The Defender, absent from this market since after the 1997 model year, returns to the United States in 2007 as a 2008 model. It retains its image as the purest, most committed sport/utility in Land Rover's lineup, although a smaller, more basic model reportedly is in the works for introduction a year later.

Land Rover is keen on cultivating the no-nonsense image of the Defender, which evokes the original postwar model made famous by the film "Born Free" and by the United Nations peacekeeping forces (before the Toyota Land Cruiser grabbed that market). The new model will remain functional and classic in design, but is expected to be a bit softer for the fun-seeking, less-affluent members of the youth market.

Now under Ford Motor Co.'s wings, the next Defender will be built with a new, modern body design on a steel frame. Short-wheelbase, long-wheelbase, and soft-top versions are in the works, although not all might be bound for North America. Gasoline engines will come from Ford: a direct-injection four with variable timing, a 3.0-liter Duratec V-6, and for the U.S. only, a 3.8-liter V-6. Peugeot will supply a 2.7-liter turbodiesel V-6 for Europe.