70 years on, the new generation of Land Rover Defenders has arrived. Everything changes, but the spirit remains the same.
By Guilherme Marques
This story begins in 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show. Europe was still recovering from the worst war in living memory. The continent’s economy, devastated by war, offered an opportunity to anyone who understood how to pitch products that would respond to the desires of a population searching for a new way of life.
The Rover Company, British manufacturers of high-end cars during the war, decided to focus their energies on producing a new kind of vehicle. They launched a pure 4×4, based on the Willy’s Jeep, onto the consumer market; the first mass-produced four-wheel drive suited for daily use. Rover only intended to produce the Land Rover for two or three years, while they got their company back on its feet. However, it went on to be manufactured for the next 68 years, becoming its own brand in the process and generating a cult following of loyal fans across the globe.
Between 1948 and 1985, the market was flooded with three series of the original Land Rover model; creating a legacy unique in the automotive world. Even in 1985, when Land Rover became the make and Defender the model, the truth is that the car remained much the same. Despite constant small alterations, the base remained unadulterated; aesthetically the final edition of the Defender, produced in 2016, is simply an updated version of 1948’s Series I Land Rover.
Therefore, it is easy to understand the importance of the release of a genuinely new Defender, both for the British manufacturers and everyone involved in the creation of a replacement for the twentieth-century icon.
Constructed on a purpose-built chassis, the new Defender has the unenviable task of balancing a near 70 year history of perfection with the need to position itself at the cutting edge of the industry. As well as appealing to the car’s die hard fans, the 2019 model must attract a new type of consumer and rejuvenate the fan base, creating a new generation of followers.
Land Rover have decided to continue producing the three-door and five-door versions of the car, the Defender 90 and 110, to ensure the most versatile range possible and, beyond the five standard equipment options, the Defender will feature 170 more optional extras in its catalogue. The iconic square silhouette of the 1948 original is maintained, however the new model’s panels feature subtle curves which emphasise the car’s more muscular, modern feel. The aesthetic update of the front and rear lights is fantastic, reflecting the Land Rover’s prestigious status and serving to complement the reinvigorated bodywork. This is a luxury car made to traverse the most inhospitable terrains, always maintaining its signature style.
As hoped, there are various driving modes, especially for going off-road, where the Defender has always been the standard and the Land Rover couldn’t let this mantle pass to another company.
Inside, the 2019 Defender naturally exceeds the original in all aspects; the materials are of the highest quality and the car is completely suited to our modern digitalised world. However, the Defender doesn’t forget its target audience, or its roots, and one of the many optional extras is a third front seat which fits in seamlessly between the driver and passenger seats.
As with any other product, the new Defender will have its detractors and its supporters. However, it has undeniable personality and has succeeded in finding a way to pay homage to its origins while facing firmly towards the future. Although the car will almost certainly not be in production for the next 70 years, the coming decade at least is set to be filled with enormous success for Land Rover.