Land Rover DC100 Concepts - Frankfurt Auto Show

Land Rover is in the process of reinventing itself. Today, cars like the Range Rover Sport and Evoque star in rap videos and are promoted at high fashion events. It wasn't always like that.

The Land Rovers of old were rugged workhorses. The Land Rover Defender became the world standard for tough, no-nonsense vehicles that could go anywhere. So what happens when the time comes to replace an off-roading icon?

Land Rover unveiled a pair of concept vehicles today in Frankfurt that may provide some clues to what the new Defender could look like.

The first of the SUV concepts is the DC100. The two-door SUV's chunky styling and modern curves are a major departure from the box-on-wheels look of the old Defender.

To mix things up a bit, Land Rover brought out another take on the concept: The DC100 Sport - convertible version of the SUV. The open-topped off-roader has been designed to conjure up images of old soft-top Defenders, whose windshields could lay flat on the hood like a Jeep's.

The company said it plans to release the new Defender some time in 2015, but execs did say that the DC100 and DC100 Sport are just two of the many designs the company is working on.

"Replacing the iconic Defender is one of the biggest challenges in the automotive design world; it is a car that inspires people worldwide," said Gerry McGovern, Land Rover's design director "This isn't a production-ready concept, but the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century."

Whatever styling direction the company eventually takes, it's pretty clear the new Defender will be stuffed with modern technology. The company said it is looking into terrain mapping software and sonar systems to help drivers deal with rough trails.

Not all of the concept's tech will make it into the final product though. Unfortunately, we don't expect the truck's James Bond-esque driver activated tire spike system to make it to the 2015 Defender.

Make no mistake, the DC100 and DC100 Sport are major departures from the Defender of old, and they have been designed that way on purpose. "We have no desire to imitate our history," McGovern said.

But bringing the old model up-to-date is key. While an icon in other countries, the Defender had a fairly limited run in the US. It was forced to depart the American market when new government safety regulations required front airbags in all cars - a demand the spartan Rover wasn't able to meet.

 

See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.

 

J. MARK STERNBERG is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.