The Land Rover Defender hasn’t seen significant design changes in three decades, and for good reason. Britain’s answer to the Jeep Wrangler has a nearly 70-year history as the one of the toughest mass-produced off-road vehicles in the market. The Land Rover Defender is the rugged all-terrain vehicle you drive across Kenya; the Land Rover Range Rover is the luxury full-size SUV you drive to Whole Foods.
But all of this is changing this year when Jaguar Land Rover retires the Land Rover Defender as we know it and replaces it with a 2018 version that’s friendlier to increasingly stringent European vehicle-emission standards. The design has to change, too, to meet newer European and U.S. crash safety rules aimed at reducing the severity of pedestrian injury. The Land Rover Defender hasn’t met U.S. safety rules since 1998 and imports of older models are regularly seized by U.S. Customs and destroyed, much to the dismay of Defender defenders.
The last Land Rover Defender as we know it will roll off the assembly line in Solihull, England, in December.
Later this week, the 2 millionth Land Rover Defender (pictured above the video) will debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester, England. Autocar reported Sunday the vehicle will have distinct badges, including a plaque of signatures of the people who made it, posh leather interior and a rear plate that reads S90 HUE to honor the preproduction version of the first Land Rover, made in April 1948. The car will be auctioned later this year.
Jaguar Land Rover is retiring the classic look of the Defender with a series of special editions that will surely be snatched up by those who see this as the end of an era.
The next Land Rover Defender will certainly not appeal to loyalists, at least visually. With all the hard corners rounded out, the concept version of the 2018 Land Rover Defender looks much like a two-door version of a Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Jaguar Land Rover is betting that what's under the hood and in the cabin will be enough to lure new, younger customers who perhaps would see the old Defender as an old-school throwback in an era where everyone wants the latest thing.
The company hasn’t revealed the specs or the price for the 2018 Land Rover Defender, but it will likely come with a selection of existing Jaguar Land Rover engine configurations, including diesel and a 5.0 liter V-8.
Here’s a short history of the first Land Rover: