Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The future of the Land Rover Defender.

The Land Rover Defender is an institution. Evolved from the original Land Rover, which appeared on the market in 1948, the Defender is an exceptionally able off-road vehicle. Its main rival is the Jeep Wrangler, which evolved from the original world war 2 Willy's Jeep (itself the original inspiration for the Land Rover). The Land Rover quickly evolved from a basic soft-top short wheelbase Jeep copy into a modular design encompassing van, "station wagon" and pick-up variants in two (and eventually with the Defender, three) wheelbases. The Jeep stuck with a short wheelbase, soft top design for many years (gaining a plastic hard top later), but the body shape and interior design evolved over time. Nowadays the Wrangler has a long wheelbase model to match the Defender 110. The Land Rover still retains much of the design of the original model, and these days it has been subject to stiff competition from Japanese pick-up trucks, which offer more comfort for drivers and passengers. The Land Rover might be able to beat them off road, but the comfort levels are still stuck in the 1950s. Safety concerns are also an issue for the Defender. So it will soon be replaced by a new model. The DC100 prototype has given the world a sneak preview of what the new Defender will look like, but will it be good enough to compete with its old rival, the Jeep?
So what do I think the new Defender should be like?

  • The Defender has always had a separate chassis, which makes it easy for coach-built conversions such as fire engines, ambulances and caper vans. This feature needs to be retained.
  • It has also had a power take-off option. Although not quite to the level of the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, this does mean the Defender is a good platform to built a snowplough, cherry picker or anything else that needs hydraulic power.
  • Military Defenders and the Jeep Wrangler have a removable plastic hard top. This would be a nifty feature to have across the range. 
  • Fix the ergonomics. The worst thing about the Defender at the moment is that it is very uncomfortable, with little leg or elbow room and controls that are difficult to reach, a problem the Jeep has managed to avoid.
And now here is a gratuitous photo of some old Land Rovers:

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