Land Rover Defender Visual History: How the Off-Road SUV Got Here

Land Rover Defender Visual History: How the Off-Road SUV Got Here

With the Land Rover Defender emerging as our 2020 SUV of the Year – and this Defender marking the first overhaul in British off-road history – we wanted to go back to the roots of the rugged SUV to show just how big a step forward that this new model crosses for the famous Defender nameplate. Here’s how the iconic Defender and its predecessors have changed over the years in the galleries below.

Land Rover Series I (1948-1958)

The Rover Company had a problem after WWII. Europe was in shambles and there was not much demand for the type of luxury cars Rover had made in the past. Inspired by the Jeep Willys, they developed the first Land Rover, an agriculture-focused four-wheel drive truck with a steel frame and aluminum body. It entered production in 1948 and what would come to be known as the Land Rover Series I was born. It was offered in various configurations that differed in wheelbase, number of doors and body style.

Land Rover Series II (1958-1971)

The Series II debuted 10 years later in 1958. Its exterior design featured the same interior headlights and square profile as the Series I, but added a pronounced shoulder line along the length of the vehicle. Options like door cards and side mirrors were available for the first time.

Land Rover Series III (1971-1985)

In 1971, Land Rover released the Series III. The headlights were moved from the grille to the fenders, which easily differentiated the Series III from its predecessors. Land Rover added sync to the manual transmission and moved the gauges in front of the steering wheel from their old home to the center of the dashboard. A V-8 engine model was introduced in 1979. Due to the larger dimensions of the V-8, Land Rover pushed the grille forward and flush with the front fenders, giving the front of the SUV the shape which would define it for the next three decades. .

Land Rover 90 and 110 (1983-1990)

This design was carried over to the Land Rover One-Ten and Land Rover Ninety (later badged 110 and 90), introduced in 1983. It was the first time that a Land Rover used the Range Rover coil spring suspension for replace old cars’ archaic leaf spring design. Various quality-of-life improvements, such as a more comfortable interior and a modernized engine lineup, have made huge strides in driving on the road.

Land Rover Defender (1990-2016)

The name Defender finally came to life in 1990, after the introduction of the Land Rover Discovery in 1989. Land Rover wanted to distinguish its original workhorse from the new model. The Defender was sold in the United States from 1993 to 1997. It was effectively the same vehicle as the 110 and 90, and has remained largely unchanged beyond updated powertrains and edition models. special until 2007, when it received an interior overhaul. The last Defender rolled off the production line in January 2016.

Land Rover Defender L663 (2020-)

Finally, Land Rover gave the Defender a complete overhaul for the 2020 model year. Dubbed L663, the new Defender is based on an aluminum-intensive unibody platform based on the one that underpins the Range Rover, the Range. Rover Sport and the Land Rover Discovery. It also does away with the traditional drive axle suspension in favor of an independent multi-link front and rear configuration. Despite these massive changes, Land Rover is adamant that the Defender remains a capable off-roader. After hiking one across Africa, testing another here in the US, and evaluating another during our rigorous 2021 MotorTrend SUV Competition of the Year – which it emerged as the winner – we can say that yes, that’s all a modern Defender should be.


The visual history of the article Land Rover Defender: How the Off-Road SUV Got Here first appeared on MotorTrend.

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