The 2020 Land Rover Defender is here, and it looks good, but only if you avoid the short-wheelbase model with the “floating pillar” option. Because a vehicle equipped that way takes an element that helped the last Defender stand out as a truly iconic piece of design—its large, upright greenhouse—and covers it with a cheap-looking, enormous-blindspot-creating fake pillar. Just look at this silliness.
I just got back from the Frankfurt Motor Show, where I had a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of the 2020 Land Rover Defender 90—the two-door version of the new Defender that debuted yesterday.
The cabin seems nice in many ways, but what surprised me was an enormous artificial blind spot created by a fake pillar placed right in the center of the side rear glass. Look at this:
From inside, that “floating pillar,” as Land Rover calls it, darkens the interior and compromises visibility, and from the outside it creates what I consider perhaps the Defender’s (whose overall design I quite like) biggest aesthetic flaw:
On the four-door shown above on the right, I think the “floating pillar” looks okay, and actually, if you look at the body-side-outer panel below, you’ll realize that the square trim covers up the C-pillar, so it all makes sense.
Here’s how things look from the inside of the 110—it just looks like standard C-pillar interior trim:
Per the image of the two-door Defender 90's body-in-white below, there’s no vertical structural element aft of the B-pillar other than the rearmost pillar, so this “floating pillar” is truly just a big, apparently-plastic square that Land Rover seems to have fastened to the side glass via four torx screws and probably some sort of paste or rubber.
From the inside, the rear passenger’s view is extremely limited:
And though there is a small plastic bin, it doesn’t look like it’d fit much more than maybe a couple of decks of cards and some papers:
From the outside, and up-close, things look odd as well. The pillar just looks like a big plastic square stuck to a window:
Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer, describes the feature at about the 16 minute mark in the debut video embedded below. “[The Defender’s] horizontal emphasis continues with the squared off wheel arches,” he says, “and this distinctive floating pillar, which is positioned over the rear wheel to reinforce that planted look.”
So it appears that design was the primary purpose of this “floating pillar,” which Land Rover also calls the “Signature Graphic.”
I emailed Land Rover to learn more, and the brand confirmed that the baffling, square piece of trim was indeed included as a styling element:
The Signature Graphic (the square piece) is not featured on the U.S. 2020MY Defender 90 First Edition, but is shown in global assets. It’s fitted standard on the 110 due to this area carrying body structure in the longer 5-door variants (as seen in the attached infographic). The shorter 90 does not have this extra structure piece, so the Signature Graphic on the 90 is purely for aesthetics.
Land Rover’s press release does imply that there is a practical purpose for these fake pillars, writing that the vehicle’s “Exterior Side-mounted Gear Carrier...aligns with the Defender model’s distinctive floating pillars and is perfect for holding mucky equipment.”
“If the Gear Carrier isn’t fitted,” Land Rover continues, “the new Defender model’s floating pillars also provide a home for the Deployable Roof Ladder, which folds down from its locked position to allow easy access to items being carried on the roof.”
Whether the fake pillar is really necessary to hold these accessories, I’m unsure, but the main point is that Land Rover intentionally stuck a big, awkward, blindspot-creating square onto its side glass as a design element, and I don’t think it works at all.
Just take a look below. Without the floating pillar, I think the vehicle looks significantly cleaner. Plus, the machine loses the enormous blind spot, and gives the rear passenger the ability to look outside the vehicle, and not just at a shallow plastic storage bin:
My coworker Jason Torchinsky mocked up what the Defender 90 would look like if it had painted B and C-Pillars, and I think it’s fantastic, giving the off-roader a more upright look:
Jason also mocked up what it’d look like with just the B-pillar painted. He prefers this design:
Why the brand thought the fake pillar improved the exterior design is beyond me, especially considering how much it hurts visibility.