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Watch Land Rover test the new Defender in the desert

Redesigning an icon is never easy, especially one that essentially hasn't changed for more than three decades, as is the case for the Land Rover Defender. Nevertheless, Land Rover is pressing ahead with development of a new Defender and to ensure it lives up to the reputation of its predecessor, the automaker is taking testing to the extremes.

This includes testing in the hot and dusty conditions of the Middle East desert during the summer. During one of the sessions, Land Rover contacted drivers from the International Federation of Red Cross and asked them to try some of the prototypes for the new Defender.

The Red Cross drivers are regularly required to travel across some of the harshest terrain, and thus are used to driving tough, off-road vehicles. For the test, the Red Cross drivers sampled the new Defender on the desert sand dunes near Dubai and on the famous Jebel Jais highway climb.

The test also coincided with the renewal of a partnership between Land Rover and the Red Cross that was first struck in 1954, when the first specially adapted Land Rover entered service as a mobile dispensary. As part of the renewed partnership, Land Rover will support the Red Cross in disaster preparedness and response initiatives in Australia, India and Mexico.

2020 Land Rover Defender tested with International Federation of Red Cross

“We operate in some of the most hard-to-reach places on earth, often working in very difficult terrain, so our teams have to be able to cope with anything,” Ilir Caushaj, the Red Cross's head of global fleets and logistics, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re proud to have partnered with Land Rover since 1954, and to be putting their new Defender to the test, as together they help us reach vulnerable communities in crisis, whoever and wherever in the world they are.”

The new Defender will be revealed this year, most likely in September, with sales to start in 2020, including in the United States. The vehicle will be more road-focused than before, with prototypes seen with independent suspension front and rear. Multiple body styles will also be available, including a short-wheelbase Defender 90, standard-wheelbase Defender 110, and a rumored Defender 130 stretch with eight seats.

2020 Land Rover Defender tested with International Federation of Red Cross

According to leaked info, there will be a six-strong powertrain lineup consisting of three gasoline engines and three diesels. The most potent powertrains will allegedly be found in P400 and P400e grades. The P400 will likely feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 while the P400e will likely feature a plug-in hybrid setup pairing a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with an electric motor. In both cases you should be looking at more than 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. A battery-electric powertrain is also a possibility at some point.

Production has been confirmed to take place at Land Rover's new plant in Nitra, Slovakia, and not in the Defender's traditional home of Solihull, United Kingdom.