SPIED: 2020 Land Rover Defender 90 With Production Bodywork

Short-Wheelbase Off-Roader Features Modern New Mechanicals

Brett T. EvansWriterSpiedBildePhotographer

The replacement for the legendary and long-running Land Rover Defender is right around the corner, probably arriving for the 2020 model year. And with the company keen to brag about its off-road SUV, its test mules are emblazoned with plenty of corporate branding, including the hashtag #Best4x4xFar. We’ve gotten our first look of the SUV with what is likely its own bodywork, departing from earlier prototypes that used cobbled-together Range Rover bodies.

Overall, there’s little ambiguity in the new Defender’s design. Like its predecessors, it has a boxy profile and a body-side structure with very little tumblehome (the narrowing of the body as it gets closer to the roof). However, the SUV’s styling details are much more modern, with sophisticated-looking headlights and a full-width hood replacing the old Defender’s round lighting and separate hood and fenders.

Unfortunately, those heritage design cues aren’t the only concession to modern styling, as it seems the Defender’s optional roof-mounted Alpine windows are a thing of the past. It also appears that the new Defender will no longer feature a removable roof, as the test mule features a fixed hardtop. Perhaps a canvas roof or removable hardtop will be available as options—we hope so.

The Defender will likely have generous approach, departure, and breakover angles, particularly in this short-wheelbase configuration. Around the rear, we see underbody elements tucked as close to the bumper as possible, moving exhaust and fuel system components out of the way. The new Defender also features a multilink independent rear suspension to match the front, which is a bit disturbing given the SUV’s off-road provenance. Expect it to retain a high level of articulation—the Defender will likely be the company’s most capable model—but it’s clear that Land Rover is prioritizing some amount of on-road comfort and handling over absolute off-road ruggedness.

Overall, the 2020 Land Rover Defender, which should be revealed in full sometime next year, seems to follow the path of the all-new Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Its styling is slightly modernized but still recognizable, and it will probably be incredible to drive off-road. But there are some concessions made for drivability and on-road handling, making the SUV a bit more comfortable and efficient. If that’s the price to pay for living in a modern society, we’re at least grateful the Defender still exists, and we can’t wait to learn more about it as details leak out.

Source: SpiedBilde Photography

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