The classic Land Rover Defender is a favorite among dedicated members of the off-road and overlanding communities. Soon, they’ll have a new version to covet.
Jaguar Land Rover is deep into development on the latest Defender, a four-wheel-drive SUV with extreme off-road capability. The Defender is expected to stick to its rugged roots while modernizing its interior and ride quality to meet current expectations in the luxury market.
The 2020 Land Rover Defender is expected to debut early next year. It will be the first Defender offered in the United States since Land Rover stopped exporting the model here in 1997.
Here’s what we know about the 2020 Land Rover Defender:
What does the 2020 Land Rover Defender look like?
True to its original design, the 2020 Defender is boxy. The new SUV is characterized by straight lines and sharp corners. The front bumper has a slight curve, and the windshield is aggressively angled for aerodynamics. Otherwise, the Defender is immediately recognizable due to its upright posture and short front and rear overhangs, meant to aid off-road capability.
Notable features include the familiar horizontal Land Rover grille that matches current models such as the Discovery and Discovery Sport. The prototypes seen during testing also have LED headlights and taillights. On one vehicle an air vent ahead of the front door directs airflow out of the engine bay – but only on the driver’s side.
What body styles will the 2020 Defender have?
Both the two-door Defender 90 and the four-door Defender 110 have been spotted testing in the U.K. The Defender 90 has a noticeably shorter wheelbase and less space for passengers and cargo. However, it will offer extremely good dimensions for off-roading, and the flat roof is perfect for storing gear. The Defender 110 has more interior space but still appears cramped for people and equipment over long distances. So far there is no evidence that Land Rover plans to bring back the Defender 130 pickup truck.
What engine choices will the 2020 Defender have?
Land Rover is expected to offer a range of engines in the new SUV. The 2020 Defender could offer a base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine available as either gas or diesel. A six-cylinder engine such as the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 in the Discovery could be included in the range. They will be mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case. It’s possible that Land Rover will also offer a plug-in hybrid or even all-electric version of the new Defender. Such a vehicle would borrow technology from JLR’s electric I-Pace, plug-in Range Rover and plug-in Range Rover Sport.
Is the 2020 Defender off-road capable?
While the 2020 Defender will be modernized for the tastes and ride quality of today’s luxury customer, it will also retain its legendary off-road reputation. The engines will be torque-heavy. The Defender’s body style is clearly shaped with approach and departure angles in mind. Land Rover also has advanced traction control, terrain management and four-wheel-drive technology it will pack into the new model. According to patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Defender may even have a central tire-inflation system to adjust air pressure based on the drive mode.
One feature that is sure to raise eyebrows is the independent rear suspension clearly visible in photos of the prototypes. Independent suspensions are lighter and offer improved ride quality and fuel economy over traditional solid axles. The original Defender used rough and durable solid axles that contributed to its legendary off-road capability. Switching to independent axles is not likely to harm the new SUV’s ability, especially since it can improve ground clearance. But it will rankle some traditionalists.
What will the 2020 Defender compete against?
There is a very short list of SUVs as capable as the 2020 Defender promises to be. When it comes to all-terrain climbing in style, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the reigning champion with exceptional off-road angles and three locking differentials. One step down are the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Defender’s own Range Rover sibling, though both models are large for serious off-roading. Finally, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is an affordable and ultracapable SUV for hitting the trails.
Where will the 2020 Defender be built?
According to reports, the 2020 Defender will be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s new plant in Nitra, Slovakia. The model was built in Solihull, England, from 1948 to 2016.
When will the 2020 Land Rover Defender go on sale?
The 2020 Land Rover Defender is expected to go on sale in mid-2020.