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Land Rover Defender takes aim at Toyota Prado

Broader capabilities mean box-fresh Defender may be one of Land Rover’s best sellers

12 Aug 2019

LAND ROVER is confident that the incoming next-generation Defender will lure Toyota Prado buyers as well as brand loyalists and traditionalists with its combination of evocative design, modern-day engineering, contemporary packaging offering flexible seating choices, and leading off-road abilities, to make it one of the company’s best sellers.


Sharing nothing with its smaller 71-year-old predecessor, the boxy retro-style 4x4 due in Australia in the second quarter of next year following its global unveiling next month is also expected to appeal to owners and fans of the previous-generation Discovery III and IV (L319 series from 2004 to 2016), since the succeeding technology-heavy and luxury-laden L462-series Discovery V vacated the hose-down family friendly wagon set by climbing significantly more upmarket when released in 2017.


Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Jaguar XE facelift and F-Pace SVR flagship in Byron Bay last week, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Australia managing director Mark Cameron was hopeful that the 2020 L663-series Defender will become one of the most popular vehicles the brand offers as a result of its broader, everyday appeal.  


“We’re a top-ten market globally for that car, and it’s going to be close to one of our best-selling individual nameplates,” he revealed. “If you look at it in that context, and versus the historic affection for the brand and nameplate, and what I know about the car and what it is going to deliver, it is going to be massive for global sales, massive for JLR, and massive for Australia.


“Keep in mind, we did very well with the Discovery IV here. Many people have bought Discovery Vs, but some others are waiting for something that is square design and utilitarian. And there is a huge market out there for that size and type of vehicle that we know is seducible, and I’m confident we will deliver.


“So, I think new Defender is going to be a car that has broad appeal to existing Land Rover customers – Discovery IV customers for example, previous Defender customers, as well as a whole lot of conquest opportunity, particularly from another popular brand that I am not going to mention.


“It will be spot on for the psyche for the Australian consumer, where it is about the practicalities of outdoor life, transporting families longer distances, going out to the beach and hills whatever. If there’s a country in the world that this car is best suited to, it’s got to be Australia.”


While the next Defender is downright utilitarian, it is far from crude. Leaked documents from abroad reveal three sizes known by their historical imperial (in inches) wheelbase measurements of ‘90’ (short wagon at 4343mm in length and 2587mm wheelbase, three doors with five or six seats – the latter evidently due to the aid of a van-style ‘1+2’ three-seater ‘bench’ seat up front), ‘110’ (mid-size wagon at 4758mm and wheelbase of 3022mm, offering five, six or seven seats) and the ‘130’ (long wagon at 5100mm, 3022mm wheelbase and eight seats).


The production 90 is first (October), followed by the 110 in March and 130 in September 2020, though that may not arrive in Australia until 2022.


Engines are 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesels in D200/D240 and D300 guises respectively, as well as turbo petrol engines in P300 (2.0-litre) and P400 (3.0-litre) configurations. A P400 PHEV is a plug-in hybrid version of the 2.0-litre petrol unit.


All are mated to an automatic transmission (expected to be the ZF eight-speed torque-converter unit deployed in most other JLR models) and four-wheel drive.


To help keep prices down, the new Defender is based on the current Discovery V’s aluminium-intensive D7U platform (that also underpins the existing Range Rover and Range Rover Sport) rather than the upcoming MLA flexible modular architecture that will underpin all JLR models from the completely redesigned and reengineered Range Rover V that is likely to come out in 2021.


The Defender joins today’s Discovery (as of last year) in being produced at JLR’s new Nitra factory in Slovakia to further contain costs.


Mr Cameron added that the Defender and all-electric Jaguar I-Pace are two sides of the same coin in terms of how they nail what their respective marques are all about, transcending their place within their chosen segments.


“The Defender is not dissimilar to I-Pace for Jaguar – though I-Pace is itself is small volume because the market isn’t yet developed – in that it does the job for the Jaguar brand as well as the individual car itself,” he said.


“Defender will be absolutely huge for the Land Rover brand, as the bullseye for what the brand stands for, as well in its own right making a very significant contribution to our business and our sales numbers in Australia.


“We use the line ‘Above and Beyond’ as the definition of Land Rover, and we have a very clear idea of what that car has to be and that’s what we are going to do.” 


Bringing a vehicle with such high expectations riding on it has not come without cost, Mr Cameron said, revealing that the highly publicised delays (the Defender was originally pencilled to be released in 2016) are in part due to JLR attempting to reconcile modern consumer demands for on-road driveability, emissions, crash-test, performance, refinement and packaging abilities with the can-do go-anywhere toughness, character and charm of the old Defender.


“The biggest challenge and why it has taken us a little while to bring this to market is that we have to deliver on the DNA on that car that it is instantly recognisable a Defender and as a flag carrier for the brand. This is so important for us,” he said.


“If you look at the rational attributes of the car that we stopped selling in 2016 in terms of its cabin size, its safety, its on-road driving, its turning circle… time had passed it by. But the great thing is that the affection of the old Defender, the amount of money they pass hands for, and the people who drive those in the cities where those attributes I just mentioned rationally don’t work, it’s just iconic.


“Fortunately, there are enough people in this world that love to buy a car from their heart rather than their head. And the old Defender in its latter years was definitely a heart decision rather than a head decision. What we have to do with the new car then is still deliver on the affection side and emotional attributes, but correct the errors that affect a 70-year-old car.”

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