Land Rover has also confirmed for the first time that, as expected, the new Defender will be built alongside the Discovery at Jaguar Land Rover's new £1 billion manufacturing plant in Slovakia. That could prove somewhat controversial, given the Defender's status as a proudly British machine, although Land Rover has noted that all the design and development work was undertaken at its Gaydon base.
The Defender has been sighted testing numerous times in recent months, including at the Nürburgring, where engineers were fine-tuning the chassis and brake set-up to suit a variety of conditions.
Due to go into production early in 2020, the rugged 4x4 was also previously spotted testing in North America. Engineers were said to be subjecting the Toyota Land Cruiser rival to "rigorous test extremes", including temperatures as low as -40deg C and as high as 48deg C, as well as at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet.
The first official 'spy shots' of the five-door '110' variant were followed last year by images of the short-wheelbase three-door '90' model testing in disguise. An even longer-wheelbase '130' version is rumoured, too.
The new model sits on independent rear suspension for better comfort and, Autocar understands, a new monocoque chassis replaces the body-on-frame construction of the old car. This will make it more rigid, lighter and more modular, allowing for numerous bodystyles to be offered. Some use of aluminium is likely to bring the weight down further stil.
Celebrating the Land Rover Defender
“These are what we call Pilot build cars and testing will increase on public roads from now,” said Jaguar Land Rover marketing chief Felix 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.
“Our brand is about passion, and it is icons that drive that passion. The truth is the world doesn’t need another premium brand doing what all the others do. These icons are what separate us; at Land Rover, we are rooted in our heritage and that’s what makes us different.”
Bräutigam added that he felt the time taken between the Defender going off sale in 2016 and relaunching could be a positive for the new car, including the likelihood that it will be offered with electrified powertrains as well as petrol and diesel units.