Volkswagen provided three nights in a hotel and air travel from Washington, DC, to Frankfurt for this story.
FRANKFURT, GERMANY—The original Land Rover didn’t invent the 4×4—that honor surely belongs to the WWII Jeep—but it is almost synonymous with the term. Inspired by the Jeep, the first Land Rovers went on sale in 1948, being (very) slowly updated over the years through Series I-III, then as the Land Rover 90 and 110, then as the Defender, which finally went out of production in January 2016. Along the way, despite its agricultural roots and barest nod toward things like driver comfort or ergonomics, the Defender gained a reputation for being able to go just about anywhere, which helps explain why used examples are now so ludicrously expensive here in the US. Land Rover is obviously not unaware of this fact, because it has gone and designed a brand new Defender, which made its public debut at this year’s Frankfurt auto show.
If you were expecting a traditional body-on-frame design, think again. This Defender, like its Range Rover cousins, is now an aluminum monocoque chassis, something that Land Rover says is three times stiffer than anything else the brand has built until now. Like the old, antediluvian 4×4 it replaces, the new one comes in two sizes: the 90 and 110, numbers which used to refer to the number of inches in the wheelbase. (In fact the 90 has a 102-inch/2,588mm wheelbase, and the 110 has 119-inch/3,026mm wheelbase.) If you want a 90, you’re limited to a single engine—a mild hybrid 395hp (295kW) turbocharged 3.0L inline six—but the bigger Defender can also be optioned with a 296hp (220kW) 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Both engines are gasoline-powered;
but next year a plug-in hybrid will join the range.
The drivetrain options will also be a little unfamiliar to fans of the venerable and ancient Landy. Forget about a simple manual gearbox; all new Defenders will use ZF’s excellent 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission. But it does have permanent four-wheel drive, a twin-speed transfer case, and can be specced with locking center and rear differentials as well as Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response electronic off-road driver aid.
Despite these modern underpinnings, Land Rover says the new Defender is just as capable as the old one off-road, as evinced by some of the photos in the gallery above. Ground clearance is 11.5 inches (291mm), and Land Rover says the Defender 110 has approach, breakover, and departure angles of 38˚, 28˚, and 40˚. On top of that, it can ford at depths of up to 35.4 inches (900mm) and can tow up to 8,201lbs (3,720kg).
To my eyes it’s not an unattractive machine. But you can definitely tell it’s the work of chief designer Gerry McGovern, what with all those rounded edges. (Dare I say it,
bringing its prehistoric 4×4 into the digital age.) On the inside things are much posher than any Defender of the past. There’s a digital main instrument panel, and the touchscreen infotainment system runs a newer OS than current Range Rovers. Up front there’s an optional third seat between the driver and where you’d normally find the front passenger, which means the Defender 90 can seat six, with the Defender 110 coming in five, six, or 5+2 layouts.
The Defender 110 goes on sale in the US in spring 2020, starting at $49,900 for the 2.0L, and $62,250 for the 3.0L mild hybrid. Sales of the Defender 90 will follow later that year.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin
read more at https://arstechnica.com by Jonathan M. Gitlin