When Land Rover officially announced in December 2018 that the brand-new Defender would make its début appearance this year, thousands of hard-core Defender fans like me were thrilled!
After all, it has been nearly 23 years since the last Defender was up for sale (in the US) and we are immensely curious and excited to find out what the revolutionary new generation Land Rover Defender will be like. Will it live up to our expectations or will the long wait have been in vain?
Prototypes of the machine have already been spotted on public roads, but these heavily camouflaged vehicles reveal very little about the actual design. At this stage, we can only speculate about how it will turn out to be.
But you know what—I have this gut feeling that the Land Rover Defender 2020 will be a fantastic vehicle and that they will get the exterior design just “right.” Let me tell you why.
Remember the DC100 concept vehicle that was showcased at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor show?
As a Defender faithful and more importantly, someone who has been dealing with Land Rover Defender parts and accessories for years, my expectations of this vehicle were huge. However, I was terribly disappointed when I saw it.
Although compact and modern, it lacked the characteristic personality of the imposing Defender. So, when I attended the Land Rover press event on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, I took the opportunity to express my opinions about this vehicle to a marketing representative.
Imagine my relief when he assured me that the New Land Rover Defender would look nothing like it.
Brushing my concerns aside, he said it was just the company’s idea to make us think the DC100 held strong clues and trigger excitement and intrigue about the return of the iconic Defender.
Well, the strategy certainly worked, as disappointed Defender fans flooded the Internet with negative feedback and reviews.
After that first instance, my belief was further reinforced by none other than the very man in charge of returning the Defender to the marketplace, Land Rover Design Director—Garry Mc Govern himself.
It was in 2012, during the press launch of the all-new 2013 Range Rover at the LA Auto show that I met him. Soon after his presentation, I walked up to him and casually asked, “No DC-100 at the show this year?”
He politely replied, “No, not this year.”
On hearing this, I casually (and with the least bit of sincerity) commented, “Well, it looks fantastic!”
He said “Thanks!”
As I slowly walked away, I caught a clear glimpse of Mr. McGovern looking at his colleague with disbelief and rolling his eyes, as if to say, “What an idiot!”
That expression sealed the deal for me; I am confident all will be well.
Of course, the New Land Rover Defender will be a modern, more refined and technically sound version of the original machine. But having seen the incredible innovations and capabilities of their flagship Range Rover, I am pretty sure that the Defender will also be quite impressive.
But how will it compare with the classic Defender?
The classic Defender, with its loud, noisy, drafty, uncomfortable and rugged finish had unbeatable charm….and we loved them for it. It made us believe that our Defenders have a soul!
So, will the Land Rover Defender 2020 have a soul?
Most likely not!
Like Joe Walsh of the Eagles once said of modern pop music, “There’s no mojo!” The new Defender may lack that mojo, but I think that the new benefits will compensate for it.
For starters, we can expect superior technology, comfort, fuel economy and excellent safety features. Land Rover has even promised that this relevant and compelling vehicle will have a suite of the latest driver assistance and connectivity features. It may not be military ready, but it will still be tough-as-nails with surprising innovations.
To be honest, I would like it to be more comfortable, especially on longer journeys. Although I will always enjoy the straightforwardness and rugged utility of the classic Defender that is the very essence of its identity, I am equally eager to accept new and improved changes.
Yes, I really think I am ready for the new Defender.
It is not that I do not respect the sentiments of those who don’t want things to change. But if the change is for better, doesn’t it make sense to accept it?
This in fact, reminds me of the time when people in Canada went berserk when the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team decided to leave the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens Arena for a new, modern venue.
At the time, I too had many fond memories of Rush concerts and classic games held at the old place. But, if you think objectively, the existing venue was just a drafty old barn with incredibly uncomfortable seating. So, it just made sense to keep those memories, but move on.
Similarly, we now have the classic Defender—a car with spunk and appeal that “everybody loves” but hardly anybody buys.
Did you know that Land Rover sold just 25,000 units a year in its waning years when compared to Jeep Wrangler that was selling 150,000 units a year in the US alone?
So, I am just stating the obvious; it is time to move on.
Which brings us to the test mule that is surprisingly gathering negative reviews. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly judge what the body underneath would look, from these images. It has clearly been covered with faux panels and a faux hood before being wrapped in black and white camo-wrap.
I, for one, believe that this intriguing test vehicle that keeps us guessing, is yet another clever advertisement strategy by Land Rover to attract attention to the upcoming launch.
And guess what - we are all talking about and discussing this “double-camouflaged” vehicle; and once again Land Rover seems to have succeeded at building anticipation and suspense for the final, dramatic reveal.
So, there it is. The old Defender that stayed true to its original design for over 33 years will always be prized and recognized as a legendary icon. But, what we are about to witness is a milestone; 70 years of innovation and improvement in a revolutionary new Land Rover Defender.
The classic Defender will always be as good as gold and it is not going anywhere.
So let us be a part of this moment and prepare ourselves with enthusiasm, by opening our minds to the 2020 New Defender this year.
Long live the Defender.