The Land Rover Defender is coming back to North America in 2020, joining the off-road train that’s barreling right toward the United States. It’ll be the first time new Defenders have been sold in the U.S. in more than two decades, and the vehicle will be up against a whole army of off-road competition.
That’s a pretty cool thing to say, in a time when automakers seem completely obsessed with technology, autonomy and turning cars into faceless pods.
Land Rover announced the new Defender on Thursday, saying it would debut in 2019 and go on sale in the United States and Canada in 2020. The camouflage on the Defender test vehicles even says “Coming to America,” in case you happen to forget.
The Defender hasn’t been sold new in the U.S. since 1997, and even then, sales weren’t huge—Land Rover was only allowed to import 500 per year of the 1990s models since they didn’t meet safety standards, according to Automotive News. Other than that, models meeting the 25-year import rule have been fair game.
But the new Defender will be back in the U.S. soon enough, and Land Rover said it’ll be different than Defenders of the past. While the Defender’s looks haven’t been known to change much over the decades, even with expensive, apocalyptic makeovers, Land Rover said the new generation will have an “all-new exterior and interior design.” The goal is to keep the Defender roots while giving it a 21st-century makeover with “broader public appeal,” Land Rover said.
We’ve seen a low-resolution teaser shot of the new Defender already, along with the photo above. It still looks boxy, like a Defender should, with some Mercedes G-Wagen-esque hints. The new Defender is already testing in areas including North America, to make sure it’s an off-road menace that can handle all kinds of temperatures and altitudes.
Here are the details of the testing, from the announcement:
Testing on the continent provides valuable data to engineers given the wide variety of terrain and surfaces available in America. Engineers will subject the vehicle to rigorous test extremes to make sure the new Defender is the most off-road capable Land Rover vehicle ever; operating in temperatures from -40F to +120F while driving the test vehicles on- and off-road at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet above sea level.
As much as all of us like to moan about how the entire automotive industry seems to be headed toward autonomous pods—which are a great concept, in moderation—and pushing the H-pattern to extinction, the amount of off-road vehicles that will be for sale in the U.S. in the next couple of years is impressive.
We’ll have the Defender, the Jeep Gladiator, the new Wrangler, the revived Ford Bronco, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and plenty of others. It’s really not an awful time to be a car or off-road enthusiast, no matter how much any of us want to complain. Check back in 20 years, though, and that may be a different story.