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New 2020 Land Rover Defender: exterior image leaked

A leaked image of the all new Land RoverDefender appears to show the all new 4x4 completely undisgised. The photo, which can be seen in the Instagram post embedded below, gives us a clear look at the new car's boxy shape months ahead of the car's planned launch date.

The front three-quarter image shows what appears to be a production model - albeit missing its bonnet.  Squared-off details, from the flared wheel arches to the LED headlamps, are immediately clear, while the upright windscreen and flat, contrasting roof are clear throwbacks to the original Defender.

Previous disguised test mules shows that the old Defender holds further cosmetic influence over its replacement; we'll also see slab-sided flanks, vertical rear tail lights and trademark tailgate-mounted spare wheel. 

The leaked image follows on from an earlier shot which gave us a glimpse of the Defender's cabin. Technology-wise, the interior will take a big step up over that of its predecessor, with a large central screen and a digital instrument binnacle, much like the system fitted to the latest Land RoverDiscovery. Like the old model, the Defender will retain its chunky, practical heater controls and traditional rotary volume knob.

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Land Rover previously released a suite of teaser images, showing a fleet of camouflaged Defender mules being put to work by the Kenyan wildlife conservation charity, Tusk. The prototype 4x4s were used  by the organisation’s wildlife managers for towing heavy loads, tracking radio-collared lions and carrying supplies across the 14,000-hectare Borana Conservancy in a bid to test the 4x4’s real-world performance.

By the time it reaches the UK market in 2020, the new Land Rover Defender will have completed more than 45,000 individual tests. It’s been tested on all manner of surfaces, including the muddy backwaters of Eastnor, UK, the rocky trails of Death Valley, USA and the sand dunes of Dubai.

Throughout its colourful testing programme, the Defender has been subjected to temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius and as high as 48 degrees Celsius. Prototypes have reached maximum attitudes of 13,000ft, racking up more than 1.2 million kilometres (around 750,000 miles) across 11 countries.

The new Defender was designed and developed in the UK, at the firm’s engineering facility in Gaydon. Global production of the new Defender will be handled by Land Rover’s recently-opened manufacturing plant in Nitra, Slovakia.

New Land Rover Defender: design

Over the last few months, we’ve spied both a short wheelbase Defender ‘90’ and a long wheelbase Defender ‘110.’ On the road, the latter of the two versions looks vast, being similar in stature to the current Land Rover Discovery.

While it’s clear that it will borrow design cues from modern Land Rover and Range Rover models, there are other details that will clearly mark the car out as a true Land Rover Defender. The headlights, for example, seem to feature a clear round headlamp with small indicator bulbs to the side - albeit fared into the main unit, unlike the classic Defender.

Like the old model, Land Rover’s latest Defender mules have a large, completely flat bonnet, with a slim grille below. The familiar Land Rover vents are visible behind the front wheel-arches, while the tail lights are designed to ape the classic model’s. Also like the old Defender, a side-hinged tailgate gives access to the luggage bay.

The new Defender will have an aluminium body built on an aluminium chassis, borrowing a range of components from other Land Rover vehicles. JLR executive, Dr Ralph Speth, said: “We’re already doing this now… We used the modular architecture and elements of our chassis for weight reduction to make the new Discovery a better-handling car. We will do so also in the future because we always learn.”

Previous mules have been powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine, according to registration information held by the DVLA, while other prototypes have been running a petrol engine. With Land Rover having already confirmed that all its models post 2020 will be electrified in some way, we expect that each powertrain will feature at least a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.

A few months ago, an undisguised interior image of the Defender was leaked on Twitter. The picture, which has since been deleted also revealed the SUV’s infotainment system, along with the hint of a middle seat (suggesting a potential three-seat layout) and an amusing set of labelled pedals with “GO” stamped on the accelerator and “STOP” printed on the brake.

New Land Rover Defender: large family planned

Beyond the launch of the basic model, Land Rover is planning to introduce a series of Defender models, spanning a variety of shapes and body styles. Land Rover's chief marketing officer Felix Bräutigam told Auto Express: "One of the exciting things for us is that we are not launching a car, we are launching a family of cars.”

Furthermore, design boss Gerry McGovern has hinted that a performance SVR version could be on the cards. Such a car would be developed by Jaguar Land Rover’s newly formed Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, and would allow the brand to tap into demand in Russia and China for powerful and luxurious rugged off-roaders, currently dominated by the Mercedes-AMG G 63.

It's also likely that a hardcore Defender SVX will join the range at some stage and we could even see a luxurious SVA version in line with the Range Rover SVAutobiography. Whatever happens, the new Defender will continue Land Rover’s move upmarket. “In its core form it can be something that can be quite elemental up to something incredibly luxurious,” said McGovern.

Prices are yet to be confirmed for the new Defender, but we expect the cheapest short-wheelbase Defender ‘90’ will start from around £40,000.

Are you holding out for the new Land Rover Defender, or would you rather have this Defender-inspired Suzuki Jimny? Let us know below...