They may have design cues dating back 70 years but the latest Jeep and forthcoming Land Rover are more chic and advanced than ever. The Jeep was originally designed for the American Army during the Second World War and only went on sale to the public in 1945.
Soon after that, the first Land Rover appeared in 1948. British designer Maurice Wilks is said to have got his inspiration from the go-anywhere US Jeep. Anglo-American rivalry over which is the best off-roader has been rumbling on ever since.
The Jeep was later re-badged Wrangler and Land Rover now calls its machine Defender.
However, with the 2015 Wrangler as much a stylish urban machine as practical workhorse, Land Rover is about to hit back with the biggest overhaul of Defender in the company’s history.
Official pictures of the new vehicle are due out this month and the most capable and cool Land Rover ever built will then go on sale in the summer of 2016.
Jessica Saunders, director of programmes at London College of Fashion, says: “Everybody knows what both a Land Rover and Jeep look like but the DNA will change for good next year.
“The concept Land Rover we’ve seen in some photographs suggests a very different machine. It’s still very much a Land Rover but more a style wagon than farm load-lugger.
“The Jeep has changed dramatically, too. It still looks like the original in many ways but the interior and colour schemes are design-led to appeal to a much broader audience.”
Land Rover will have its work cut out with its new model because the current Jeep is among the most serious off-road vehicles available.
Combine that with luxurious interior trim, extra bodywork detailing and some funky colours and you can understand why urbanites are buying more Jeeps than ever.
Jeep 2015 vs the new Land Rover: which is best off-road?
Unashamedly rugged in world of ‘soft’ roaders, the current Jeep remains more than capable of tackling any terrain. There’s plenty of ground clearance, a switchable gearbox for more traction in mud and those wide, 18-inch alloy wheels.
It still has enough pull to drag a tank out of a minefield but inside are soft leather seats, a premium audio system (you can actually hear!), satellite navigation and automatic headlights.
Those features might sound like standard kit on a lot of everyday cars but remember – both the Jeep and Defender are best known for ploughing across a muddy field while towing a horse box.
While the new Jeep feels considerably more civilised than the current Land Rover on-road, all that is likely to change next summer when the latest Defender is revealed.
The new Land Rover Defender
The car will again be made of lightweight, rust-free aluminium but will also sit on an aluminium chassis for the first time. The outgoing steel frame was the Achilles heel of the current car.
It will feature the latest petrol and diesel engines and mated to a standard, eight-speed automatic gearbox for the first time. Land Rover has still to announce if there will be a manual model.
Inside, expect more ‘premium durability’, the term Land Rover likes to give to equipment that will make the new model even more appealing to city buyers as much as country folk.
Land Rover has yet to confirm details but there is even talk of a soft-top to sit alongside three- and five-door models too.
The company’s design director, Gerry McGovern, has been quoted as saying the new look will be ‘radical’ but much-needed to take the Defender to sales figures of 70,000 a year.
It’s decades since these two off-roaders went head to head but the competition still rages, thanks to modern build technology – and some cool colours!
Old school 4x4s with new technology
Toyota Land Cruiser The 2015 model comes equipped with go-anywhere ability, plus dusk-sensing headlights, ventilated seats, Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment and triple zone climate control.
Izuzi D Max A long-serving pick-up truck with legendary ability now keeps you comfortable with electrically adjusted seats, a six-speaker hi-fi system and rear parking sensors.
Nissan X-Trail Once an everyday SUV, new X-Trail features DAB radio, touchscreen sat nav, cruise control and a third row of seats