An all-new Land Rover Defender model is coming and the very first test mule for the new off-road machine has been caught on the street.
This mule appears to be wearing a Range Rover Sport body with a mixture of different body panels pulled from the parts bin, but the long wheelbase that pushes each wheel out wide, close to the corners is all Defender. Short overhangs mean great approach and departure angles, while this mule also appears to have a significant amount of ground clearance.
Reports suggest that the Defender will move away from its hardcore off-road roots and offer independent suspension all around, ditching the solid rear axle. This would likely also include the air suspension used in the Range Rover, which does hold its own on the trail. Whether or not the Defender will remain a body-on-frame vehicle also remains to be seen, though judging by the fact that they dropped a Range Rover body onto this test mule, there could be a frame under there.
Land Rover wants the Defender to be modern, but they are consistent in saying they won’t sacrifice capability to make it so. We will have to wait and see if that means the frame will remain. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are built around an aluminum unibody.
While powertrains for this new Defender are still in the dark, there is one tidbit of relevant information from the brand: Land Rover has promised that all of its models will have an electrified powertrain by 2020. It could be fully electric, though a plug-in hybrid powertrain is more likely for the Defender.
Our mind was put at ease speaking with JLR’s global product marketing director, Finbar Mcfall, at the recent LA Auto Show, where he assured us that Land Rover wouldn’t build a Defender that didn’t live up to its heritage.
“Defender is about being the most capable and durable,” in the Land Rover lineup, while the Range Rover is about being “capable and refined.” “We won’t do it until it’s legitimate,” he reiterated. And thanks to Land Rover’s lineup covering a large part of the market already, from 500-plus horsepower muscle SUVs to $200,000 luxury machines it leaves the Defender lots of room in the lineup to be a true off-road machine without compromise.
“We’re going to do it, and you’ll like it,” finished Mcfall, a promise from JLR that we like.
Timing has not been announced yet, but based on this early mule, we wouldn’t expect the Defender to be here until 2019 at the earliest.