New Land Rover Defender DC100, production for 2015!
Land Rover have confirmed that production of a new Defender, codename DC100, is scheduled for 2015.
This is great news, because those of us that use vehicles for overlanding are finding fewer and fewer choices on the new-car marke, so let's hope the new Defender is as useful as its illustrious predecessors, which have now sadly met their use-by date. There's no point getting all misty-eyed about it, times change and the Defender's basic architecture doesn't meet modern standards for important criteria such as safety or production efficiency, so change is essential.
The question is what change that should be. Overlanders have long decried the changes to many vehicles which detract from bushability and offroadability - loss of driver control, recovery points, reduced load capacity and more. But those changes are made so the cars appeal to their target market, which is people that don't need or care for offroad features - they'd rather the spare wheel be out of sight, mounted low for handling improvements than on the rear door, obstructing visibility but easily accessible and leaving room for long-range tanks. That design direction is understandable, as cars need to be sold and the offroader market isn't big enough to sustain a large car company. Much of this can be fixed with aftermarket accessories.
But when it comes to the Defender that approach doesn't hold true. The likes of the Discovery are sold to people who, in the main, don't go offroad, tow or really use the car as a 4X4. Not so the Defender. Therefore, the small but vocal minority of offroaders, overlanders, towers and general 4X4 users (as opposed to owners) needs to drive the direction of the car. And based on the DC100's concept photos, that simply hasn't happened. It's like they've taken an Evoque and tried to make it a Defender. Wrong way, they need to work from the current Defender. And a "design" team has no place on a Defender - car designers create works of art, and then the engineers do what they can within those constraints. Again for the Defender, reverse that. Engineers get the first say.
So, here’s some help from a current Defender owner.
What the new Defender should be
Here’s the mission statement.
The Defender should be the premium overlanding and 4X4 utility wagon of choice – nothing else should match it for ability to carry heavy, bulky loads over extremely rough terrain for long distances using minimum fuel.
That's properly functional, not pusedo-tough. Some design principles for the team:
- Functional first. Create a boxy body because that’s the best shape for carrying things, inside, behind and on top.
- No frills. Hummer style their wheels with fake CTI and Jeep use fake rivets. Land Rover - don’t bother. If it doesn’t have a use, don’t add it. The base model needs to have just the basics. Hint – power windows are not essential.
- Offroad capability – don’t lose it. Ensure the car has at least the clearance of the current model. Yes, lowering the CoG or the roll centre would be better onroad, but stuff it. This thing has to perform offroad, and the benchmarks should be the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Toyota 76 Series, Discovery 4 and the existing Defender.
- Onroad capability. Make this a low priority and improve other areas at its expense. It’ll be a lot better than the current model, and the other design areas are way more important. We do not want to see the Defender at the ‘Ring.
- Bushability – graceful degradation. This means if one system fails it fails in isolation and doesn’t take the rest of the car with it, as per the Discovery. This will be the hardest for Land Rover to achieve as it requires a reversal in design direction and a complete change of mindset. But it has to be done.
- Modifiability – we need to be able to put extra kit in the engine bay. Drill into the bodywork. Attach things here and there. Even change the bodywork. The Defender has to make that easy.
- Driver control – return complete control of the car to the driver. You never know when you might need to override the computers, and if the driver decides to trade engine life against the ability to get up over a sand dune...that should be allowed. Actually, this concept might be even harder for Land Rover to understand than bushability. But I'm sure I could explain the concept, I just need a suitably remote location.
- Load carrying. At least 1100kg of payload in the 110 equivalent. 3500kg+ towing.
- Power. The Defender doesn't need 200Kw and 600Nm of torque. It'd be nice, but not necessary. If it weighs 2000kg then 150kw and 450Nm will be just fine. Instead, focus on making the engine reliable, able to run on just about any diesel mix, and small so there's room around it for accessories, and easy to work on.
This is what I want, not what Land Rover have said they'll build.
- Diesel Manual and auto, at least six speeds. Seven is not required. Make it stronger and cheaper instead.
- Low range with a reduction of at least 1:60
- Coil suspension, long-travel, multi-rate coils as per the D130. Air suspension option
- Tyres of at least 32” diameter, rim size maximum 17”. Preferably 16.
- ADR81/01combined range of at least 800km.
- Towing – 3500kg+
- Front and rear manually automatic difflocks with manual override. Because sometimes you need to, for example when descending. Yes, difflocks help there too but the computer doesn't know that. If whoever is designing the Defender didn't already know that then they are the wrong person to be doing the designing.
- Manual override for the centre difflock, from 0 to 100. It can be computer-controlled most of the time, but we need the override.
- Parkbrake to operate on the transmission so it locks all four wheels, and centre torque splitter to lock at rest.
- Payload for the station wagon – 1100kg+
- Alternator sized for signicant extra electrical loads
- Space to add a second battery, compressor under the bonnet
- Complete control over the car including front/rear torque split, traction control, air suspension heights and more.
- Terrain Response
- HID headlights
- Powerful reversing light
- Easily removeable seats, 3-way split in the third row, fold-flat like the Discovery.
- Hose-out interior
- No interior curves, just boxy areas you can fit things into
- Manual releases, eg no Discovery-like electrical rear door release
- Failsafe design such that any given failure removes only the minimum functions from the vehicle, and the driver is left to decide the tradeoff between driveability and damage. Include useful information in the display, not "it's broke go to a dealer".
- No dumb decisions – like those made on the D3. Don't even think about an electric parkbrake. Put all the ECUs well up out of harm's way and make them easily swappable.
- Doors stay open at all angles
- Jesus handles
- Strong interior LED lights everywhere
- Lots of internal storage areas including side pockets, double glovebox, roof storage area
- Strong tie-down points everywhere
- 150kg roof load capability
- Properly designed jack!
- Decent underbody protection - steel plates, not plastic
- Industrial-strength windscreen wipers and sprayer
Now on to what Land Rover have given us. Here's the DC100:
The images are, overall, on the right path inasmuch they show effort into a Defender repalcement. However, the direction does need a change. Whoever put those low-profile tyres on needs to be sent on a properly tough offroad trip where they will learn that high-profiles are the only way to go with today’s tyre technology. If larger-diameter brakes are needed…go design smaller ones and fit 16 or at a maximum 17” rims. The tyres are also too wide, look like they're around 265 width (edit - I just zoomed into the detail file and I was right - they're 265/45/22! As used on gangsta cars. Land Rover...seriously guys. This isn't funny. Come out to the bush and let's see how those 22" rims go with a good load on rocks.)
Load-luggers use tall, narrow tyres. It would be better to have the overall size of 235/85/16 retained. May not look as sexy as lower-profile wides, but the Defender is about function not form. On that note the yellow colouring of the brake callipers is an affectation out of place on the Defender. Leave that to the Evoque. Design principle - if it doesn't have a use, forget it.
It is good to see two recovery points at the front, and I can see the rear suspension at least is independent which means the front would be too. No problem there. If it’s air springs, then it’ll need a redesign from the bushability front as the current Land Rover designs aren’t very robust. I doubt it is air as the car on the rocks has its wheels in the right place relative to the wheelarches, and lowering it would seem out of place. Coil suspension is fine, but there should be a properly (bushable) designed air system too. I think the tyres are bi-directional so that’s fine. They must not be directionals for this car – obviously they can be swapped, but I’m more worried about what’s going on in the design team’s head if they see fit to release images of a directionally-tired car. But it is good to see the spare is on the back door where it belongs. I hope they design it strong enough this time.
Clearance looks a little low slight rake for load carrying, angles fine. Discreet winch mount good, needs some system to open up the cable so tangles can be sorted. The flat bonnet area is retained – excellent, handy to put chequerplate on to form a useful ad-hoc table.
And, lastly, and intentionally so, the looks. That's basically fine, albeit a little too Freelanderish in the nose. A more vertical front end would be better, gain a little more engine-bay space. It would be good to keep Victoria Beckham as a design consultant and whatever she says, do the opposite. Then employ someone like Ellen MacArthur and whatever she says, do it.
Here's a new-and-old comparison, resized so both are the same length.
Now I've put the two side-by-side I've noticed something else. The new car has way too low a roofline. Bad move, it'll decrease storage space, and you can also see the B-pillar is further back on the new model. Leave the low roofline to the Evoque. Offroaders need storage space, so Land Rover, give it back! Naughty designers! Go and read the mission statement I put at the top of this article! You have to understand the Defender is about carrying stuff and doing stuff, not just driving and offroading. Also, the approach angle on the new model isn't as good as the old. Fix that, and fix it now.
I'm not great with image editors, but here's my changes to the DC100:
- shortened the bonnet
- raised the roof
- lengthened the wheelbase
- shortened the door - all to make more cargo room in the back. Carrying stuff, remember. If I could I'd make the nose more vertical too.
- Made the windscreen more vertical for more room inside
- put the clearance back to what it should be
- fitted decent rims
So to compare all three:
One thing is for sure - it's good to see the Defender will be replaced, and it looks like Land Rover are heading in approximately the right direction. Let's just hope they don't do the usual monumentual stuff-up which leaves us with a car so good we buy it anyway but spent a goodly portion of the time screaming at the designers when we're out in the bush. I can understand offroad and bushability compromises for the Discovery, Sport and Evoque but when it comes to the Defender....readers of blogs like this should be in the driving seat, and the car should be sketched by an engineer not drawn by an artist.
This is what the Defender is all about. Carrying a heavy load on a long-distance trek. When you're doing real work or actually out in the bush pretty form takes a back seat to rugged practicality.
- Modern overlanding design
- A compromise that needs to change.
- Have your say! Land Rover UK's DC100 poll.
External link - Funrover's Defender 2 concept based on the DC100