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Land Rover freshens Defender

Christmas presence: Land Rover’s tweaked Defender, featuring a cleaner new 2.2-litre diesel engine, is scheduled to arrive in Australia in December.

New engine, tweaks keep Land Rover Defender in the game as Frankfurt concept looms

Land Rover logo15 Aug 2011

THE venerable Land Rover Defender will get a new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, upgraded brakes, interior tweaks and additional option packs as part of a MY2012 update.

In the meantime, the company is reportedly preparing to unveil a concept for the iconic off-roader’s replacement at the Frankfurt motor show next month.

Land Rover Australia spokesman James Scrimshaw told GoAuto the Defender’s new diesel engine is due to debut Down Under in December and confirmed the existence of a Frankfurt concept, although he was unable to offer any further details about the show car.

British magazine Autocar reported that the concept’s purpose is to demonstrate Land Rover’s commitment to replacing the Defender – which can trace its roots back 63 years – and to gauge media and public reaction on whether it is on the right design path.

In June, Jaguar Land Rover group sales operations director Phil Popham told GoAuto an all-new Defender replacement was in the works. He said Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern regarded the project as the “most exciting thing, even beyond the Evoque”.

Meanwhile, the Defender’s new engine is 200cc smaller than the outgoing 2.4-litre unit but achieves the same power and torque outputs of 90kW and 360Nm.

24 center imageThe six-speed manual transmission remains unchanged, although ventilated disc brakes become standard across the range.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions remain static at 10 litres per 100 kilometres and 266 grams per kilometre for short-wheelbase wagon variants (more for utilities and long-wheelbase wagons).

The Defender is no longer legal in some countries on emissions and safety grounds, leading to a forced withdrawal.

However, the new engine can have a particulate filter fitted for markets requiring compliance with the Euro 5 emissions standard. Top speed nudges 145km/h, up from 132km/h, while 0-96km/h acceleration remains a relaxed 14.7 seconds.

The new engine’s 2.2-litre capacity suggests it is closely related to the more powerful unit used in the new entry-level XF 2.2D sedan from sister brand Jaguar, which had to re-engineer the engine from transverse, front-drive-based layouts to a longitudinal, rear-drive application that would also suit the Defender.

Tinted glass is now standard on all models, but the majority of the Defender’s cosmetic updates come in the form of option packs – which will be of varying availability in each of Land Rover’s international markets – named Comfort, Exterior, Interior and Off-road.

The Comfort pack includes air-conditioning, CD player with auxiliary inputs, electric front windows and remote central locking while the Exterior pack features body-colour matching grille, headlight surrounds, roof, wheelarches and side runners.

Part-leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel form the basis for the interior pack, which also includes carpeted floors, extra storage solutions and a trimmed ceiling with sunroof for the hard-top variant.

Defenders equipped with the Off-road pack gain ABS brakes, maximum traction reinforced (MTR) tyres on heavy-duty gloss black ‘saw tooth’ alloy wheels, tow bar and underbody protection.

Land Rover is introducing a plain black canopy for ute variants and a beige canopy option for the short-wheelbase double-cab ute.

Whether the Australian-delivered engine’s specifications will match those of the Euro 5-compliant powerplant fitted to all UK-delivered Defenders from November or if Australian buyers will be offered all the new option packs is yet to be announced.

The Discovery and Range Rover Sport are in line for a subtle MY2012 upgrade, but Australia will not get the more efficient engine and eight-speed transmission offered in Europe.

The British off-road specialist is having a good year, with sales up 19.4 per cent to 3451 units to the end of July. Defender wagons are up 56.9 per cent on 273 units, although commercial variants are down 45 per cent to just 72 units.

Fewer than 20,000 Defenders are sold worldwide per year.

As GoAuto has reported, in 2008 the Australian Defence Force dropped the Defender in favour of the Mercedes-Benz G-wagen as the army’s preferred mode of transport, in a $350 million contract lasting until 2014.

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Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.