The prospect of a new Defender is something stateside fans have been looking forward to for years. Back in the late 90s, the rugged off-roader made a brief appearance in U.S. showrooms, but increasing environmental and safety regulations soon meant importing it impossible. As a result, federalized versions are scare, so those looking to pick one up have seen prices remain high. Any example on our shores is easily worth two to three times what a similar one would fetch across the pond.
Now, one of the charms of the Defender has been that it hasn’t changed tremendously — or much at all — over its generations. Even brand-new models available overseas still look like the battered safari vehicles familiar from the pages of National Geographic. In that way, the English icon is a lot like America’s Jeep Wrangler, which even today is immediately recognizable as a descendant of the utilitarian 4x4s that our serviceman used to liberate Europe during World War II. But like Jeep, the Defender is undergoing a major redesign, and Land Rover has said that its designers will be looking forward, not backward, when it comes to penning the SUV’s latest sheet metal. So don’t expect any retro looks when the company unveils the final design.
Other than that? We actually don’t know much about the new Defender. But we’re not completely in the dark. The company has said it will ride on a version of the chassis currently seeing service in the Range Rover and the Discovery, which means lots of weight saving aluminum. We also know that, like its ancestors, the new Defender will be an absolute beast off road, and will take advantage of all the electronic wizardry — think terrain modes, suspension settings, and hill descent — which make modern machines so capable when the pavement stops. So we can’t wait to see some great demonstrations of the go-anywhere vehicle’s chops.
There’s no word on when the new Defender will arrive at your local AutoNation-affiliated Land Rover dealer. But if you want first crack at one? It might be a good idea to get on a list.