In 2016 we reported the end of the Defender line. Jaguar Land Rover even had a big, teary party to farewell the then 68 year old icon. Well, it seems you can't keep a good marque down and the long-awaited replacement for the Defender is … the Defender.

Yesterday was World Land Rover Day, marking 71 years of all-terrain history for the manufacturer. The day also marked a 1.2 million kilometer (745,645 mile) milestone in the test and development cycle for the new Defender.

Conceived in the UK at Jaguar Land Rover's Gaydon facility, and tested everywhere from Nürburgring to Dubai, the new Defender will be rolling out of the spanking new manufacturing facility in Nitra, Slovakia later this year. The next and final stage of testing will be in the field with the Tusk Trust in Kenya, which has a long history of support from Land Rover.

"In addition to the extensive simulation and rig testing, we've driven new Defender 1.2 million kilometers across all terrains and in extreme climates to ensure that it is the toughest and most capable Land Rover ever made," says Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering. "The incredible opportunity to put it to the test in the field, supporting operations at the Borana Conservancy in Kenya, with Tusk, will allow our engineers to verify that we are meeting this target as we enter the final phase of our development program."

The uniquely camouflaged prototype will be pushed to its limits, forging through rivers and powering over bone-shaking terrain, while towing loads and lugging supplies and staff throughout the 14,000-hectare (54 square mile) reserve. This final stage will dot the Is and cross the Ts on more than 45,000 individual tests for the Defender, which has seen it pushed to the edge in the dunes of Dubai, the rocky trails of Moab in Utah, the mud of Eastnor in the UK, and the sub-40 degrees conditions of the Arctic.

Many of us might have expected – or even hoped for – a rugged and paired-down design, referencing the unique aesthetic that has barely shifted since "Huey" the original 1948 model, but no. Instead, the designers of the next-gen Defender seem to have to drawn considerably from the boxy, functional style of the mid 2000s Discovery and Range Rover models. It's fair to assume that pedestrian safety concerns and regulations were a primary factor here, as the old Defender with its hard corners and bare metal wasn't exactly flesh and bone friendly.

The Defender is due to be released later this year, and while details of the final configurations are limited, it's understood that these will include two different wheelbase options.

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