five-door version with third-row seats; and two- and four-door pickup versions.
According to a previous report, the Defender will ride on a new platform dubbed “D7u”. This platform is believed to be derived from Land Rover’s aluminum-intensive unibody structure underpinning the larger Range Rover SUVs and equipped with a live axle setup and low-range transfer case with two differential locks for superior performance when going off-road.
Land Rover's DC100 Sport and DC100 concepts
To keep costs from creeping into Range Rover territory, we may see production take place in Slovakia. Recently, Land Rover signed a letter of intent with the government of the Eastern European country for a potential new plant. The automaker said the plant would be used for production of lightweight aluminum vehicles, though didn’t specify a name.
Don’t worry about the Defender looking like the cartoonish DC100 concepts. Land Rover says the Defender won’t look anything like those concepts. It won’t be as hardcore as the original, though, as Land Rover is seeking a wider audience this time around. The company is hoping to sell as many as 100,000 units per year.
As for the powertrain lineup, expect Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium range of 2.0 four-cylinder gasoline and diesel mills as well as the automaker’s 3.0-liter V-6, both naturally aspirated and supercharged.
With the new Defender expected to land sometime in 2018, we should see it arrive in showrooms as a 2019 model.