You can’t even take delivery of a New Defender yet, and already it looks like Land Rover is looking to expand the model range in both directions, with a “baby Defender” to compete with mini-SUVs from other luxury marques, and a “Defender Sport” with an electric drivetrain taking up the mantle of the six-figure vehicle.
The rumors of the “Baby Defender” are strong enough that they are tied to a chassis code: L860. It looks like we might see it sooner than later, with a potential 2021 release date – a year after the regular Defender launches. Prices should start around $33,000, which is a few thousand more than the current cheapest Land Rover model, the Discovery Sport.
The vehicle might bear more resemblance to the infamous DC100 concept car of 2011 than the actual New Defender. But it probably will carry more of the design cues of the final product still.
A big reason to build this small vehicle: fuel economy. With even stricter European fleet fuel economy regulations on the way, it’s easier to meet fleet averages by producing a small vehicle than by continuing to tweak their full-size models. The vehicle will likely use one of the more efficient powertrains in Land Rover’s portfolio, including the turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder Ingenium motor, a mild hybrid version of the same, or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option. Front-wheel drive will likely be standard, with all-wheel drive almost certainly an option, as well as four-cylinder motors.
The vehicle will probably be built on the D10 platform, based on parent company Tata Motor’s Omega-Arc platform. Used under the new Tata Harrier, it’s a cheaper, more modern version of the D8 platform that Land Rover used for the first-generation Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque. The model would likely be built at the Nitra, Slovakia plant to reduce costs, alongside Discovery 5 and the new Defender.
As for a name…well, it’s all rumors right now, but there’s talk of Land Rover calling it the “Land Rover 80,” to reflect the name of the original Series I 80” in the 1940s and 1950s. This would not be a Defender per se, but the similar styling would make the name a strong link. As it would be smaller than the Defender 90, the number 80 would also slot into that hierarchy well.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are rumors of a luxury Defender model, above even the current Defender X specification. The idea here is to make an in-house version of the ultra-luxury vehicles aftermarket coachbuilders have crafted from the old Defender. This vehicle, which may be called “Defender Sport,” would be a little bit more road-biased, though not as much as the more sporting Range Rover models. It would also likely be available in an all-electric Tesla-beating style in addition to a high-performance gas version.
It was inevitable that the new Defender would be the core of another sub-family of Land Rovers; the company has said this for years. They consider Range Rover, Discovery, and Defender to be three pillars for three purposes. Now that the Defender line has kicked back off, they’re ready to expand.
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