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Land Rover's Resilient, But Absent Defender
Tracing its routes back to postwar Britain, Land Rover has been one of the most recognized names on the Australian outback, the African savannah, and in many other far flung places around the world. Since 1948, Land Rover has rivaled Jeep and Toyota in providing the most versatile 4x4 vehicles on the planet. Today, the Defender model continues to trudge on with important updates scheduled for the 2007 model year. Please read on to capture the essence of a brand that has admirably served driver and passenger for nearly six full decades.
Straight from the rubble of the Second World War, Britain was in need of a vehicle that could serve farmers, the military, government officials, and the like. Particularly in the hilly midlands of central England, not just any car would do in a bid to carry doctors, veterinarians, and military personnel on their rounds. If a road became impassable, no motorcar could be trusted to do the job. Enter Land Rover.
The first Land Rover is actually derived from the American jeep that saw duty throughout the war. Using a Jeep chassis, brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks, both of whom worked for British automaker Rover decided that the Land Rover would go into production. Six decades later the company has evolved and changed ownership numerous times and the Defender, once offered for sale in the U.S., is no longer available in America.
Land Roverís decision to keep the Defender out of the U.S. market is hinged on one very important fact: the vehicle doesnít meet current stringent U.S. safety requirements. In particular, the Defender wasnít able to be fitted with front passenger airbags, a requirement mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Because of the limited number of models sold in the U.S. and the big expense of preparing the Defender for airbags, Land Rover decided to quit importing the model in 1998.
Defender enthusiasts mourned the decision, but knew that given some time the Defender model would reappear in the U.S. For the 2007 model year many changes have been made, but not enough to bring the storied Defender back to the U.S. The current updates, although many, are seen as only interim changes before an all new Defender is expected to be marketed in 2010. That model just may meet all of the safety requirements found lacking in the current rendition of the Defender.
For 2007 the Defender will see the following changes according to the companyís August 2006 press release:
--Introduction of a 2.4L common rail diesel engine
--A 6-speed gearbox for better off-roading and cruising abilities
--New front end treatment, better heating/ventilation, more comfortable seating
--The third row seat on the extended wheelbase model will be reversed to face front
Additionally, the Sport model will get the 3.6L V8 diesel now found in the Range Rover.
Alas, all of this good news does little for the American consumer other than perhaps encouraging them to remind their local Land Rover dealer that a road ready American Defender would certainly be welcome. With parent Ford Motor Company mulling the sale of both Land Rover and Jaguar, those changes are likely to come later, rather than sooner.
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