GOODWOOD, England -- Jaguar Land Rover sought to crank up the drama surrounding the first public outing of its revamped Defender SUV, keeping the car in disguise on a hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The successor to the iconic model, produced almost unchanged through seven decades, will go on sale next year with an official unveil planned in the coming months. On Thursday it remained in heavy camouflage to hide its design and help maximize the impact of a vehicle that will be more closely pored over than any other in JLR's range.
While the company has moved upmarket with its most luxurious Range Rovers selling for more than 150,000 pounds ($189,000), the go-anywhere ability of a model traditionally favored by farmers and explorers is still a key attraction for customers who will never leave the highway.
The vehicle will establish itself as the world's most capable off-road performer while offering "engaging on-road dynamics," Land Rover Chief Engineer Mike Cross said at the event near England's south coast, suggesting it may offer a smoother ride than the sometimes bone-shaking original.
No price has yet been revealed for the 2020 launch but the car will likely retail from around 40,000 pounds, according to reports, significantly more than the old model. It will come in three versions, seating between five and eight people, sources say.
JLR has said that all of its models will have some form of electric option from next year, without revealing whether the Defender will come as a hybrid or feature an all-electric variant.
The Defender will make two uphill runs a day at the Goodwood event, which ends Sunday. A second car, displayed clambering over boulders at the JLR podium, had its lights, grill and other external features masked. The body has been padded out to disguise its true contours, according to a company official.
JLR has clocked up 1.5 million in test kilometers for the Defender and recently completed what it called a "real-world" trial in Kenya that saw the SUV wade rivers, climb steeply sloping hillsides and pull heavily loaded trailers while tracking lions in the Borana game reserve.
First glimpses confirmed the new car features the same boxy silhouette as the original British legend that ceased production in 2016. The vehicle counted Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II among its fans, and shuttled soldiers in the Korean War and Red Cross volunteers to crisis zones.
That model stayed remarkably unchanged until tougher carbon-dioxide emission standards and pedestrian safety concerns eventually made an overhaul unavoidable. Of the more than 2 million built, around 70 percent are thought to survive today.
Putting the new Defender on the road is a bright spot for JLR as it struggles with fallout from the UK's decision to leave the European Union and slumping sales in China. JLR -- now owned by India's Tata Motors -- said in January it would cut 10 percent of its workers globally.
The new car was developed in Gaydon, England, and will be produced at Land Rover's new, lower-cost plant in Slovakia.