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Rough Ride No More? Land Rover Defender Concepts at 2011 Frankfurt Motor

By Joel Arellano | September 13, 2011
Land Rover seems intent in changing the definition of "roughing it" with its Defender DC 100 and Defender DC100 Sport concepts. Electronics is at the heart of this change, with both concepts so well equipped they give tech segment leaders like Mercedes and Nissan palpitations from envy. The Land Rover Terrain Response system continually analyzes road conditions and adjusts the Defenders' suspension, steering, and even braking for optimum performance, leaving the driver to concentrate on the route. The Land Rover DC100 takes this system one step further using HD cameras to determine the trail's composition, i.e., asphalt versus dirt and rocks. The system will then adjust the DC100's mechanics accordingly. Other electronics on display include the Terrain-i navigation scanner, which see objects like boulders via a headlamp-mounted sensor and warn the driver; and the sonar-based Wade Aid which analyze water depth while the Defender's wading through rivers and flooded areas. While both technologies seem more specific to off-road travel than driving through suburbia, the Terrain-i is sensitive enough to detect even children crossing its path. We admit, though, the coolest technology sprouting--literally--from the Defender concepts is the spike-tire system. When activated, air inflates special "pods" within the tire which extend the spikes within to just above the tire thread. The Defender can then travel across snowy terrain without winter tires or even snow chains. The spikes can then be retracted by simply deflating the pods. Both Defender concepts also come equipped with more mainstream technologies like automated parallel parking and keyless entry. Land Rover goes a step further with the latter, though, offering "Adventure Key" which allows owners to leave the bulky fob within the SUV. To reenter, the owner uses the more light-weight and portable Adventure Key which can be placed in objects as small as wristbands. The Land Rover Defender DC100 and Defender DC100 Sport are both powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain not only uses a smart stop/start system to deactivate the engine when the SUV's at rest, saving fuel, but the four-wheel drive system physically disconnects from the rear axle when not in use, further improving fuel economy. Land Rover also says the concepts can be equipped with plug-in hybrid engines as well. Automotive.com's take: Land Rover will be launching the production version of the Defender sometime in 2015 and the Tata-owned company has no plans to sell the SUV here in the states. We think LR should reconsider. As the concepts prove, many of the technologies on display are more than appropriate in our urban jungles. Source: Land Rover
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