Ordinarily, manufacturers prefer to stay low-key when testing preproduction vehicles in public. Not that driving around in something covered in tarps or swirly, mind-warping camo wrap doesn’t garner attention, but the ultimate goal is to conceal the identity of what lies beneath. We can’t help but think Land Rover wants the exact opposite, and not just because this particular prototype has #BESTt4X4XFAR plastered on it. More on that in a moment.
This is obviously the all-new Defender, specifically the short-wheelbase 90. Spy photographers caught it on the street, and astute Motor1.com reader Mark Bayliss also grabbed some video of the SUV in action. Mark was kind enough to share the clip with us, and we definitely appreciate the close look as it rolls past the camera.
Despite the not-at-all-subtle advertising, there’s actually quite bit of cladding on this stubby off-roader that hides the body lines beneath. Yes, it will be chunky and boxy like previous Defenders, but we also suspect some softer, rounded edges might exist as well. It’s also possible this prototype isn’t a production-ready monster, so changes could be in store before the camo comes off.
Gallery: 2020 Land Rover Defender 90 Spy Photos
The updated body might be familiar, but underneath is a completely new independent-suspension setup. Underhood is likely a 2.0-liter turbo diesel, and hybrid powertrain options could appear later in the Defender's life cycle. These are big steps away from the Defender’s traditional components, and hardcore enthusiasts of the brand might find fault in the changes. However, it’s all part of the modernization that the reborn Defender will undergo, and we suspect the changes will ultimately be for the better. They could certainly help drive more Defender sales, and the updates could also bring the Defender back to the SUV-crazy U.S. market; a place where it’s been absent for over 20 years.
This new Land Rover was spotted just 24 hours after another Defender – a four-door 110 – was caught on public roads. Mind you, prior to now we’ve only had a couple glimpses of test mules with Range Rover Sport bodies, and those sightings were spread out over months. With two high-profile captures in just 24 hours showing two distinct trim levels, we suspect Land Rover isn’t just testing a new vehicle. It’s putting the world on notice that the Defender is alive and kicking.
When will we see it revealed? That’s something we don’t know for certain, though an appearance later in 2019 as a 2020 model seems logical at this point.
H/T to Mark Bayliss for the video!