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New Defender will have to toughen up

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By IOL Motoring Staff

Land-Rover's iconic Defender is now so out of date that, within the foreseeable future, there will be countries where it won't be road-legal because it simply won't pass the relevant safety requirements.

It's also about as aerodynamically efficient as the tower of London. When the original Land rover was designed more than six decades ago, air molecules knew their place; they simply got out of the way.

The company has known this for some time, which was the reasoning behind the DC100 and DC100 Sport concepts it unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto show.

GRABBING PEOPLE’S ATTENTION

Each had more than a hint of the then brand-new Evoque about it, in the hopes that they would grab people's attention in the same way, updating the Defender's image and bringing in new buyers who would not otherwise consider a Defender.

They were generally well received but, as Jeep has found out to its cost with both its Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models, a genuine tough-as-nails off-roader has to look like a box on wheels, or the Chuck Norris wannabes won't buy it.

But seriously, it also has to be mechanically robust and put together in such a way that bent bits can be taken off, welded or hammered back into an approximation of their original shape and replaced with hand tools, several times zones away from the nearest authorised Land Rover dealer.

STUCK IN THE SERENGETI

A bonded aluminium bodyshell, computerised all-wheel drive and adaptive suspension are not going to be much good to you when you've just lost an argument with an anthill in the Serengeti.

Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern is well aware of these conflicting requirements. He recently told Autocar that what was needed was "a new Defender for a new generation, so it has to be relevant and desirable to a modern audience".

The new Defender, he said, would be very different from the 60-year-old original; it would need to be, for both legal and practical reasons.

But, he added, the new Defender, due for release "in the middle of the decade", would have to retain the essential toughness of the iconic beetlecrusher.

"It has to have the essence of the Defender," he said. "James Bond needs to be able to kick the hell out of it and it will still be able to get up for more."

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