Los Angeles – Notably absent on the ‘green carpets’ of the Los Angeles Auto Show is talk of trucks. The show’s two media days were awash in ‘eco’ this and ‘environmentally sensitive’ that, but trucks and/or traditional SUV’s were notably absent. Except, thankfully, at Land Rover, where the Indian-owned company introduced to North American audiences both its DC100 and DC100 Sport concepts.
It’s not been a secret: Land Rover needs to provide its loyal ownership with an update on the legendary/iconic/historic (pick one or all) Defender. Intended as a farm implement for postwar Britain (in much the same way as our civilian Jeep was retailed for the hunting and fishing enthusiasts) Land Rover’s Ninety, One Ten and – later – Defender became symbols of Britain’s post-Colonial commercial expansion. Sold on virtually every continent, Land Rover’s Defender became the be-all/end-all of off-road motoring while inventing Adventure Touring. Our Jeep, of course, was big in the States, and Toyota’s HiLux remains the truck of choice for off-road terrorism, but the Defender is first in the hearts, minds and hiking boots of dirt devotees everywhere.
The production Defender, however, is old and, in an era of increased focus on the aforementioned environmental footprint, increasingly indefensible. In an attempt to move forward Land Rover is testing two Defender-like concepts, the DC100 and DC100 Sport. And within the almost sterile environment of the Los Angeles Convention Center, both communicated – in distinct ways – the essential goodness of Land Rover’s 60-plus years, while enclosing same in a far more contemporary wrapper.
In describing the motivation behind the two concepts, John Edwards – no, not that John Edwards – described the company’s ambition as “to create an all new Defender for a global market that remains absolutely faithful to its original DNA: tough, versatile, durable and capable.” Land Rover’s global brand diretor added, “At the same time, it will be developed for the 21st century and adaptable for the needs of future generations.”
The DC100’s toughness was underscored by just how masculine it looked while draped in a oh-so-gentle baby blue. Like its inspiration, the DC100’s two-box profile is as upright as the Queen, and is just as well planted, with all four wheels pushed to its corners. The back end is dominated by a tailgate mounted spare, while inside the cargo area we saw only a box marked ‘tools’. The only discordant note: an instrument panel dominated by an iPad-type pod, hardly the thing to rest your hiking boot against.
Unlike the tractor-type drivetrain of yore, the DC100 concepts incorporate all manner of high tech attributes, including a next-gen Land Rover Terrain Response, sonar technology to assess water depth and a driveline disconnect to physically decouple the rear axle to save fuel.
While the DC100 would warm the cockles of any Anglophile, living or dead, the Sport concept creates an entirely different impression. With no roof and a cropped windscreen, it impresses in much the same way as if Kia had attempted to commemorate an earlier, Defender-like clone. The end result might play well in Los Angeles, but we wouldn’t bet on its success in the sub-Sahara.