The 2020 Land Rover Defender has finally dropped. Most reception seems positive, but many comments seem to be variations of: “It looks like a 10-year-old concept car.” I don’t know about that, but then again, let’s look back at one Land Rover concept that was from 10 years ago and may well have informed this new Defender.
Approximately an eon ago, at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, Land Rover trotted out the DC100 as a hardtop SUV and a sporty convertible with weird roadster fairings. People were, generally speaking, not stoked on it.
The Telegraph, for example, was one of the few outlets that actually got to drive the DC100 and opened its writeup with: “Land Rover has refuted criticism that its Defender replacement, the DC100 concept, is too effete and overdesigned...”
In 2014, we heard reports that the next Defender, which was originally confirmed to be scheduled to coming out in 2015, would “not” look like the DC100. Autocar claimed to have the inside scoop and wrote that people at Land Rover had come to find the DC100’s look “a little too generic.”
That was pretty much the last loud rumor regarding the Land Rover to ricochet around the auto industry until spy images and teaser shots of the camouflaged production vehicle started popping up.
So here we are, at the Frankfurt Motor Show eight years later, with a production Defender that, frankly, looks more generic than the DC100 did but basically retains its shape, profile and aesthetic.
The face has been simplified significantly, the fender vent got tweaked a little, but to me, these two look pretty similar. And of course, they’re conceptually the same thing. At least the rear tire carrier made it to the final draft.
Richard Hammond’s video showcasing the new Defender quotes Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern, who was also in charge of automotive artistry there when the DC100 was drawn, as saying that the Defender had to be “respectful of its past, but not harnessed by it.”
I, for one, think the harness could have been on just a little tighter. The 2020 Defender is an objectively successful modernization of the old truck’s general stature and vibe into modern sheet metal shapes, except for the fact that you couldn’t really get away with calling it a “truck” anymore.
My first impression of Land Rover’s new off-road adventure rig is that it suffers from the same forgettability that dogs the current Discovery. Without stickers and ladders and roof racks bolted to it, it’s not going to be hard to mistake it for Any Other SUV.
It’s sleek, sure, but, it really leans on accessories to advertise its character. And if the safari car trend we’re currently wading through has taught us anything, it’s that any car looks badass with knobby tires and a roof rack.
I do love the Defender’s third front seat gimmick and the fact that “alpine windows” in the ceiling are back, but I’m not getting the sense of boldness I was hoping for from the face of this thing.
I’m not going to go so far as to say I prefer the DC100, but, as a huge fan of the original Discovery, Range Rover and Defender, I must say the new vehicle’s look hasn’t grabbed me with much force yet. Maybe a ride though some sand in mud will change my mind.