The long-awaited relaunch of the Land Rover Defender has left potential customers wondering whether the carmaker has abandoned its traditional fan base.
Three years after the Solihull-built Defender was axed after nearly 70 years in production, Jaguar Land Rover launched its successor, with a price tag from £40,000 and a range of luxury gizmos on board, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Gerry McGovern, Jaguar Land Rover’s designer more used to creating luxury Range Rovers, said that the new Defender had kept its integrity as the sort of “vehicle that gets passed down from one generation to another”.
However, the internet was immediately alive with comments from traditional owners of the Defender, which when the model was withdrawn in 2016 could be bought from £23,000. One poster on the Auto Express website complained: “At a ‘very reasonable £40,000’. What planet are these people from?”
The Defender, in two-door or a £45,000 four-door version, will come in four “packages”, for urban, country, explorer and adventurer buyers.
Paul Horrell, car reviewer for Top Gear magazine, said it was a misconception that traditional Defender buyers — farmers, coastguards, roadbuilders, humanitarian agencies — wanted a vehicle like the old one as they had already moved on to rival brands.
“Let’s suppress the clamour for this vehicle to be a reincarnation of the original,” he said. “That’d be commercial suicide. The old [one] went out of production not just because it was dangerous and polluting but because too few people wanted it.”