Mike Stevens | Mar 20, 2012

Land Rover's Defender is like the Komodo dragon: a living dinosaur. In the Defender's case, it's stayed true to a design that began in 1947 when an aluminium body was placed on a Jeep war-service chassis.

Iconic though it is, the current Defender has reached an evolutionary dead-end. Surpassed by its modern rivals, the big 4x4's sales are on the decline; in particular, its 1997 exit from the US market has taken a toll on its viability.

What next, then?

The 2011 DC100 and DC100 Sport concepts shown at last year's Frankfurt and LA shows are the future of the Defender, Land Rover has confirmed - although both are likely to undergo further refinement before hitting showrooms and sand dunes.

The pair will widen the appeal of the car and the brand, Global Brand Director John Edwards said, speaking to US website Inside Line this week.

land rover dc100 defender concept la auto show 02

The Frankfurt concepts were Land Rover's toe-in-the-water exercise.

The retro-styled show cars garnered a strong response, so the LA Auto Show version brought a more realistic take on what the production car might look like.

Broadening its market will help the Defender move more units, with simplified production leading to greater affordability.

In most markets, that will help the Defender take on that other 4x4 giant: Toyota.

The Japanese carmaker shifted almost 550,000 'pickups' in the US last year (including what we call the HiLux), and the new Defender is aimed squarely at that part of the market.

The old Defender will quietly slide away in 2015, just in time for the new species to arrive and take over.

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