As some may know, the Land Rover that a lot of us all know and love will be no more, come next year; in its infinite wisdom, the EU has decided that it's not pedestrian-friendly enough (it's too square, apparently) for when certain idiots on two plates of meat decide to walk into the road without looking.
A Land Rover, not a Freelander, Discovery, or Range Rover, is a square utilitarian box on four wheels, meant to be a powerful, rugged, heavy-hauling, four-wheel-drive go-almost-anywhere small truck. It is not intended to be pretty (although there is a certain bulldog-like elegance to it), nor is it intended to be all that environmentally friendly either. It must be able to withstand all manner of hard terrain, hard driving, and punishment that would put a similar class of vehicle out of play in five seconds flat. And that's where it's strengths, and the loyalty of its owners, lie.
But reality is, as one wag put it, a bitch. The EU has declared, and that's that. So the basic Land Rover, in it's fourth major version, the Defender, is soon to be no more. A replacement must be found.
So, Jaguar Land Rover (JRL) came along with the Defender Concept 100, or DC100 (Wikipedia entry here). They unveiled it at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011, and quite horrid it is too. Rightly, it attracted much commentary, mostly apparently rather negative. I tend to agree. The basic offering is, I suppose, fair enough, but the "sport" version is a complete abomination, in my view.
Here are the strengths of the current civilian Land Rover Defender:
- Simple aluminium bodywork
- Relatively easy to work on / repair
- Strong - you CAN walk on the bodywork at a push, to get to the roof.
- Easily customisable both internally and externally.
- Takes a massive load in the back in the cargo configuration.
- Comes in two main body lengths: Short and Long (90 & 110)
You can also add for the military versions of the Defender that it can be converted between a soft top and hard top with ease, very quickly with only basic hand tools.
So, any replacement should, indeed MUST, have these features.
The Wikipedia article references an Australian press article from 2012, in "Go Auto" (article here), where "Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern has revealed the next-generation Defender will bear little resemblance to the DC100 concept that emerged at the Frankfurt motor show (in 2011)".
That's something of a relief, but one must hope that the end result will be as attractive to current owners seeking an upgrade, as it may be to prospective new owners seeking a Defender-like machine.
In addition, the markets that JRL are seeking to placate and serve must also be addressed, not least of which includes the Americans, whose automotive import control regulations border on the insane, in terms of the requirements that they set, both mechanically and environmentally (not least in regard to recyclable parts percentages and emission controls); Then there's the EU mania about pedestrians trying to commit suicide by not looking where they're going, which was the start of this particular problem, to consider.
Well, here are a couple of thoughts, not that I'm likely to be the first to have thought of them... If the car must be more pedestrian friendly, consider plastics or polycarbonates in the bodywork. How about an extended crush-capable wrap-around front bumper in the visual style of the existing bodywork? There are a vast number of other possible solutions that can be thought of, I'm sure.
But at the end of the day, the final result MUST look visually appealing to existing and prospective owners alike, and MUST meet or even exceed all the hallmarks of strength, ruggedness, utility, and ability, that the current Defender possesses.
It's not going to be an easy task, and I don't envy them the challenge, but in order to maintain their reputation and brand loyalty, they must meet this challenge, run with it, and succeed, or a major lynch-pin of Land Rover will forever die.
And that is simply not palatable, nor acceptable.