Land Rover Defender Experience Centers
Are you ready for the Land Rover Defender Experience? It’s Land Rover’s new E Ticket ride, and it’s centered on an iconic vehicle that’s out of production. Like Jeep’s Wrangler, the Land Rover Defender is the vehicle that most closely commemorates the company’s design origins, a workhorse conceived for any terrain and any climate any time.
Unlike Jeep, the Defender didn’t evolve to civilian specs from a military original. Land Rover is a post-WWII company, established in 1948. But there was a Jeep parallel. When the brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilk developed their prototype, they used a military Jeep chassis. And the original did go on to see widespread service with the British military.
Rough and Ready
Tough as nails and devoid of frills, the primordial Land Rover began life as the Series I. It was followed by the Series II, in 1961, not quite so rectilinear, with a longer wheelbase version, new engines and a slightly less primitive interior. The Series III made its debut in 1971, with a V8 engine option.
The Land Rover One Ten, developed from the Land Rover Series, was introduced in 1983, with the Ninety arriving a year later. The Defender name was added in 1990, making them the Defender 110 and Defender 90. The designations were based on wheelbase length, and there were a number of civilizing elements—coil spring versus leaf spring suspension; wind-up windows, replacing the two-piece sliding type; and power-assisted steering.
Still, the Defender’s concessions to comfort and convenience were given grudgingly over the years; it continued to be the personification of utilitarian 4-wheel-drive all-terrain toughness, a love object for over two million owners over its 67-year lifespan.
The Last Defender
Absent from the U.S. since 1997 due to expensive safety regs, the last Defender left the assembly line at Land Rover’s Solihull (U.K.) plant on January 29, 2016. Throughout its long history its assembly was exceptionally labor-intensive, and production costs finally became unsustainable.
Serious off-road performance is available today in several Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles. As with Jeep, it’s an essential trait that’s baked into the planning for every new vehicle. But the Defender’s gritty persona provides an off-road experience that’s unique among the company’s current offerings.
Defender Experience Centers
Offered at Land Rover Centers in Manchester, Vermont, Asheville, North Carolina, and Carmel, California, the Experience consists of half- and full-day sessions in Defenders over challenging terrain with instructors on hand to perfect technique and serve as spotter guides in particularly tricky sections.
There are seven Defenders -- five D90s and two D110s -- apportioned to the three venues. The Experience Defenders were borrowed from Land Rover's North American heritage center. Participants will also have an opportunity to drive other Land Rover models, if they like.
The Experience isn’t inexpensive -- it's $1,100 for the half-day program and $1,500 for the full day. But it is unique, providing a taste of the glory days when this tough off-roader was the only vehicle in the world that could match the all-terrain capabilities of the post-WWII Jeep CJ. Check www.landroverusa.com for program details.
The Next Defender
A next generation Defender is in development, but at this point Land Rover is mum about timing. While there have been no official photos, speculative computerized images have appeared on the internet. All suggest a more rounded, contemporary shape.
Also, though there have been no official details, Land Rover CEO Dr. Ralf Speth expects the new Defender to be “even more capable” than its predecessor. And he also admits the new SUV’s structure will employ some components from existing Land Rovers, but will retain “Defender DNA.”
Expectations for the renewal also include three different models, including a hot SVR version to be developed by the Jaguar Land Rover SVO high-performance division, and a luxurious SVA edition.
When will we see an actual production prototype? The best guess is for a new Defender debut at one of the major 2018 auto shows.
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