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Land Rover DC100 previews new Defender (photos)

After 25 years, Land Rover plans an update to its iconic Defender model. As a first test, the DC100 concept previews what the new Defender might look like when it is launched in 2015.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Land Rover is planning an update to its Defender model in 2015, after nearly 25 years in its current form. The DC100 and DC100 Sport concepts are the first attempt at a design for the 21st century. As modern vehicles, the DC100 concepts are built on a frame made of light alloys, as opposed to the heavy steel of the current Defender.
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Land Rover envisions a four-cylinder gasoline or diesel engine for the DC100 concepts, possibly with a hybrid electric motor. But Land Rover emphasizes that the concept would use its latest off-road technology to make it even more capable than the current Defender. An air suspension changes the ride height by 12.6 inches, and the vehicle features a fording system using sonar to gauge water depth, automatically adjusting to cope or warning the driver of dangerous underwater drop-offs. The concept also features an integrated winch capable of supporting the weight of the vehicle.
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The DC100 concept is specified with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and would use an advanced form of Land Rover's current Terrain Response System. The new system does not require the driver to select the terrain type, instead using sensors and a camera to determine the driving surface, and automatically adapting its four-wheel drive, stability, and suspension. The driver can also decouple the rear wheels from the drive system at the touch of a button for optimal fuel economy.
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The DC100 Sport variant is meant to echo the current Defender's open-air capabilities, and show that Land Rover is not giving up on the versatility of the current model. Where the DC100 is meant to retain appeal with current military, wilderness guide, and other utility customers, the Sport model looks to a more general, recreational buyer.
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Although getting similar off-road capabilities to the DC100 concept, the Sport model would have a magnetic adaptive suspension, giving it better on-road performance. But it would still have the advanced Terrain Response System. One intriguing feature Land Rover specifies for both concepts is a tire spike system. A secondary air chamber in the tires can be inflated, pushing spikes out from the tire treads to gain traction on ice or other particularly slipper surfaces.
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Unlike the roofed rear cabin of the DC100, the Sport model uses the rear area for cargo. Under a removable cover is a load floor with tie-downs for bicycles and other outdoor recreational gear. Land Rover says that each concept would have full towing capabilities.
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The front seats of both concepts are designed as a three person bench. The middle seat covers a storage area, while the right side is removable to allow more cargo capacity. Anticipating the electronic needs of future buyers, the DC100 would have an inductive charging strip in the cabin, for wireless charging of portable electronics and tools.
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This central screen is conceived as a removable tablet. When docked in the car, it shows camera images from around the DC100, helping navigate tough off-road situations, along with navigation and communications derived from the car's 3G and satellite connections.

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