Land Rover Defender Ends 70-Year Run Ferrying Farmers and Royals

Land Rover Defender automobiles sit in a final inspection area at Tata Motors Ltd.'s Jaguar Land Rover vehicle manufacturing plant in Solihull, U.K., on Wednesday, July, 15, 2015. Jaguar Land Rover, the U.K. luxury-car unit of Tata Motors Ltd., cut its sales targets and prices in China amid slowing demand in the world's largest auto market.  Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Land Rover Defender automobiles sit in a final inspection area at Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar Land Rover vehicle manufacturing plant in Solihull, U.K., on Wednesday, July, 15, 2015. Jaguar Land Rover, the U.K. luxury-car unit of Tata Motors Ltd., cut its sales targets and prices in China amid slowing demand in the world’s largest auto market. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Land Rover Defender is boxy, beastly and beloved. Early next year, it’ll be history.

For seven decades, the Defender off-road vehicle has barely changed from a design so simple it was originally sketched in beach sand. Slabs of aluminum. A windshield with virtually no tilt. A roof rack made to hold steamer trunks or lion carcasses. A spare tire hanging off the back door.

That uncompromising approach has delighted customers from English sheep farmers to Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II. The Defender has shuttled soldiers in the Korean War, Red Cross volunteers in crisis zones around the world and Lara Croft in the movie Tomb Raider. In January, its run will end, and the company hasn’t said when there will be a replacement.

The 23,100-pound ($35,100) car synonymous with British country living has become as anachronistic as a fox hunt. Its raw metal surfaces are at odds with pedestrian safety standards. Its carbon-dioxide emissions are twice the European fleet standard, and it has no touchscreens, mobile connectivity or cordless phone charging. Airbags? Nice try.

“It’s time to move to a new chapter,” said Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s head of engineering, who learned to drive in a Defender. “We want to move forward with a new car.”

Jeep’s Bluetooth

Land Rover is losing its flagship because the brand relied too long on rural estate owners, ignoring the rise of soccer moms and urban adventurers. Its modest price tag meant modernizing the Defender made little sense, leaving it with just its authenticity as a selling point. By contrast, the Jeep Wrangler, a descendant of the World War II military vehicle, has been kept current with electronic stability control and Bluetooth connectivity.

A successful relaunch of the Defender could follow the track plowed by Mini. Since being reborn under BMW AG, the offbeat British city car has grown into a global brand that includes an SUV variant and sells from Birmingham to Beijing. But the Defender’s association with bone-jarring off-roading may make it more of a struggle to re-establish, and Land Rover already thoroughly covers the upscale SUV segment from the compact Evoque to the top-of-the-line Range Rover.

 The Defender’s demise comes as global demand for sport utility vehicles is set to soar 37 percent to nearly 26 million cars in 2018, according to researcher IHS Automotive. Jaguar Land Rover needs a bigger piece of that pie after reporting a 92 million-pound loss for the second quarter. Its answer has been Jaguar’s first-ever crossover and the entry-level Land Rover Discovery Sport, its cheapest model at $37,455.

Before the Defender rumbles off into the sunset, Land Rover will sell about 20,000 this year, IHS estimates, down from a peak of about 56,000 in the 1970s. Its total 68-year production run will be more than 2 million cars.

The prospects for Land Rover to squeeze in a new Defender will be tough as competition in the segment intensifies. Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV’s Jeep is broadening its range with cheaper models such as the $17,995 Renegade. On the high end, Land Rover must contend with Maserati and Bentley entering the space as well as the burgeoning SUV lineups of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Mercedes has its own heritage off-road vehicle, the G-Class — though in contrast to the Defender, the Mercedes has enough fine leather and chrome to make it fit on the streets of Beverly Hills.

Land Rover and its parent company, Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd., face the challenge of developing a new Defender without losing the values of the original. While they’ve promised to overhaul and reintroduce the icon, they haven’t said when it might resurface or whether production will continue at the factory in Solihull, England, where most of the assembly is still done by hand and there’s a wall covered with personal memorabilia from buyers.

Key to the Defender’s rebirth will be winning over city-dwellers with what its designer, Maurice Wilks, called a “go-anywhere, do-anything” vehicle. If it can maintain its quirky authenticity while adding new comforts and technology, Land Rover can hold on to old fans and win over new ones, said Franz-Rudolf Esch, director of the Institute for Brand and Communications Research at EBS Business School near Wiesbaden, Germany.

“What doesn’t move with the times dies,” Esch said in an e-mail. “The Defender must remain true to itself even as it reflects the Zeitgeist and the changing expectations of customers.”

Waist-Deep Water

On a recent drive along Land Rover’s back-country track near Birmingham, England, it’s easy to see how the Defender gained cult status. It powered through nearly waist-deep water, trundled handily up the muddy inclines and survived a steep drop off a collapsed bridge.

The feel is very much last-century, with a comically large turning radius and a hand brake that sits uncomfortably low. The windows steam up almost immediately. But there’s no denying the charisma, as Munich sales manager Stephane Anger will tell you.

“I wanted something different,” said Anger, a father of three who gave up a BMW 5-Series sedan in favor of a black Defender, which he drives to his family’s hut in the Austrian Alps. “The Defender has no trouble with any slope.”


Land Rover Introduces The Updated 2013 Range Rover Sport


– Supercharged Limited Edition & GT Limited Edition available in limited numbers
– Red Brembo™ brake calipers for Supercharged models
– Striking new alloy wheel design
– Wider choice of interior color combinations
– Towing package introduced as an option

For 2013, the Range Rover Sport continues as the definitive Sports SUV with new colors and a greater choice of interior trim and alloy wheel designs.

To complement the exterior design changes refreshed for the 2012 model year – in 2013 a striking new five-spoke cast alloy wheel design in Sparkle Silver becomes standard on the Range Rover Sport Supercharged. Customers opting for the Supercharged model will discover stunning red Brembo™ brake calipers fitted as standard with the option of reverting back to black high performance brakes at no additional cost.

The interior specifications offer two new interior trim combinations allowing customers to choose a dark upper cabin environment with lighter colored seats or the opposite way round. A towing package has also been introduced as an option across all models and consists of a tow hitch receiver, trailer towing electrics and variable rear differential lock.

The Range Rover Sport comes equipped with a high level of audio equipment, as introduced at 2012 model year. The Harmon Kardon™ system delivers 380W of sound from a total of 11 speakers while the premium Harmon Kardon LOGIC7 system produces an astonishing 825W from no less than 17 speakers. Advanced features include a hard disc drive music server and Land Rover’s “Say What You See” voice recognition system with screen prompts.

An outstanding Range Rover Sport engine line-up remains unchanged for 2013. The naturally aspirated 5.0-liter produces 375HP with 375lb-ft torque and the flagship 5.0-liter Supercharged, a stunning 510HP with 461lb-ft torque. All engines drive through ZF automatic gearboxes.

2013 Range Rover Sport Supercharged Limited Edition

The 2013 Range Rover Sport Supercharged Limited Edition provides drivers with a combination of luxurious interior appointments and sporting exterior design changes. With 510 horsepower at the ready, the Supercharged Range Rover Sport has extraordinary performance capabilities.

In addition to the standard supercharged features, many enhancements are finished in red including a “Sport” badge on the rear tailgate, side vent feature and front and rear brake calipers, as well as an embroidered red ‘Sport’ logo appears on the carpet mats. New carbon veneer trim, adds a sharp, contemporary look to the interior.

For the U.S. market there are only 300 units being produced in Santorini Black, and only 200 units in Fuji White.

2013 Range Rover Sport GT Limited Edition

The 2013 Range Rover Sport GT Limited Edition offers luxury interior and distinctive exterior design details, together with other popular equipment that provides a more differentiated expression of the HSE specification vehicle.

Among other features, the GT Limited Edition includes an extended rear roof spoiler, unique rear chrome exhaust treatments, 20” black five spoke alloy wheels, steering wheel mounted shift paddles, and the premium LOGIC7 audio system with SAT and HD radio.

A limited number of 450 will be built in Santorini Black, with an additional 300 units being produced in Fuji White.