News : Land Rover Defender (L851) to go on UK sale in 2020

The Land Rover Defender L851 is a long-overdue addition to the Land Rover family – it’s hugely important for the company’s long-term plans, and it will be finally revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show.

Here’s what we know about the car Jaguar Land Rover should have launched in 2016.

2020 Land Rover Defender

All-new Land Rover Defender teased online

It promises to be one of the longest teaser campaigns in history, but Land Rover’s latest image of the L851 Defender mule shows it testing. The company promises that this will be the ‘most off-road capable Land Rover vehicle ever’, which if all goes to plan, should maintain the original car’s position as the world-beating go-anywhere utility vehicle.

The mule, which has all the unmistakable signs of being based on the Discovery 4, doesn’t reveal too much. But given the direction Land Rover design has taken in recent years, expect it to have many styling cues shared with the rest of the range – but an identity all of its own. Also expect it to evolve significantly from the Land Rover DC100 concept, which was originally mooted to be the project’s starting point.

‘We are enormously excited to be revealing the first member of the Defender family during 2019 with UK customers taking delivery in 2020,’ said Rawdon Glover, Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director. The Defender nameplate stands for durability and alongside Range Rover delivering ultimate luxury and Discovery offering the best versatility in the market, we will have an SUV for every customer requirement.’

What we know about the 2020 Land Rover Defender

Not a great deal, but it’s worth repeating that Project L851 has been in existence for some time, but has been re-evaluated several times, due to changing market conditions, and shifting product plan. It won’t go on sale until 2020, after its official unveil at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show. Given the outgoing Defender has been off-sale since 2016, and how much pent-up demand has built up, this has been a difficult situation for Land Rover to manage, but the onset of the teaser programme should allay the frustrations of some potential owners.

According to our friends at CAR magazine, It is now certain that Land Rover will launch a Defender and a Defender Sport model, and that there will be a myriad bodystyles on offer in short- and long-wheelbase forms. The Defender has a big task ahead of it – to win back lost agricultural sales (the pickup market dominated by the Ford Ranger has been a big winner here), as well as convince city dwellers that this new car will have all the classless and timeless appeal of the old one.

Land Rover’s model family will be composed of: Defender, Discovery and Range Rover. And like the larger, more expensive cars, the Defender family will encompass several models to cover its wide brief. The powertrains will be 2.0- and 3.0 Ingenium diesels and petrols in various states of tune, a three-cylinder PHEV version (that will debut in the Range Rover Evoque) and from 2024, a full electric version.

Given the critical success of other retro-styled off-roaders such as the Suzuki Jimny, Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, it almost seems like this car’s visual identity may well already be mapped out for it. We’ll see in the coming months whether Gerry McGovern’s team has got it right…

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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9 Comments

  1. The key thing is that its a Land Rover, and not another Range Rover. They had two prestigious brands there, each recognisable, but in recent years everything has looked like a Range Rover.

  2. Hummm….
    I’ve great faith in Gerry McGovern and what will be an undoubtedly fine styling execution.
    I have to accept that the new L851 will not be what it was and will retain only styling cues and a off-road capability inherent in its D7a platform. At the same time, one has to ask, was the old Defender ever that great? And the answer is no.
    The L851 then is another D7a variant dressed up to cue the buyer on the image of the previous Defender.
    We should remember that in so many markets, for decades now, it’s not the Land Rover which has been successful. The Toyota Land Cruiser and the Nissan Patrol have taken the market with a successful ‘hardened’ and reliable 4×4 products. The best of which is the Series 75 Land Cruiser in my view.
    While the L851 will no doubt succeed as transport to private school gates, I doubt it will be taken seriously in competition with Japanese products in Africa or in rural Australia. Nor will UK farmers be jumping up and down.
    And I’ve yet to get my head around a say a New Zealand sheep farmer using a PHEV.

  3. “I’ve great faith in Gerry McGovern and what will be an undoubtedly fine styling execution.” That says it all – style over practicality. Having driven both Series IIAs and Land Cruisers for work in the 1970s – in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, and in the Kimberleys of Western Australia – I was driving work vehicles designed for work – not glamour toys taking the children to school in (UK) suburbia. Both vehicles were flat panelled, basically-built, cheaply repaired workhorses – looking like working vehicles, not playthings. What are the British Armed Forces going to use? Surely not this Discovery look-alike? What other large nation does not have a home-designed Land Rover size military vehicle? Whoever is in charge at JLR has betrayed 70 years of (British) 4 x 4 history. And for what?

    • The British armed forces stopped buying LR’s many years ago, as did other armies. They are simply too soft a target and no “new” Defender is going to overcome that. This is now the realm of custom built armoured vehicles.

  4. People’s confidence in Gerry McGovern is, to me, misplaced. Sure, he talks the talk, but his designs rarely, if ever, walk the walk. The new Defender should, pretty much, design itself. That it’s taken McGovern years of huffing and puffing, changing his mind, changing his mind again, doesn’t bode well.

  5. JLR is not interested in designing, building, selling a utility vehicle, which is what the Land Rover up to the Defender was. To say that there will be a Sport model (Yuk!!) tells all. Nothing more than a Discovery with the Defender name. Utterly un-Defender-able.

  6. It is a mystery to me that a farmer really wants a plasticky, carpeted, curvy, sexy truck – and certainly that farmers in Africa would want one. The Defender was based on a Land Rover – a flat sided working tool. We can only assume that JLR have done their research and will release a vehicle to grab back all the lost sales caused by the deletion of the Defender. But by all accounts it’s going to be a plasticky, carpeted, curvy, sexy truck. I think that where I came in……

    • I have just finished a piece to go to Classic Land Rover magazine, about how the flat sides of a Series IIA probably saved two lives. It was coming down a steep muddy track in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. Even though in first gear low ratio, it began to slide with a hairpin bend ahead. At the bend it rolled onto its right side and, because of the rectangular shape, that was where it stayed. Below was a four hundred foot drop to the valley floor below. What would one of today’s aerodynamic 4 x 4s have done?

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