When Land Rover revealed that it was bringing back the Defender nameplate for the 2020 model year, loyalists and Defender fans here in the U.S. celebrated the return of an icon that had not been seen in the U.S. market for several decades. However, the move also drew an equal amount of criticism from some that claimed the Defender abandoned its commercial origins for the sake of more luxury and design. Land Rover was keen on proving those skeptics wrong, and has unveiled more information regarding the entry level Defender Hard Top variant.
This is actually not the first time that we have seen the Hard Top, with the model debuting alongside its pricier siblings at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. Back then, Land Rover did not say too much about the Hard Top, preferring to focus the bulk of the world’s attention on some of the luxury and design improvements offered by the volume focused Defender models. With those variants now being launched, the company has finally allowed the Defender Hard Top to bask in the limelight. According to Land Rover reps, the Hard Top nameplate traces its roots back to 1950, and in a curious plot twist, it was developed by the brand’s Special Vehicle Operations Team (the same engineers that have played a hand in crafting some of Land Rover’s performance SUVs.) While we can only imagine how they felt about creating something not meant for the track, the end result is a very admirable effort on their part, and adds a touch of character to the Defender too.
While the Defender Hard Top does use the same aluminium intensive platform as the standard Defender, steel wheels are used instead of pricier alloys, and a metal panel replaces the rear most window, which allows commercial buyers to use the space to add their logos and contact information. Land Rover did not reveal any photos of the interior, but the company did reveal that the Hard Top comes with two front seats standard.
Buyers looking for more seats can opt for a center jump seat that raises occupancy to three passengers. The jump seat is also as far as you can go in terms of gaining passenger space, with the company requiring buyers to move up the trim hierarchy to achieve maximum people hauling capability. The Hard Top was instead built to haul cargo, and the removal of the back seats allowed engineers to create enough room for the model to easily swallow a standard sized shipping pallet.
But Land Rover could only go so far with the amount of technology that it could strip out of the Defender Hard Top, and it will still be one of the most technologically advanced commercial vehicles you can buy. For instance, it still comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, as well as the ability to receive over the air updates. Along with the infotainment system, the Hard Top Defender also receives a whole suite of driving aides including the ClearSight rear camera mirror, Advanced Tow Assist, a 360 degree rear backup camera, as well as the Terrain Response 2 system. This is a big leg up over the original Defender which limited driver assistance to essential items such as the pedals, a handbrake lever, a steering wheel, the shifter for the manual transmission, and the steering wheel.
Land Rover did not release performance data for the Hard Top, but befitting its commercial aspirations, we suspect that instead of the electrified engines seen in consumer Defenders, these will most likely be equipped with turbodiesel engines to help with fuel economy and reliability. Both the 90 and 110 Hard Top will feature an independent steel springed suspension system, but the bigger 110 can be equipped with an optional adaptive air suspension.
While it is unknown whether the Hard Top will be sold in the U.S. market, Land Rover did reveal pricing for the United Kingdom with base Hard Top 90 models starting at £35,500 including tax. This roughly translates to $44,000 in U.S. dollars, and is also about £5,000 ($6,000) less expensive than the least expensive non-commercial model sold in that country. While the global version will face stiff competition from the upcoming Ineos Grenadier, a potential U.S. version would have double the work to do in order to make itself relevant. In addition to having to establish a fan base, a U.S. spec Hard Top Defender would also have to try and steal sales away from segment stalwarts such as the Ford Transit Connect, Ram ProMaster City, as well as the aging but still widely used Chevrolet Express van.