When it comes to filling the tire tracks of a storied model like the Defender, there’s no way to make everyone happy. External forces are at hand. It doesn’t meet U.S. safety requirements or stricter Euro Union CO2 standards, it’ll hurt LR’s American Corporate Average Fuel Economy ratings, and SUV buyers continue to move away from hard-core off-roaders toward crossovers. If Land Rover wants to bring the Defender back to the U.S. — and seems it does — big changes must happen.
The DC100 is the more traditional of Land Rover’s two concepts. We briefly drove the other, the lifestyle-oriented DC100 Sport. The Sport’s interior is more modern and easier to use than the ergonomically challenged yet charming original. Some switchgear, including the pushbutton starter, look borrowed from Jaguar. The concept has a gasoline four, though that doesn’t reflect what the production engine might be when it goes on sale mid-decade. We drove it on three loops around a parking lot and briefly on sand. This drive was more about the new Defender’s potential than anything else.
Land Rover hopes to retain the Defender’s off-road capability by using modern technology. LR engineers are considering a new generation of Auto Terrain Response that could anticipate changes in the landscape; sensors that could help when traversing water; on-demand spiked tires; a driveline disconnect; and torque vectoring for both on- and off-road.
As with the original, Land Rover plans to proliferate the new Defender with multiple models for a wide variety of would-be buyers. That’s how the company hopes to bring new buyers into the model without offending die-hard Defender fans.