All-new Land Rover Defender Commercial – off-road icon to return in 2020

  • Van version of brand new Defender debuted at 2019 Frankfurt motor show
  • Commercial will be based on the shorter Defender 90 for off-road agility
  • No official word yet on a pickup variant or longer wheelbase van models

While the passenger-carrying versions of the brand new Land Rover Defender were wowing the crowds at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show, Parkers Vans and Pickups was pleased to note that the Defender Commercial was also on display, even though the latest info we have suggests it won't go on sale until the third or fourth quarter of 2020.

Is it going to be worth the wait or should you go for the commercial versions of the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport or Toyota Land Cruiser instead? Read on for the low-down.

What do we know so far about the Defender Commercial?

Short of hinting about when it goes on sale, Land Rover’s being coy about the precise details of the Defender Commercial range.

Based on what was gracing the company’s stand in Frankfurt, it’s definitely going to appear as a closed-in van version of the short-wheelbase Defender 90 – like its predecessor the side windows are replaced with solid bodywork, while the rear seats and carpeted boot are swapped for a hard-wearing loadspace.

Given the popularity of the variety of bodystyles of the pensionable old Defender, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see pickup versions of the 90, as well as potentially longer 110 and extended 130 versions in the future, the latter pairing with double-cab bodywork.

Land Rover Defender Commercial - rear view, Frankfurt motor show 2019

Land Rover’s already lost ground to the likes of the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 and other pickups, and can’t really afford not to respond. These extra models are unlikely to arrive before 2021, though.

In case you're wondering, the Wilks Bros reference is to Maurice and Spencer Wilks, the two senior Rover executives who devised the first Land Rover in the aftermath of World War 2.

Will the new Defender be any good as a van?

Here’s one to give you bragging rights down the pub: the Defender Commercial’s based on underpinnings called D7x, which is a hardcore development of what’s also used in the Discovery and Range Rover, meaning it’s stiffer and even more capable off-road.

So whether you’re towing up to 3,500kg, carrying up to 300kg on the roof, wading through 900mm of water or climbing up 38-degree inclines without damaging any of the Defender Commercial’s underside, it should give all of the competition a run for their money.

Land Rover Defender Commercial - sign-writing on rear bodywork, Frankfurt motor show 2019

We’re still waiting for an official word on payload, but given the car versions can swallow 900kg of people and their stuff, the potential is promising for the Defender van, given the hefty rear seats will be absent.

However, you’ve only got a single side-hinged rear door to access the cargo area, with an aperture measuring 898mm at its narrowest point.

What engines will the Defender Commercial have?

Again, no official confirmation yet, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the Commercial to share up to three of the Defender 90’s four engine options – there’s unlikely to be much call for the 400hp petrol motor.

That leaves a pair of 2.0-litre turbodiesels – the D200 and D240 (the numbers relate to their horsepower outputs) being the most obvious choices, but it’s possible the P200 petrol may be offered for those who don’t require such lusty levels or torque or don’t cover significant annual mileages. An eight-speed automatic gearbox with low-range facilities and four-wheel drive will be standard fit.

Provisionally, car versions of the Defender are rated at 37.7mpg for the diesels and 28.8mpg for the petrol.

Land Rover’s also confirmed that a plug-in hybrid version of the Defender will be available, a powertrain that’s also likely to be available for the Commercial. Details are scant, but we expect it to feature a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine working in conjunction with an electric motor.

How good will it be off-road?

Given the revered status many hold the original Defender’s off-roading credentials, it’s highly likely that the newcomer will establish fresh benchmarks when it comes to off-road driving.

We’re speculating for now given the lack of official details, but expect much of the car version’s electronic trickery – such as Terrain Response 2 that reads the road surfaces to automatically adjust the throttle response and traction settings to the most appropriate levels – to be standard fitment.

Land Rover Defender Commercial - rear view with people, Frankfurt motor show 2019

Whether features such as air suspension or ClearSight Ground View, which renders images of what’s going on under the car on the infotainment screen, will be available isn’t yet clear.

It should also be significantly better on-road than the old version, too given the modernity of its underpinnings, plus a cabin that won’t require you to lower the driver’s door window in order to be able to sit comfortably behind the wheel.

Factor in climate control for the air-con and the convenience of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto depending upon your smartphone and it’s positively revolutionary inside compared with its ancient predecessor.

How much does the new Defender Commercial cost?

So far we only have a guide price that the Defender Commercial will start at around £35,000 plus VAT – that will be for a base-spec D200 sporting natty 18-inch steel wheels and rather rudimentary trim.

Dress-up packages and equipment designed to support more extreme off-road adventures will also be available, but are unlikely to be cheap.

Parkers will be one of the first to drive the all-new Land Rover Defender Commercial, so keep an eye on our website for the upcoming review.

Also read:

>> Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial 4x4 review

>> Ford Ranger pickup review

>> Jeep Gladiator pickup review