Land Rover DC100 review (2012 concept)
Summary: The Land Rover DC100 looks as good in the real world as it does on the show stand - and is just as promising behind the wheel too.
We like: tantalising hands-on first glimpse into how the 2015 Land Rover Defender will be
We don't like: it's still three years away
We have driven the very same Land Rover DC100 concept that has been touring the world since its reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011. Back then it was one of our cars of the show and it has since found favour everywhere it's been. Now, it's in New York, to star on the Land Rover stand at the annual motor show there. But not before we hit the road in it.
From a distance, the silhouette is unmistakable
It's a tremendous opportunity to see it away from the show floor lights: in natural light, in action and in context. First impressions? The DC100 looks right: it looks like a Land Rover. From a distance, the silhouette is unmistakable, all big wheels, bold lines and simplicity of execution.
It looks modern too, 21st century, not a pastiche of the original but a real reinvention of it. This isn't backward-looking retro but forward-looking reconfiguration. We guessed as much from seeing it on show stands, of course: but viewing it in daylight only accentuates the sheer confidence of its lines.
We've been here before. Remember how we were wowed by another Gerry McGovern-designed Land Rover concept, the LRX? That became the Range Rover Evoque, changing barely one iota in the process. Our first taste here, then, really could be initial impressions of the 2015 Land Rover Defender...
Design and styling
Gerry McGovern has a talent for creating distinctive silhouettes using the simplest, most minimal of styling cues. There's a fuss-free elegance to his vehicles that comes through bold definition of key characteristics, rather than overdone fripperies.
The sunlight of springtime New York shows this off brilliantly. The DC100 is all about big wheels (22 inches in diameter here), straight lines, disorienting compactness (it's much bigger than it looks) and the simple appearance of having a straight rectangular box of windows placed atop a chunky, broad-shouldered and tightly cut lower half.
The simplest, most minimal of styling cues
The detail reveals itself when you get up close, particularly the front end that is perhaps one of the best examples of modernity blended with retro. It has a tough, rugged appearance that still somehow packs in premium details. It, like the rest of the DC100, exudes confidence.
Some of the extra 'off road' features seen on the New York Show Expedition concept are more debatable, but they're a part of Land Rover's history so are rightfully shown off here. Personally, now we've seen it in context, we'd have it plain and simple, and let the design itself do the talking. It does so, brilliantly.
What is the interior like?
The interior is also minimalist and futuristic: it's a concept, after all. We hope the paired-back dashboard, chock-full of Blade Runner cues, makes it to production, for the high-set and chunky architecture feels as distinctively special as the Evoque's interior did when we first experienced that.
There are areas we can assume will reach production. The commanding driving position is unlikely to change, nor is the view out of the super-wide and upright windscreen, which lets occupants view the world through a high and distinctive rectangular portal and over a very well defined bonnet.
The dashboard is full of Blade Runner cues
The scoops within the bonnet are an eye-catching extra feature and, along with flat sides and long side windows, help ensure visibility is better than you'd perhaps think. This'll be great for off-roading: it's easy to place, you can see everything all-round and the extremities are simple to position.
It's harder to make a call on the spaciousness - simply because this concept felt very roomy indeed. Wide footwells and a general lack of clutter helped here, as did the tall rooflining towering above. Taking this through to production is another matter - crash structures alone soon swallow space. This certainly throws the gauntlet down to the Land Rover production engineers...
What is it like to drive?
Don't crash it, whatever you do, was the general vibe from the Land Rover man sitting alongside me. I was thus very careful on the course laid out - but as the Range Rover Sport underpinnings are hardly representative of how it'll appear in production, pressing it to the limit wouldn't really have achieved anything.
Boy, the engine sounded good though. A petrol V8, the lack of soundproofing mean it roars just like in an old Series Land Rover, showing this car has a deliciously naughty side too. Lighter than a Range Rover Sport due to the lack of production car features (and heavy use of composites), it was more than willing to surge forward to a slipped right foot.
It roars just like an old Series Land Rover
It felt wide, in contrast to the narrow-track original. No wonder: it's 1,967mm wide, or wider than an Evoque. It's only 4,472mm long but a heady 1,833mm tall, and you strongly feel these square, box-like dimensions on the move. It's debatable whether it's maybe too wide for both the city and the off-road countryside: expect this to be reviewed prior to production.
As for off-roading, there was none of that yet. Mud, ruts, rocks and ridges do not combine well with priceless show cars. But stepping up and looking down upon the world from its rugged cabin, it felt as if the basics were right. Again, it 'felt' like an off-roader, rather than a half-way house crossover. Time will tell here.
How will the production version differ?
The production version will use a lightweight mixed alloy platform instead of the notoriously heavy Range Rover Sport/Discovery core chassis used here. It will also be packed with technology, including a Wade Aid function that uses sonar to measure water depth, and Terrain-i 3D terrain mapping that visualises what's ahead on the central screen, fighter jet style.
Land Rover knows it has to deliver on the technology side to be taken seriously by the more youthful and dynamic market it's aiming this vehicle at. Yet there's also a need for it to be simple and rugged: a fine balance, which is why fit-for-purpose design, one without extraneous fripperies, is guiding the team creating the 2015 production version.
How green will it be?
The real thing certainly won't use a throaty V8 like this concept: instead, it will use 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel engines built at Jaguar Land Rover's forthcoming new engine factory in Wolverhampton. They will have hybrid and plug-in capability too.
The engines will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that has intelligent stop-start. The permanent four-wheel-drive system will also not only include a proper off-road-style transfer case, for low-ratio running, but will also decouple the rear wheels completely when they're not needed, saving yet more fuel.
The MSN Cars verdict
This is a concept drive, so there are no firm impressions of actually driving it. Rather, this is a review of the concept itself. How well does the design work in the real world? Very well indeed: it's utterly convincing and brilliantly defines what the modern Land Rover brand should be doing.
It is futuristic, yet faithful to its history. Tough and rugged, yet with enough premium touches to make it special. Most importantly, it is a superb progression for the original Land Rover, which has barely changed in six decades. This is Land Rover, take two. And, on first acquaintance, we love it.