Land Rover’s 2020 Defender, and The Elephant in The Room

In psychology there’s a well-documented phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect. It basically states that the more often people see something, the more they tend to like it. This has proven effective on words, paintings, and even sounds, but now I’m beginning to think that Land Rover has been testing it on vehicles as well. You see, enthusiasts have been slinging unsavory names at the new Defender since the green oval introduced the DC100 concept back in 2011. In fact, the initial response was so negative that some news sources claimed Land Rover would be scrapping the idea altogether. They didn’t of course, but instead, “redesigned” it and delivered peek after small peek while incorporating a slow but ever increasing flare of off-road goodness in each shoot. This continued right up to this week’s photo release of the Defender sporting a snorkel while patrolling the African plains. It was the ultimate in Land Rover nostalgia. You could almost consider it a touch of magic it was so good. Yet after drooling over the images for quite some time, it suddenly struck me that eight years after loathing the DC100, I was basically chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of what is essentially, well, a DC100.

Pictured below left are the four and two-door DC100 concepts. Below on the right are the four and two-door 2020 Defenders

Now I’m not suggesting that Land Rover has simply pulled the wool over our eyes. Most of us saw these similarities right off the bat, yet looking at the two vehicles side by side, it’s hard not to wonder how our opinions have shifted to this extent over the years. I mean sure, the updated model has a more squared off front end (thank you), slightly larger windows, and a less aggressive windshield slope, but beneath the camouflage the bones appear more than similar. It begs the question; was Land Rover’s design just ahead of its time, or have we slowly grown to love it through a reveal process as long as many vehicle’s entire production cycles?
In the end, it doesn’t matter, because the fact remains that after seeing these latest images, we do begrudgingly love the 2020 Defender. Yes, it lacks the joy of oil leaks, the pleasure of rattles, and the charm of wind noise. Also absent is the back-twisting ergonomics, poor fuel economy (V8), and lumbering handling that we dismiss lovingly as “character,” but it retains most of the capability which made us treasure the original, and I guess that will have to be enough. This new Defender may not be the replacement we had all originally hoped for, but it’s almost certainly the one Land Rover and we probably need.

 

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Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.