First, we saw a short-wheelbase Land Rover Defender mule wearing very chopped up Discovery Sport bodywork in a weak attempt to hide in plain sight. That didn’t work, but also, perhaps it wasn’t supposed to.
Jaguar and Land Rover seem to revel in releasing camouflaged prototypes into the wild to be “accidentally” captured by spy photographers, replete with large hashtags plastered on the side. We’re going to get pictures of the prototypes anyways, so why not build some buzz? Case in point: the long-wheelbase Defender we spotted back in October — #BEST4X4XFAR, if you can parse that.
That prototype sported a boxy body, a bolt-upright rear hatch, and lots of sharp corners. There are also headlights that are anything but retro, and a split rear hatch. Even in long-wheelbase form, the overhangs are short and the wheelbase is tidy, so it’ll likely have Wrangler Unlimited-esque approach, breakover, and departure angles.
The short wheelbase prototype, seen above, does it one better. It’s almost comically short, an effect exaggerated by the camo and the covered-up rear quarter window. Brakes look very large given the vehicle size, so if there’s a quick version you’ll be able to stop it properly. The profile shot reveals the steep rake to the windshield, a nod to modern aero requirements to meet efficiency standards, but elsewhere it’s a riot of right angles.
It should be no shock that the new Defender moves to a fully-independent suspension setup — that was clearly visible on the previous mules. But we don’t know exactly what will power the Defender yet, although we don’t expect anything that isn’t already in the JLR stable of engines.
We also don’t know officially if it will be sold in the U.S., but as a new vehicle it won’t hit the regulatory hurdles that kept the old Defender from our shores for years. That, and the popularity of big premium SUVs right now, makes it a very strong bet for our market. We expect it to also spawn a pickup version, which is less likely to be sold here.