News from Land Rover is that the Defender is returning to the United States, after more than a decade out of the U.S. market. If you have visions of Defender 90′s prowling the American highways and byways, I warn you that it will be hugely anticlimactic. Let us hope that I am wrong.
Apparently Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern said the new Defender will be “tough as nails.” I ain’t buyin’ it. If you were kidnapped the minute Full House went off the air, kept in an underground bunker for sixteen years, and let out today, one of the first things you might say are, “What an app? Like an appatizer? Like ‘tater skins?” The next question you would ask is “what the hell are these tall wagons you people are calling crossovers?”
The march of progress in the automotive world has been to neuter, not empower, the SUV. Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder are all once-rugged SUV’s that have been molded into high-riding wagons for people that are too self-concious to buy the vehicle that really meets their needs; a minivan.
Look at Range Rover. The last major launch of an entirely new vehicle (not a redesign of an old one, mind you) was for a crossover called the Evoque. It was designed with the help of Vitoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice. Freaking great.
When a design director says “hard as nails” in terms of a new vehicle in our modern world of soft-roaders, I get the feeling he’s talking about the appearance. Will the new Land Rover Defender have Land Rover’s awesome Terrain Management system? You bet, and it will make for a very capable vehicle. But there are places that a true Range Rover can go that an Evoque or LR4 can’t. I have this sinking feeling that the next Defender will be more like the Evoque in terms of off-road capability than the world-conquering Range Rover.
I reiterate. Let us hope that I don’t have my shit straight on this one. Automotive journalists are constantly proven to be shitty at peering through the looking glass.
Wait, and why do you care if it can handle the tough stuff or not? This is not going to be stripped down like the Defenders of yore. This will be a super-expensive ute’ that will seldom be used as intended. If you really want a tough-as-nails model, just hop on ebay. Most run about $50K. The new one? Likely double. Good luck!