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New Defender rolls out of the woods

2011-08-31 07:30

DEFENDING THE REALM: This is DC100, the new concept Defender from Land Rover. Looks good, but what lurks underneath the slick styling?

After posting record profits for parent company Tata during 2010, Land Rover is in its best financial position for decades.

The iconic off-road brand has recently launched its baby Range Rover, the Evoque, whilst demand for its premium Range Rover offering is so strong that Ford’s can’t supply sufficient V8 engines to support a warranted increase in production.

Unfortunately, though, the brand’s original product offering, its utilitarian (and ageing) Defender, is facing an uncertain future.


Although Land Rover product planners have been able to circumvent crash safety regulations by cleverly classifying Defender as a truck (due to its 3.5t towing capacity), its sheer size (especially in claustrophobically trafficked European markets) and heavy emissions taxation burden has Land Rover’s management uncommitted to its future beyond 2015.

The numbers tell a story all of their own, with Land Rover managing to shift only 18 500 Defenders in 2010, despite it being a phenomenally good sales year for all other Land Rover products.

Despite this vacillation with regards to the Defender’s future, Land Rover’s released an image of its possible Defender replacement. Called the DC100, it’s a two-door concept off-roader, due to be publicly revealed at the Frankfurt auto show.

Styled by Gerry McGovern, responsible for the celebrated Evoque, DC100 features a host of contemporary Land Rover surfacing details and larger glasshouse area; with a trace of Toyota Land Cruiser FJ in terms of proportion. Viewed front-on, two rugged bumper-mounted recovery points are visible - indicating that McGovern’s design has remained committed to retaining Defender’s legendary 4x4 heritage.


Land Rover is understandably coy concerning the DC100’s technical details (all will be revealed on 13 September at the Frankfurt auto show), but the major issue rallying against this concept’s production future is a conflict between current Defender sales and the cost (justification) of investment in an all-new platform.

Engineers have the option of using Land Rover’s T5 platform (which underpins the current Discovery4 and Range Rover Sport), a move sure to save costs in research and development, not to mention the efficiency of using an proven (and current) production line. The T5 is a relatively sophisticated chassis and suspension combination, though, one sure to grate traditional Defender customers who eschew off-road aids such as adjustable air-suspension.

If Land Rover decides DC100 is to ride on a properly rugged, overlanding specification chassis (essentially a significantly cleverer version of the current Defender’s ladder frame set-up, retaining coil springs at all four wheels) it will require a massive investment in design, retooling and parts inventory.

Defender fans are hoping for a solution which combined ruggedness and the current vehicle’s legendary accessory friendly modular design, yet sees a major overhaul of the myriad of ergonomic foibles which afflict its cabin environment.

In what format will the Defender survive, if at all? Two weeks hence, we’ll know the answer…


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