All-new 2018 Land Rover Defender spied winter testing

Bizarre new spy shots show shortened Range Rover-based test mule for new three-door ’90’ Land Rover Defender.

Land Rover is putting the finishing touches to its all-new Defender, which will be revealed later this year. Spotted during winter testing the shortened Range Rover Sport mule appears to be a test bed for the three-door ’90’ Defender.

Viewed in profile, these latest winter spy shots show that a huge chunk of the SUV’s wheelbase has been lopped out, which will give the Defender its stubby SUV look. Despite being designed to throw us off the scent, the test bed looks uncannily similar in length to the old ’90 Series’ three-door Defenders. The mule here has half of its rear doors, though it’s very unlikely they will make production for this wheelbase length.

Even though Land Rover bosses have discussed an all-new Defender openly, the company has been keeping its cards close to its chest. Most recently, JLR executive Dr Ralf Speth informed us that early development mules had started to be tested by bosses. Rather excitingly, the JLR boss assured us that the new car will be “even more capable” than the outgoing Defender when the terrain gets challenging.

Dr Speth did admit that the design and engineering work behind the new Defender has been all but settled, to the point where he had the opportunity to try the new vehicle. Teasing further, he said: “I have driven test mules already… and also tried the car against competitors, in on and off-road environments. It’s sensational.” He would not put a timeframe on when the new Land Rover Defender would debut but he did say: “It is coming. We are working an authentic successor of the predecessor.”

It is expected that the Defender will have an aluminium body built on an aluminium chassis and will utilise parts from other Land Rover vehicles and be built alongside other cars from the range. Speth continued, saying: “We’re already doing this now… We used the modular architecture and elements of our chassis for weight reduction to make the new Discovery a better-handling car. We will do so also in the future because we always learn.”

Large Land Rover Defender family planned
Beyond the launch of the basic model, Land Rover is planning to introduce an entire new family of Defenders, and design boss Gerry McGovern has hinted that a performance SVR version of the forthcoming 4×4 could also be on the cards.

Such a car would be developed by Jaguar Land Rover’s newly formed Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, and would allow the brand to tap into demand in Russia and China for powerful and luxurious rugged off-roaders, currently dominated by the Mercedes G 63 AMG.

It’s also likely that a hardcore Defender SVX will join the range at some stage and we could even see a luxurious SVA version in line with the Range Rover SVAutobiography.

The first new Defender is expected to arrive this year, and it will spawn a family of at least three individual models. McGovern said: “The Defender is all about durability – that indestructible, durable vehicle which is what a family of Defenders would be.”

Whatever happens, the new Defender will continue Land Rover’s recent move upmarket. “In its core form it can be something that can be quite elemental up to something incredibly luxurious,” said McGovern.


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