Land Rover came into existence in 1948 with the launch of a WWII Jeep-inspired utility vehicle with part-time four-wheel-drive. The vehicle has been extensively developed over the years into the Defender, but the same basic construction of aluminum body on steel chassis remains, and the bodywork is more or less assembled by hand.
For ease of manufacturing and regulatory compliance, the company needs a replacement vehicle and used the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show to launch a range of prototypes named DC100 to gauge reaction four years ahead of the proposed launch date.
Two prototypes were on display, both short-wheelbase models, one a station wagon and the other an open top two-seater. At the Land Rover press conference, Design Director Gerry McGovern said that the company wanted to attract new customers and retain existing Defender buyers, suggesting that long- and short-wheelbase models would remain in the range.
“How do you ever replace something that’s heart-felt and dear to so many people?” said Oliver Le Grice, Chief Designer for Advanced Design Land Rover, speaking to AEI, “It’s that emotional connection that people have with it, and that’s what we’ve fought hard to keep in balance here. It’s very much about that front end, about the ‘face’. From the direct front view, we have this approachability and friendliness. We didn’t want anything that had a hint of the aggressive nature. A lot of vehicles around now look as though they would bite your head off. This mustn’t look like that; this must be about a friendly and approachable feel.
“We very deliberately said if you look at today’s car you can draw it from side view. That’s the outline, it’s really recognizable, and that’s absolutely vital. It’s simple—the ‘plant-on’ roof, simple graphics, the short overhangs, break-over angle, and a really strong stance. It’s got to have that sense of capability and self-confidence.”
Mark Butler, the Interior Design Manager for the DC100 project, told AEI where his team started from with the interior design, “It’s about capturing the flexibility that’s inherent within our Land Rovers. We make something like 120 different variants of the current Defender, so it’s about keeping that degree of flexibility within the design. The very simple architectural dashboard with the central instrument cluster very much roots itself in the early (Land Rover) series. We’ve kept the dashboard very open and we can get the three seats across the front—the centre one being an occasional seat.
“Into the rear of the vehicle, we’ve got this concept for an inductive charging system.” This could be used for charging a music system in leisure models or power tools in commercial variants. Other features include a variable seating configuration and drain holes in the floor to permit hosing out.
Sustainability and durability are key features, reckons Joanna Keatley, the Color and Materials Designer for Advanced Design Land Rover. “We wanted to take the exterior inside as well, so we’ve been looking at really high-performance sports products—how they’re stitched together and the detail in them,” she told AEI, speaking about the DC100 Sport open concept. “The really high-tech material in here is the floor. It was developed with a Canadian company using a high-tech 3D digital process. It changes its appearance through light, shadow, and pattern, so from one angle you see a mesh rubber floor and from another you see the tribal stripe. It’s something that architects use on film sets, so we’re just trying to bring in something slightly different.”
Land Rover will be gauging reaction at Frankfurt and using the feedback to help develop the DC100 design direction.