I remember as a young child visiting the local British car dealership while my dad inked the deal on a new Jag (which I dearly miss to this day). I was busy checking out a big red Land Rover Defender 90. Sitting there next to the polished Bentleys, Rollers, Jags and Range Rovers, the Defender stood out in its primitive, bare-bones essence, the inside of its doors exposed so you could see the latch cable and its fenders covered in industrial diamond-plating. That's the same basic experience people have been enjoying for nearly sixty years, that's how long the Defender has been in production. Every so often, Land Rover gives it some new features, but the outer extremity of the utility off-road market is the one place left in the industry where you don't mess with success: nearly two million Defenders have been sold to date, despite the tiny market of off-road enthusiasts that would even consider buying one.

The 2007 model is about to hit the market in the UK, and comes with a new list of equipment. There's a new 2.4-liter common-rail diesel driving all four wheels through a revised six-speed with taller ratios. The new engine is rounded out by an integrated front fascia, new seating setup and an improved A/C system.

Even before specially-built versions like ambulances and airport fire trucks are taken into account, the Defender is offered in no less than 14 distinct body-styles, including various configurations of the Defender 90, 110 and 130, all produced on the same assembly line. Among its varied customer base, NGOs love the Defender, despite the atrocious carbon emissions levels, for which a unique tax is applied in the UK. The Defender starts at £18,645 and ranges all the way up to £26,605, and that's before any special equipment is added into the mix.

The "updated" Defender hits the road – and the road less traveled – as a reminder of a time when SUVs were mud-playing beasts, like when the Defender first hit the market, or like when I was a little boy. And, the occasional minor tweak notwithstanding, I (for one) hope it stays just as it is.

Follow the jump for the press release.

[Source: Land Rover UK]

PRESS RELEASE

ICONIC DEFENDER IMPROVED FOR 2007

Gaydon, Warwickshire, 20 March 2007 – The new 2007 Land Rover Defender goes on sale in the UK on 16 April 2007, featuring comprehensive upgrades to make it better-equipped to meet modern day needs.

The iconic Defender, a vehicle whose roots date back to 1948, benefits from a new 2.4-litre common rail diesel engine, six-speed gearbox with wide ratio spread, a fully integrated facia, new seating configuration and high output heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. These enhancements ensure improved on- and off-road performance, comfort and refinement.

Prices will start from £18,645 for the Defender 90 Pick Up and rise to £26,605 for the XS Double Cab Defender 110, with an average price increase of only £400. The Defender 130 starts from £22,655 and will be available from Land Rover dealerships in July.

"Defender remains a significant contributor to our business, with on average 6000 units sold year on year in the UK and we already have over 800 pre-orders for the new 2007 model," says John Edwards, managing director, Land Rover UK.

"It is also a symbol of our 4x4 heritage, a reminder of our roots and it plays a vital role in the lives of the 25,000 customers from all corners of the globe that buy one. Farmers, aid-workers, NGOs and explorers the world over value Defender's versatility, its extraordinary strength, robustness and capability. The unique combination of these attributes helps account for the model's exceptionally high levels of customer loyalty."

In spite of the improvements, Defender's unique vehicle architecture remains the same. The chassis frame is still available in three different wheelbases, and in both standard and heavy-duty guise (for even greater load-bearing capabilities). A total of 14 separate body styles – from pick-ups and hard tops to crew cabs and station wagons – are produced on the mainstream production line. Beyond this, Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations team offer a range of products from standard drop-side or box-body conversions to bespoke design and build adaptations into ambulances, mobile hydraulic platforms and even airport fire tenders – all of which are covered by Land Rover's extensive warranty.

New for 2007 is a 'Utility Pack' which is a no cost option on the Defender 110 SW. The pack replaces the rear side windows with panels to create a versatile 5 seat utility station wagon.

As with all models in our product range, a cost for offsetting the carbon emissions for the first 45,000 miles is included in the on-the-road price. Administered by Climate Care, an independent provider, the programme ensures that the average amount of CO2 produced by a Land Rover is offset by investments in a mixed portfolio of projects, including renewable energy, technology change and energy efficiency initiatives.

Land Rover Defender has sold 1,900,000 units globally in over 140 countries since production began in 1948. It consistently sells on average 25,000 units globally year in and year out.

To book a test drive of the 2007 Defender or for more information regarding the Land Rover range, please visit your local Land Rover dealership or log onto http://www.landrover.co.uk.