LONDON -- The new Land Rover Defender will be the second vehicle to be built at Jaguar Land Rover's new Slovakian plant following the Discovery SUV, industry watchers predict.
The Defender will be built in five-door and three-door versions, mirroring the original rugged off-road vehicle that has become an iconic model since its 1948 launch.
Sales will start in 2020 and the SUV is expected to be revealed next year.
Spy pictures of the longer '110' five-door version testing in prototype form near JLR's UK headquarters show the new model keeps the angular, utilitarian looks of its predecessor. The shorter '90' version has also been seen in prototype form.
Like the old Defender, the rear door is side hinged, while the windshield is similarly upright.
The SUV will not be a straight clone of the outgoing model, JLR executives have said. "The new Defender will do all that our customers expect of it, without being a copycat of what has gone before," JLR chief marketing officer Felix Brautigam told Autocar at the Paris auto show in October. "It is a car for the modern world, and that means that it must move the game on if it is to be relevant."
The Defender will be built in JLR's 1.4-billion-euro plant in Nitra, Slovakia, which opened in October, IHS Markit has said. The plant has a capacity of 150,000 vehicles with the possibility of doubling that with further modifications. The plant builds the Discovery large SUV, which moved from its former production site of Solihull, central England.
The Defender could be the first vehicle to built on Jaguar Land Rover's new flexible Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA), which it said will be underpin the majority of its vehicles by 2025. JLR said in an investor presentation in July the first vehicle to use the architecture will arrive in 2020. Cars built on the architecture can be offered with mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric drivetrains, JLR said.