Land Rover's new Defender, which was discontinued in 2016 and redesigned for its 2020 rollout, is an unusual proposition: A truly off-road-capable luxury vehicle with starkly modernist design principles.
While the original Defender's design seemed dictated by the limitations of 1980s sheet-metal-pressing capabilities, its off-road prowess earned it a cult following; would Defender lovers accept a radical redesign? Wasn't Defender's quirky utilitarian looks part of its charm?
Auto designer Gerry McGovern, Jaguar Land Rover's Chief Creative Executive, and his design team have shown that they're willing to take risks. They worked on the new Defender's redesign for years, keeping all details secret. When pressed on what the new Defender would look like a few years ago, McGovern was mum, but confident:
"I haven't f*cked up yet," McGovern told Core77 in 2019, referring to his time as JLR's design chief since 2008, "and I'm damn sure not going to f*ck up with Defender."
The new Defender rolled out midyear in 2020 to rave reviews, and by 2021 was a confirmed sales hit, selling nearly as well as JLR's bestselling model, the Evoque. Anticipated sales of 5,000 units a month was closer to 7,000 per month (strong figures for a challenger brand), and probably would've been higher had the chip shortage not reduced supply.
This new Defender was introduced in two flavors, the stubby two-door Defender 90 (above) and the four-door Defender 110 (below).
Today the company announced they're rolling out a third, the stretched Defender 130, which adds the third row that consumers are demanding these days.
The Defender 130 has been lengthened by over a foot to deliver 2+3+3 seating, with each successive row raised for a stadium effect.
Despite lengthening the tail to provide more usable cargo space, the designers aren't jettisoning Defender's all-important off-road capabilities and have maintained a respectable departure angle; the 130 won't go where the 90 can, but drivers can still tackle a 28.5-degree slope.
Style-wise, the longer tail means "the surrounds for the rear LED lighting units have been re-engineered to maintain the three distinct lines that define Defender's side profile as they rise subtly towards the rear," the company writes.
As for the interior:
"Land Rover engineers have created an impressive interior space by effectively shrink-wrapping interior packaging components around the body-in-white, maximizing the amount of usable interior space, without the need for a large on-road footprint."
"The elegantly extended rear creates uncompromised accommodation in the third row, with enough width to provide comfortable seating for three adults, while the Defender's familiar outline ensures generous headroom in all three rows. Additional touches ensure a comfortable passenger experience in the third row, including heated seats, padded armrests, thoughtful storage and USB-C provision to charge devices on the move. "
Each row also gets their own vents; forget dual-zone climate control, the 130 has four-zone. For rear-seat passengers, side visibility is compromised by that crazy C-pillar, but a panoramic sunroof over the first and second rows, and an additional sunroof over the third row, is meant to provide an airier feeling.
The designers also added a techie feature to the tail: "From the tailgate, customers can simply lower the Defender's Electronic Air Suspension with buttons inside the load area to aid with loading items into the rear." That's a feature we want to see video of, but at press time the 130 announcement was fresh and no video assets were yet available. We'll update this entry when JLR starts rolling out clips.