Land Rover has teased some new images of the next-gen Defender wrapped in camouflage and strutting its off-road stuff in the desert outside of Dubai. The test, conducted under the auspices of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), saw the hotly-anticipated SUV climb the tallest mountain in the United Arab Emirates with ease.
With the new Defender set to make its public debut later this year, Land Rover is going to have to remove the camo wrapper soon and let us see what the thing actually looks like. And because the original Defender, whose shape remained largely unchanged for nearly 70 years, had so many diehard fans, there's a lot at stake if the completely re-designed and re-engineered version doesn't immediately gain a devoted following of its own.
Both Land Rover engineers and the IFRC officials – who can be expected to place large fleet orders for the new Defender if it measures up – tested the vehicle on and off road, and the photos showed that it was extremely capable on desert sand dunes, the twisty tarmac of Jebel Jais highway, and going up the Jebel Jais mountain whose peak reaches 6,345 ft.
Land Rover’s partnership with the International Red Cross goes back to 1954 when the first specially adapted Land Rover entered its service as a mobile medical dispensary. Land Rover has said that over the next three years it will support the IFRC's disaster preparedness efforts and response initiatives in locations including India, Mexico, and Australia, presumably with the new Defender leading the way.
“The Red Cross supports millions of people in crisis every year, working in almost every country in the world," notes Ilir Caushaj, IFRC’s Team Lead for Global Fleets and Logistics. "We operate in some of the most hard-to-reach places on earth, often working in very difficult terrain, so our teams have to be able to cope with anything. That’s why we’re proud to have partnered with Land Rover since 1954 and to be putting their new Defender to the test." In other words, "we'll take 10,000, please, and don't forget the friend and family discount."
Even with temperatures topping 105 degrees in the desert, the Defender prototype "shrugged off the steep ascents, demanding side slopes and blind crests," Land Rover says. Following which it neatly navigated the "iconic hairpins of the Jebel Jais highway.... as the Defender demonstrated its on-road comfort and agile handling" while ascending the impressive peak.
"The dunes of Dubai are the perfect place to confirm that this is the most capable Land Rover ever made," says Nick Rogers, Land Rover's Executive Director of Product Engineering. "It sits on tires with an overall diameter of up to 815mm, resulting in a very large contact patch. Coupled with our bespoke traction control system, which monitors and adjusts for a large variety of terrains, this makes the new Defender fantastic on sand and incredibly smooth on road as well.”
So far, prototype Defenders have covered nearly 750,000 miles of testing, including, in addition to its desert ordeal, a week-long trial with wildlife conservation charity Tusk in Kenya, and an appearance on the famous hill climb at the UK's Goodwood Festival of Speed.
OK, Land Rover, we get the point. Now it's time to take the costume off and show us what you've got.