In crafting a replacement for the Defender SUV, known around the world for a stop-at-nothing attitude, Land Rover is at a crossroads. Although it has received funding from parent company for the project, the development team is at odds on the character of the successor to the icon.
According to British magazine Autocar, a replacement for the sexagenarian Defender is being delayed until a decision is made regarding its manufacture and production. Although parent company Tata has invested to build a new Defender by 2014, Defender faithful are fighting to ensure the model retains a prominent place in the lineup. The introduction of the front-wheel-drive Evoque was a departure from the brand known for go-anywhere utility vehicles.
In April, European editor Georg Kacher came out against the use of the T5 platform, which underpins the larger LR4 and Range Rover. His proposal? To “to come down in price and go up in volume” and “introduce more on-road-focused, comfort-oriented, and user-friendly values to support the traditional hardcore off-road magic.”
In June, Kacher updated his report on “Project Icon,” the codename for the next Defender, adding to the uncertainty of its future. Kacher suggested three options for a future Defender: to employ a car-based platform, similar to the one used on the current LR2; to find a new partner for manufacturing and distribution; or building a rugged version for farmers, and a “chic” version for fashionistas.
East Coast bureau chief, and noted Defender aficionado, Jamie Kitman has also weighed in with his vision of a revised model. Kitman’s note to Tata: “Instead of dreaming up ways to lard the next Defender with more luxury, the company will fast-forward two generations to bring us the full green monty – a solar-powered, go-anywhere, plug-in hybrid that also runs on previously digested sunflower seeds and sardine oil.” We don’t believe Land Rover has yet perfected sardine-oil technology, however.
Which route is best for the Defender? Should Land Rover develop a new, lighter platform, or use a current platform to speed up production?