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Land Rover DC100 Defender concept review

Just two days before it appears at the Geneva show, we drive the Land Rover DC100 Defender concept.

Shane O' Donoghue

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D

Published on: March 5, 2012

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D

Published on: March 5, 2012

Tech Specs

Model testedLand Rover DC100 Defender concept car
Engine5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmissionsix-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door SUV
RivalsJeep Wrangler, Skoda Yeti, Volkswagen Cross Coupé
Launch date2015

This is not an assessment of a car's dynamics. The Land Rover DC100 concept is a styling buck built on a modified Range Rover Sport platform and its mechanicals were thrown together purely to move the show car. Instead we look at the overall concept and the technology featured. Though we did get behind the wheel...

In the metal 5/5

We'll gloss over the fit and finish of the DC100 show car, as it's not important at this stage. It's all about the style, and the show car has that in spades. It looks even better outside in the daylight than it does in a relatively dark motor show hall and a snowy mountain seems to be the perfect setting.

Gerry McGovern and his design team have caused a certain amount of controversy with the DC100 cars, as Defender traditionalists decry the loss of the original's purity. We're not quite sure what was expected, as the 2015 replacement for the icon has to move the game forward. While the chunky style of the DC100 may appeal to buyers that would never have dreamed of looking at the Defender, it also retains all the core elements to ensure it remains invincible off the beaten track - things like its wading depth and short overhangs.

On the inside, the concept has been designed with the Defender's simplicity in mind, though the DC100's cabin far more attractive to look at. The laid back driving position in the concept is completely different to that of the Defender's and the concept is wider so there's much more elbow room.

Driving it

As mentioned above, we'll not insult Land Rover by attempting a dynamic assessment of a one-off show car. But there are a few things you get the feel of, including decent visibility, which is maintained thanks to an upright windscreen and C-pillars that you can see through. Drive is selected crudely under the centre console of the concept, though the positioning of the automatic selector high up on the dashboard signals a possible solution, freeing up the floor nicely.

The wheel-at-each corner stance makes it easy to place the car, though its width won't be welcomed by extreme off-road enthusiasts. Strip away the massive 20-inch alloys and it's conceivable that a more demure version would be offered for those buyers. We've also been assured that, despite the wealth of technology previewed, it's highly likely that the next Defender will be available in a very basic format.

What you get for your Money

We have no idea what the new Defender will cost, or how Land Rover will manage the various requirements of the platform, but there's no doubt that it could feature some cool new technology. We'll go into the off-road side of things in a minute, but other items discussed include an optional 'Leisure Key'. This takes the form of a lightweight bracelet with a tiny RFID tag built into it that can lock and unlock the car. It enables the likes of surfers, divers, etc. to secure their car and take the key with them in a convenient way. It has already been Thatcham approved and can withstand depths of more than 50m.

No doubt the next Defender will have some form of smartphone app integration too. Land Rover foresees a day when all of your car's data, such as fuel level, next service, tyre pressure, temperatures, etc. are seamlessly conveyed to your phone.

Worth Noting

The most exciting technology previewed on the DC100 concept relates to its off-road ability. First up are tyres that feature spikes, which can be deployed or retracted at the touch of a button. Though originally designed for snow, it's also possible that they could be used when on wet grass, reducing the car's damage to the surface.

Next up is sonar assisted wading. Land Rover has so far only discussed a system that monitors the surface of the water and whether it's rising to unsafe levels for the capability of the car, but it admits that it is also considering a system that maps the river bed ahead of the vehicle, which could be invaluable.

The next generation of Terrain Response will react automatically to the surface underneath using input from various sensors around the car, while the generation after may even have forward looking sensors that attempt to map the terrain and assist the driver with tackling it by identifying obstacles.

Torque vectoring is useful on the road to aid agility, but Land Rover has discovered uses off the road too, including helping traverse a steep, slippery slope with more stability - useful while towing a horse box for instance.

Summary

Although the DC100 show car is not really one for driving, a close encounter with the concept has revealed a lot about Land Rover's plans for the future of the Defender. Talking to the engineers involved has perhaps revealed even more. The company is acutely aware of the iconic status of the car it needs to replace, yet it also wants to move it forward. Marrying the requirements of the traditionalists with a whole new generation of tech-mad buyers will be a challenge, but if the 2015 Defender looks half as cool as the DC100 then that's a very good start.



Tech Specs

Model testedLand Rover DC100 Defender concept car
Engine5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmissionsix-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door SUV
RivalsJeep Wrangler, Skoda Yeti, Volkswagen Cross Coupé
Launch date2015