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2020 Land Rover Defender holds true to original's spirit while infusing modern technology, equipment

The Land Rover Defender returns to the automaker's lineup for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Land Rover has made no secret of the fact that they're on a journey of transformation. Since its break with Ford Motor Company, the British automaker has been trying to find itself, break through to a larger audience, and expand its lineup. Add in a heaping helping of modern technology and equipment and you get a sense of why now is the right time to bring back the Defender.

The production of the model that is now known as the Defender started in the 1980s under the name Land Rover 110. It was squared off, rugged, and purpose-built with no superficial exterior flourishes. As the model moved into production, it received coil springs, a permanent four-wheel drive system, fresh interior, one-piece windshield, and new engine lineup. In 1983, the Defender was officially born.

Land Rover Defender Chepstow RacecourseHorse shoes and motifs adorn a vintage Land Rover Defender during the 2016 Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow Racecourse.Photo by Getty Images

Land Rover stopped selling the Defender in the U.S. in 1997 due to safety regulations.

The return of the Land Rover Defender had long been rumored. By 2010, the automaker had confirmed a new model was in the works. The redesigned 2020 Land Rover Defender debuted on September 10, 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The look of the Defender is true to the original while taking into account modern safety regulations and aerodynamic qualities, and adding in the latest off-roading equipment, and fresh infotainment technology. The vehicle's frame is made of aluminum while steel and magnesium play an important roll in other parts of the SUV.

Land Rover Defender 2020 design stageThe Land Rover Defender design process was about serving the customer's needs and meeting their expectations.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The 2020 Defender comes in short and regular wheelbase models (named 90 and 110, respectively).

There's an Urban package for those who want the chic look of a Defender but required black wheels and exterior accents (hello, Americans) as well as Explorer, Adventure, and Country packs that add elements consistent with rugged travel.

"We don't create commodities," said Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover, at an unveiling event in Los Angeles last month. "We create vehicles that people have an emotional connection with."

2020 Land Rover Defender off-roading trailThe Land Rover Defender is a capable beast on- and off-road.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Part of creating that emotional connection is playing on the heritage of the model. McGovern noted that the 2020 Defender acknowledges the heritage of the Defender nameplate and moves it forward.

In addition to the sleek exterior, there are unmistakable design cues that showcase the vehicle as being ready for the future. Land Rover used a simple formula in the model's creation: visceral + behavioral + reflective = emotional design.

Land Rover Defender lifestyle campingLand Rover wanted to make the Defender the best it could be for its customers, without making them compromise.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Its presence is both commanding and robust, while still being stealthy thanks to the design of the fenders and integrated door handles. It has high sills and low overhangs.

Land Rover designers set out to create a vehicle that, like the original Defender, was fit for purpose, while at the same time having the potential to become an icon. Every generational redesign starts with a design brief. It was a, "clean, short brief," said Mark Wilson, vehicle engineering manager, Land Rover. "Just make it the best."

To get there, Land Rover focused on the buyer. The automaker sees its Defender customer as someone who fancies exploring nature, seeks utility and capability, and wants Defender to be a part of their life from mundane daily driving to heavy-duty off-roading, and everything in between.

2020 Land Rover Defender map infotainment screenThe interior of the Defender features modern technology that buyers are seeking.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

To get to icon status, the 2020 Defender was, "optimized to obtain supreme off-roading capability," said McGovern. The SUV's off-roading capability was put to the test throughout the design stage in terrain like what is seen in most modern Land Rover commercials. A Red Cross emergency response team even helped out with the SUV's development.

This January, Land Rover enthusiasts will be able to put the model to the test for the first time on U.S. soil at the 4xFAR Festival. If you don't want to wait until then to get your hands on one, there's a way to get the new Defender (or at least a version of it) under your tree at Christmas.

2020 Land Rover Defender Hell's Gate Moab UtahLand Rover tested the Defender in some of the world's toughest terrain.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The 2020 Land Rover Defender starts at $49,900 and customers can place their order today with deliveries starting in 2020.

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