The New Land Rover Defender: An Icon Reinvents Itself

Indestructible. Legendary. Iconic. When we talk about the Land Rover Defender, the conversation regularly drifts into an area marked by enthusiasm and superlatives. This is not surprising, since the Land Rover Defender is nothing less than one of the absolute classics of automotive history – and is appreciated worldwide as an absolute specialist 4×4. The automobile world in general and the off-road scene in particular felt a great loss when the last ever Defender left the assembly lines in Solihull, England in 2016.

But rumors of a new edition quickly made the rounds. And indeed: at the IAA 2019 in Frankfurt, the Brits presented a completely new generation of the Defender. An icon redesigned for the 21st century: Loaded with innovative technologies, visually completely new – and yet clearly recognizable as a Defender.

“The original Defender was fun, but it had its pitfalls. We wanted to eliminate these weaknesses without reducing the fun,” explains Mike Cross. The Englishman must know. Cross is Chief Engineer Vehicle Integrity at Jaguar Land Rover, and is thus especially responsible for the handling of the new Land Rover Defender.

Mainly designed as an off-roader, the Land Rover Defender was indeed unbeatable off the road: where normal cars got stuck, the Defender really got going. But comfort on the road left much to be desired. The new Defender is designed to appeal to an increasingly demanding clientele that also wants to cover longer distances on the road. After all, Land Rover’s target group has long since ceased to consist solely of hunters and foresters. The Defender clientele now includes families, as well as adventurers and explorers.

During development, the engineers put a clear emphasis on an unprecedented range of skills: This generation of the Defender should continue to be the benchmark on unsurfaced ground while offering the highest level of comfort on the road – a huge challenge.

To achieve this, Jaguar Land Rover is relying not only on independent suspension for the first time in Defender, but also on comprehensive suspension expertise from BILSTEIN. As a long-standing partner, we supply both passive and active shock absorbers for the brand new Defender. This is our proven semi-active DampTronic® technology with air suspension module, which enables an unexpectedly wide overlap between off-road performance and road comfort.

The electronic damping force adjustment is carried out by a setup that adjusts automatically and seamlessly to the respective requirements: With the help of additional sensors, the current driving situation and the current vehicle condition are recorded in a central control unit. The optimum damping force is then applied to each individual damper via a magnetically controlled valve. Thus, a multitude of different tunings can be implemented with just one suspension.

Before its world premiere, the four-wheel-drive vehicle had to pass more than 62,000 individual tests. Prototypes had to cover several million test kilometres. But the hard work was worth it. Nick Rogers, Chief Technology Officer at Jaguar Land Rover, is convinced: “As a result, we now have the most capable Land Rover of all time – and a truly comfortable, modern vehicle that can be driven and used anywhere in the world with great pleasure to meet even the most diverse requirements”. Mission accomplished!