"Proper" Land Rovers, as I like to call them, have square fronts and flat windscreens. The shape of a Land Rover is so instantly recognizable, at once both nearly featureless with its flat panels, and completely unique with its "tumble-home" wheel arches, sloping triangular roof, minimalist bumpers, scuttle vents under the windscreen, and other quirks of appearance.
A successful replacement for Defender will require a design that ticks all the boxes of utility, durability, functionality, and adaptability while satisfying the nostalgia of rabid fans and followers all over the world. It will, of course, need to meet ever-stricter standards for emissions and safety in a multitude of markets, and hopefully do better in terms of reliability than its predecessor. It needs to not just do all of those things, but also do them with that uniquely British sense of perfectly understated classless sophistication that seemed to be "bred in the bone" of every Land Rover, with a few notable exceptions, from the very first 80" all the way through the end of production in 2016.
Land Rover's chief of design, Gerry McGovern, showed up recently at a press preview for the new Range Rover Velar in Palm Springs, California. Within minutes of making his appearance, reporters started asking McGovern for any new developments regarding the new Defender scheduled for the 2019 model year.
According to reports, McGovern replied, "That didn't take long, about three minutes."
Responding to questions about the pressure of having to design a replacement for such a storied vehicle, McGovern simply said that the design work is finished, and that now the project is in the hands of the engineering teams, who are "hell-bent" on making sure it works as well, or perhaps better than it looks.
He did drop a few more clues about the nature of the new design, including a sketch of the vehicle's silhouette, reportedly showing a flat roof and squared off front end. He did clarify that Defender is still one of three pillars of the Land Rover family: Range Rover, Discovery, and Defender.
When asked if Defender would take on a retro appearance, as commonly seen in so many modern namesakes of old classics, McGovern responded, "I am a modernist. I'm looking forward, not back."
One only needs to examine the current Land Rover lineup to get a sense of how the design might evolve and rise from the ashes of the original. The Discovery 5 and the latest L405 Range Rover, both McGovern designs, trade heavily on the classic lines and shape of their predecessors, but with updates to the contours and detail elements that bring them up to a more contemporary standard. One could surmise that the Defender replacement will likely evolve in a similar fashion from its original design.
Like Defender and Series Land Rovers before it, Defender 2.0 will comprise a family of vehicles to include a variety of configurations, most likely mimicking previous models - Short Wheelbase, Long Wheelbase, 5-door, Pickup, and both hard and soft top versions.
While we appreciate each morsel of information, we are excited to see some real clues to the design. We remain firmly on the edge of our seats, even if only to see past the top of the windscreen...
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