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JLR talks up Land Rover Defender safety

Testing time: Land Rover’s Defender will land in Australia in early 2020 when it is expected to be put through ANCAP’s crash-safety rating procedure.

“High” crash-safety rating promised for next-gen Land Rover Defender

31 May 2019

JAGUAR Land Rover (JLR) Australia says it expects its new-generation Land Rover Defender to score “very highly” in independent Australasian New Car Assessment (ANCAP) crash-safety tests, despite its rugged off-road and workhorse credentials that necessitate a rigid chassis.


The Defender is due in Australian showrooms in the first quarter of 2020 after a long gestation that has included more than 1.2 million kilometres in durability and performance testing, some of them even around Germany’s Nurburgring.


JLR Australia executives were quizzed about Defender’s safety potential at this week’s national media launch for the all-new Range Rover Evoque in light of the recent poor one-star safety rating given to Jeep’s new Wrangler.


The Defender and Wrangler are often regarded as among the toughest and most competent off-roaders in extreme conditions, along with Toyota’s LandCruiser.


JLR Australia general manager of communications and public relations Tim Krieger said he could not comment on other company’s products but said Land Rover stood by its record on crash safety.


“Safety is paramount for the Land Rover brand,” he said. “Certainly, if you look at all our other models you can see it is something we take very seriously.


“Range Rover Evoque just received five-star ANCAP the other day. We would expect (Defender) to score very highly.”


The previous Defender was not crash-tested by ANCAP or its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, so it is unclear how it would have performed.


The new Defender is expected to be unveiled at a special international event in the next few months before it goes into production at Land Rover’s new plant in Slovakia where Discovery is now built.


JLR Australia is planning to turn Defender from an odd-ball niche player in the previous generation to a mainstream player generating serious volume for the brand.


“We are currently working through our local specifications, but we see Defender as being a key volume driver for the Land Rover brand,” Mr Krieger said.


Defender will come in a wide variety of body styles to cater for an equally wide variety of customers, from serious off-roaders to mining companies and tradies.


So, you can expect SUV-style wagons, a long-wheelbase troop carrier, ute and cab-chassis variants in both single and dual-cab configurations in a range similar to Toyota’s extensive LandCruiser line-up.


Australia is expected to be one of the largest export markets for the vehicle, partly due to its long history here.


The Defender stopped rolling from the production line in January 2016.


Mr Krieger said Australia was one of only three markets to continue to sell the previous Defender right to the end.


“We are fortunate in Australia whereby we were one of the few countries that sold the Defender right up to the end of production – it was only us, the UK and South Africa,” he said.


“So, the Defender nameplate is still relatively fresh in peoples’ memories. Certainly, in Australia it is a car that has a great following and we expect the new model to be very popular here.”


The new Defender will be reintroduced to North America and Europe but will probably not appear in China.


Although Land Rover has run an extensive teaser campaign for Defender, information about powertrains has been kept under wraps.


Diesel has long been the engine of choice in Defender, and oil burners – most likely a version of JLR’s new Ingenium 2.0-litre unit – certainly will be front and centre in the new range.


Partly because petrol is favoured in North America and partly because diesel is increasingly on the nose in Europe where the swing is to petrol and electrified powertrains, we expect Land Rover to dip into its new range of petrol and electrified powertrains for Defender, even if it only the mild-hybrid system introduced on the new Range Rover Evoque.


Land Rover has toyed with all-electric Defenders for years, building seven previous generation units with all-electric powertrains for testing in 2013 and even showing them at the Geneva motor show that year.

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