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First Full Test Mules of New Defender Spotted

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Posted On: Oct 3, 2018 By: Greg Fitzgerald Category: Land Rover News

There's going to be a new Defender. It's official. The first full-bodied, heavily clad test mule of what will be the 2020 Defender has been spotted on the roads near Land Rover's headquarters in Gaydon, England.


new Defender model on test drive in disguise


The appearance of the mules seems like an open secret, considering it has the hashtag #Best4x4xFar plastered all over it. As we mentioned here recently, Land Rover stopped doing concept cars due to copycat Range Rover Evoque knockoffs in China, so maybe this semi-publicized mule idea is their way of soft launching the Defender design instead.

In fact, when asked at the Paris Motor Show, Jaguar Land Rover marketing chief Felix Bräutigam confirmed what we're looking at is the new Defender. “These are what we call pilot build cars and testing will increase on public roads from now,” said Bräutigam. “The first four cars are ready, and now the line is running you can expect the number of test cars to grow exponentially. In time, as you’d expect, the Defender will go through all the usual test routines, from cold weather testing in Arjeplog in Sweden to extreme hot weather testing in Death Valley in the USA. It’s exciting for us to be able to now be one step closer to bringing the car to market, of course. We are talking about the rebirth of an icon and not just as a single car, but as a whole family."

Another spokesperson also confirmed a release date, saying that "we can confirm customers around the world will be taking delivery of and enjoying Defender again from 2020."


new Defender model on test drive in disguise


So, what are we working with? This looks like the four door station wagon variant, possibly the "110" long wheelbase variant -- a short-wheelbase "90" is also supposed to be in the works. It looks pretty boxy and upright, especially compared to the rest of the fleet today, though some of that may be the cladding. The windshield seems to have the black surround printed in the shape of a Defender's, a rectangle with rounded corners, though the glass itself goes to the edges of the A pillars. There looks like a full-width side opening door, more like a Discovery 1 or 2 than an old Defender which had a relatively narrow door. (The heavy cladding on the cargo area may suggest that the real body will hug the cargo door tighter.) Land Rover has used a very simple sketch of the Defender shape to describe their "Three Product Families" concept for a few years, and dimples on the door suggest future mounting points for the rear-mounted spare depicted in those renderings.


new Defender model on test drive in disguise


Moving down the sides, the windows look pretty boxy and upright. The cargo area has some blocky cladding around it, and there's some thick pieces stuck under the windows that blend in more above the door handles. Comparing the location and slab-sided lines of the windows to the door handles and outboard edges of the taillights, I'm wondering if this cladding covers up a hipped beltline like every classical Land Rover since the Series II has had. (Fun fact: that was added on the Series II when they widened the track width of the axle over the Series I.)

Moving to the front, there's a lot of cladding here, so it's harder to guess what's going on. The front end is more streamlined and sloped, probably in part due to new European pedestrian safety regulations. The headlights look like larger, rectangular-ish clear covers, but I think I see what looks like a large circular main fixture under that cover, maybe in tribute to the generic 7-inch fittings in the old Defender. Marker lights and taillights are seriously camoflauged, so there's not much of a hint as to what degree they will pay tribute to the old Defender's simple round units.


new Defender model on test drive in disguise


The grille looks like it may be pretty flat and upright, like an LR3, but there's really too much camo chaos going on to be sure of anything. The hood has some external latches on it,but it's also very heavily cladded, and the latches themselves have a bit of a Home Depot look to them, so they may not be a final part. The roof is also heavily covered up, so there's not much to work with there, though it looks pretty simple and flat, and the third brake light is almost at the top of it.

Underneath it's clear there's an independent suspension and a unibody structure, both of which have been known features of this new vehicle for a while.

What this truck is not a body-on-frame vehicle with solid axles based directly on a design from 1948. Fortunately, for those of us who like those things, just over two million were made over 68 years, and they are supremely durable and long-lasting, so there are more than enough to sustain us for decades to come. For better or worse, this vehicle is what is taking the Defender name into the future. Over the next few months, we should get a better idea of what it really looks like as it starts to shed camo.

These look like the proportions and general shapes of the final vehicle, and a complete, final-design Defender is almost definitely hiding under there. But...a lot of details are still hidden, especially ones which may pay serious tribute to the past like a hipped beltline or the headlights. The full test in the court of public opinion is not quite over yet.

At the least, we finally have something somewhat concrete to look at and discuss, and 2011 photos of the long-cancelled DC100 concept that have been circulating forums and social media for years as the "new Defender" can be consigned to the trash can of the Internet.

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