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Talking to Autocar at the Paris motor show before the spy shots emerged, Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralph Speth confirmed he has driven a prototype of the new Defender, describing its off-road credentials as “sensational”.
Hinting that the machine could be revealed next year, Speth added: “It is quite clear the Defender is our icon and we have been working to bring it back. It is a founding element of our brand and I was excited to try the test car.
“I won’t talk about timings but it is coming. The decision to stop making it was the saddest day but we had to make that decision to invest in the factories and to build for the future. Now we are ready to return.”
In one of the spy shots captured by our photographer, the window is wound down and a driver can be seen. It appears to be Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s executive director of product engineering, although the firm refused to comment.
The reborn Defender is being developed in two forms: a short wheelbase 90-badged model, and a larger 110 version. Autocar has previously revealed that the two wheelbase sizes will allow the firm to develop a whole family of vehicles, ranging from basic utilitarian machines up to luxurious high-end models.
While the new Defender, which has the development codename L663, has previously been spied conducting off-road cold weather testing, the new spy shots are the first time it has been seen on public roads. Although the firm remained tight-lipped, sources have suggested it is likely to be launched in late summer next year, with first deliveries then following in early 2020.
With on-road running having started, the testing schedule is likely to ramp up from now on, and test mules of the new Defender are likely to be a regular sight on public roads as Land Rover hones the vehicle. The aim for the new machine is to offer the “biggest breadth of capability of any model to wear the badge”, with prices tipped to range from £40,000 to £70,000. The new Defender will be based on Jaguar Land Rover’s all-new aluminium Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA).
The previous Defender went out of production in January 2016, and the firm has been working since then to develop a successor.
The original Land Rover Series I, from which the Defender is derived, launched 70 years ago in 1948.