While sister brand Range Rover has very much gone to the ball this year with the new Evoque, the Defender was looking like the forgotten Cinderella of the British 4x4 family. Until now.
Land Rover now says it will definitely make an all-new Defender in 2015. And here are two concepts, called DC100, to prove its serious.
Yes, the silver station wagon version was dispatched on the internet and Top Gear magazine some days before the Frankfurt Show. But the yellow open version, called DC100 Sport, was launched as a surprise. On day two of the event, they also had one in Red Cross colours.
Land Rover bosses admit they aren't quite sure what the new Defender has to be, under the skin. A truck with a separate chassis? Or more of a crossover-type contraption, albeit with the capacity to tow heavy trailers and get to the last places on earth a wheeled vehicle should be going?
But Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern told us a vehicle with approximately this look can fit over pretty much any mechanical base. The idea of showing these different DC100 versions is to prove a next-gen Defender must be ‘configurable'. In other words, according to how the buyer specs the option boxes, it could be an emergency vehicle, a farmers' transport (though without the 21-inch wheels, obviously), or a weekend toy.
Immense ground clearance, boxy sides and short overhangs make these concepts as good as any road car can be, when the road runs out. To make them even better, there's a new automatic terrain response system that automatically sets all the driver assist systems. It senses the wheel travel, wheelslip, and the texture of the ground ahead. Then it continually recalibrates the engine, transmission, skid control and air suspension set-up to best advantage.
It even builds up a 3d view of the terrain ahead to warn the driver if he's about to clout too big a rock or ditch. And for wading, it gets a sonar to check you won't go in too deep.
The DC100 has a 2.0-litre diesel engine. The Sport has a turbo petrol. That makes it the first petrol Defender for years. But then, it's the first sporty Defender since, well, since ever really.
Everything we hear from inside the company says Land Rover wants to get feedback from these concepts before baking-in the final decision about the production machine. LR people say the Defender is too important to get a rushed replacement. Given that original has been around for 63 years, ‘rush' isn't the word that sprang to our minds.