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Thoughts and musings on the new defender

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I suppose most have seen the pictures of the new defender released yesterday.

It's a defender in disguise as opposed to a range rover based mule.  My first thoughts are:

I'm disappointed.
I'm not surprised.

The defender has always been the result of parts bin engineering without any bespoke important parts, we should not be surprised that the new defender is a rehash of current / future cross platform suspension, drivetrain and major components. I was rather hoping this time it wouldn't just be borrowing bits from an old range rover and sticking a new badge on it. it's being treated as the younger brother getting the hand me downs rather than the head of the family from which brand respectability comes from. People expect off road prowess from a defender, the platform shown here will be sadly unable to provide that any better than any of the current offerings. I think we can safely assume it will have locking differentials and traction control but the length of the suspension lower links and the very low outboard positioning of them at the hubs means that regardless of ride height it will be unable to move in deep ruts and that suspension travel will be very restricted as it is on the current vehicles. The tiny pcd of the wheels points towards equally tiny driveline components, unit hubs and a restricted gvw way below anything that might be considered heavy duty.
I'm also disappointed to see they're testing it on low profile road tyres instead of optimising everything for more aggressive tyres with at least an 80% aspect ratio. The positioning of the lower control arms very low also looks like the minimum wheel size might be larger than those sizes for which proper off road tyres can be found easily. I hope a 16" wheel fits. Try buying an off road 17" tyre in Africa or the Middle East. keeping the pcd and tyre size the same would have made more sense from a fleet user but less sense from a parts bin perspective.

I'd hold any judgement on the looks until we see one in the flesh but one concern if the body has some semblance of the real thing would be the depth of the doors based on the absence of sills which is a real failing as exists on the likes of the new Disco 5. It's a bit embarrassing if you cant open your door next to a high kerb to drop the kids off at school or if your stuck in snow, heaven forbid you took one of these new Defenders off road or in the mud and found yourself stuck and unable to open the really low doors because you were high centred. The high door bottoms on the old defenders were actually very practical and they were generally out of harms way and allowed one to drive over stones and such like with the wheels to avoid potential damage to other parts.

The very low rear mounted silencers look very vulnerable and whatever is under the passenger side footwell looks really thin and ready to get ripped off.


Competition: Toyota, Jeep, Suzuki, Jap pickups.  I'm not really sure why people are choosing to compare the Defender with the Hilux when the obvious and natural nemesis ought to be the Land Cruiser 70 series but in recent years as the Hilux improved it became the competition and the Land Cruiser moved on into a different league on its own years ago, even before the 4.5 litre v8 diesel became an option. The Land Cruiser is the benchmark against which we should be comparing the rest of the utility vehicle market. Jeeps are only recreational vehicles, they're not a choice for fleet purchasing. The Jimny is an interesting one and is actually well suited for fleet purchase.
That being said, Jeep had a fantastic stand at the Geneva motor show this year and really showed the brand and heritage. The Land Rover stand was dull, bland, you couldn't talk about utility vehicle fleet sales and every single vehicle was on low profile road tyres which shows how the brand wants to project itself. I'd have no doubt the Jeep rubicon with live axles and differential locks coupled to its robust but simple driveline and build will leave the new defender for dead in the mud and reliability stakes for a recreational user and offer much more in terms of post purchase upgrades to suit the individuals requirements.

Regarding trailer towing, all the Jap pickups tow 3.5 tons now as does the new Merc pickup. One worry is if this new Defender is as light as they say it is then it'll be very unstable towing a fully loaded trailer and struggle on drawbar pulling tasks like recovery or dragging things. Sometimes you actually want a bit of weight. It's kinda why you don't get skinny rugby players, the new defender seems like a bit of a ballet dancer or chess player in its construction whereas the Land Cruiser would be in an All Black's scrum. 

In my mind there is no question that live axles are better at crossing a wider variety of terrain safely and more reliably year on year. I can't think of asingle reliable fully independent suspension in a 4x4 commercial vehicle with the possible exception of the humvee which needs a lot of maintenance.. Things like the Shogun don't count as they're not really commercial load carrying vehicles.The cost of tyres on a misaligned independent suspension and extra maintenance costs changing bushes and links is significant as is the extra downtime. A failed bush in a live axle suspension will not deteriorate the system effectiveness significantly compared to an independent system which will be seriously compromised with even just one bush failure. 

Accident damage is also more likely to prevent an independently sprung vehicle from either limping home or undergoing successful repair.
The independent system shown in the pictures has fairly short arms and assuming there is some kind of suspension travel beyond that of a normal road car then the bushes are unlikely to last long on poor and unsurfaced roads.
The old defender was c rap off road in cross axle circumstances but it would generally get the occupants to their destination day in, day out unlike the modern JLR products which are not only unreliable but impossible to fix without specialist knowledge and tools. The current JLR vehicles do not have the real world ground clearance, approach, departure and breakover angles of the defender which are the cornerstones of all terrain prowess (despite what marketing and traction control would have us believe at the land rover experience). The very weak defender drive train is what should have been picked on and improved and the crash safety and corrosion resistance.
Easily replaced panels is the only thing that kept my previous defender fleets competitive with land cruisers which would generally have to get written off after an accident involving major bodywork repair. Being able to scavenge body parts in a Frankenstein fashion made defender fleet ownership really quite viable. I wonder what the advantage over other brands the new defender actually has?

4x4's need a high roll centre to operate safely off road, a low roll centre encourages body roll and is less stable on side slopes as well as giving poor traction on climbing obstacles as the wheel tries to pull away on contact reducing grip.I'm not sure how the roll centre of the new  defender has been optimised over that of other vehicles which will share the platform. It's almost certain the platform will have been designed with the lowest roll centre to suit a road car as much as possible.
I think what we're looking at here with the new defender is an illusion of a utility vehicle.  Why build cheap with a small margin when you can spend a tiny bit more to get better than the predecessor and (which will be so easy to pick parameters the new version is better than) sell at a premium. Building a premium vehicle cheap is very difficult but Toyota has managed it. You can get a Toyota 70 series for $25k, I'll probably keep buying them then, shame, I would love to buy a British vehicle one day.

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I for one hadn't seen them, thanks for posting. Yes disappointing, but its hard to know the real shape under all that plastic. Agree about the live axles on a utility. But I think your last comment sums it up, it looks more like another disco than a utility.

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1 hour ago, martyn668 said:

Priced from £40,000? I’m not entirely surprised, but like Dragons’ Den, I’m out. 

Yep. Me too.

I fear that it will be judged by its on road civility rather than off road ability.

Smooth and goes round corners fast good. A bit challenging to drive and doesn't go round corners fast bad


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Looks good to me, I think I’d drive that and then mine and wonder how this has taken so long. Comfort and road handling with enough off road ability. The existing defender lasts forever anyway so it’s not like you can’t have one if you want one.

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Was it not JLRs intention to move away from the very hands-on and Iabour intensive build process of the defender? Platform sharing is the key to major manufacturing in the vehicle industry...a truly bespoke hand built defender replacement with no shared power trains or components would see that £40k price tag rise substantially.

Hopefully there will be some less disguised images to base any real criticism on with regards to its looks and until you can plonk your backside in the seat exactly how good it drives is open to individual opinion. Due in 2020?....my D5 will be ready for a change then :rolleyes:


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I know that adds nothing to the discussion, but expresses just about everything that needs to be said. You might as well be watching a pig in the hope that it'll sprout wings and take flight if you're expecting Land Rover to make anything worthy of the label "iconic" ever again. That takes an actual  person with vision and passion, not a marketing department with some focus group/social media data. Young companies innovate; old companies iterate... Often badly. 

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In a way, I rather like it. Now if only they offer a manual-transmission, *PETROL*-engined version with 3 doors, kinda like the old Discovery Commercial.

I think we all have to accept that the old Defender was frighteningly-expensive to build (did JLR actually make a profit on them?) and hopelessly outdated in terms of NVH, driver/passenger-convenience and the like. For the last decade or three car-buyers/leasers have come to expect heated seats, air-conditioning that actually works, a body that doesn't creak/leak/rattle, and the ability to do 80MPH without needing to shout at your passenger to make yourself heard.

Compare the original 1959 BMC Mini with the modern BMW-built version. . .

I see the 'offroad/agricultural/forestry' market-sector replacement for the Defender as being the likes of the Ford Ranger (The Isuzu D-Max was a good option until they dropped the 3-litre engine). Big downside of the 'pickup'-type trucks (apart from their primitive suspension) is that they lack enclosed, interior space. Putting a box on the back of a double-cab's not the same as having a full-length heated/ventilated/secured space. I know fleet-operators who stopped buying so many 4x4-equipped vehicles a while back because of fuel-costs and because for 99% of the time 4x4 wasn't needed: if they get stuck they phone the yard and get someone to come out to give them a tow. So fleets which once had quite a few LWB Defenders and such switched to SWB Merc Sprinters, Vivaros and Transits, with a JCB Fastrac for the tough stuff.

JLR are in the business of making money, and selling new cars is how they do this. Remember that the majority of vehicles these days are leased, not bought: when you're handing it back after two or three years and getting a new one you really don't fret about things like 'will it rust out after ten years' or 'does it need £1000 spent on a cambelt change at 50,000 miles' because those are someone else's problem.

Things move on. While I like my 90 it's horribly obsolete (it was obsolete when I bought it in 2001) - I wish JLR luck in selling cars they can make money out of.

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My first thought was 'yuck' but if you download some of the larger image files circulating and zoom in, it's obvious that there is quite a lot of body padding to change the shape, so I think what we will see is more straight sided 'traditional Defender' shape than you'd think, following the window lines suggests that anyway. Anyway, even if it is a bit D4-esque, that's 5x better than anything else now being built.

However, echo all the comments about low slung rear silencers (something that the SWB version didn't have), silly little wheels/tyres, and the rather exposed and probably quite short-travel independent suspension arms. It'll have Terrain Response or something, so will perform well on a test track with wheels waving in the air to impress the punters, but probably (like the other models) have significant shortcomings in practice, where nasty things like ruts get in the way.

But that isn't the market it is aiming at, it's going to be a Chelsea tractor which at most will be seen behind a horsebox in a muddy field, and if you can actually buy MTs in whatever daft size wheels it gets fitted with, it will probably do fine at that.

I may still look at one, depending on the price and whether it comes with a decent engine (i.e. not a 2L 4cyl), but it would be a candidate to replace my Shogun, not to replace any of our Defenders. The replacement for one of those, when the time comes, will probably be an Ibex if they are still being made. If it's £40k and has a 2L engine, I'll go and buy another Mitsubishi, which three years ago was £25k with a 3.2L engine.

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If that's a disguised pre-production body rather than a frankenstein mule cobbled together to test drivetrain etc (I suspect it's the former),  I'm interested in what's going on with the bonnet, which looks way too high,  and probably why they made the side windows look shallower to match -  also the unlikely looking front roof.

If the bonnet is a more regular height, perhaps with design cues back to defender, the height of the wipers spindles might mean it keeps the defender style vent panel in some form?  

Maybe the roof has the Defender/series angular slope at the front.  

It might end up looking ok.

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Please God don't let this end up as a multi page thread of "I've heard it from a reliable source in JLR senior management" type bollox full of conjecture and what ifs the likes of which has been running on another forum since Noah was still counting them out two by two.

Please God no, please...

Tell you what, here's my last comment in one of the new Defender type threads over there, I'll put on my gypsy rings and pop in my gold teeth especially for you...



Crystal ball.jpg

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I reckon that's more likely to be the 2020 Range Rover refresh, than a new Defender...

If you look at the front, it's similar to the current RR, and the boxing on the back would hide the sloping rear of a RR (although it does kind of look like it's a disguised pick up). The bonnet also looks like a clamshell design (although disguised) which is one of the big RR signature features... 

Edited by =jon=
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14 hours ago, =jon= said:

I reckon that's more likely to be the 2020 Range Rover refresh, than a new Defender..

According to the article though, JLR marketing boss says it is a Defender prototype.  Amazing that a photographer was present waiting at the side of the road as the engineering chief exec was taking a prototype out just before the head of marketing was able to give a very rehearsed sounding statement at the Paris motorshow.. 

They'll need to get something out there pretty soon, Tata share price is down due to poor results from JLR.

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