Due to a change in new European emissions and pedestrian safety laws, the Land Rover Defender has been granted a longer grace period: instead of biting the dust in 2015, it looks as though the venerable off-roader will be able to stick around until 2017.
A Land Rover source told Autocarthat"There are a number of changes to the legislation that mean we can keep the current Defender in production longer than we thought." Part of that is due to a change in the EU6 emissions regulations: these tweaks allow Land Rover to meet new standards with the brand's existing 2.2-liter diesel I-4. That said, the same stringent standards being applied in 2015 for gasoline-powered engines willapply to diesels in 2017, and force a redesign of either the Defender's powertrain. Another loophole for pedestrian safety regulations could allow the Defender's basic design continue as late as 2020.
According to Autocar, the commercial Defender 130 and long-wheelbase 110 versions are likely the only instances of the current Defender range to live past 2015. The short-wheelbase Defender 90 would be replaced that year by an all-new model. Land Rover previewed what a new Defender could look like at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this year with its DC 100 and DC 100 Sport concepts. Both vehicles retained the traditional 100-inch wheelbase, upright greenhouse, and go-anywhere ability, but broke considerable new ground in terms of styling. While Land Rover executives confirmed a new consumer Defender will arrive in 2015, they maintain that the DC concepts are just one possibility for the evolution of the off-roader, and not necessarily the final design.
The Land Rover Defender is one of the oldest designs on sale today. Although the Defender launched in 1983, its basic design isn't far removed from the original Land Rover, which was built in 1948. The model left the U.S. market in 1997 because it didn't meet a number of new safety requirements, including the mandate for dual front airbags. There is no word yet if a new Defender will return to our shores, although executives have hinted at the possibility.