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Modular roof rack turns Land Rover Defender into flexible gear mule


When it launched earlier this year, the new Land Rover Defender immediately became one of the most attractive vehicles available for Americans looking to venture outdoors with a boutique gear shop worth of adventure sports equipment in tow. South African overland outfitter Front Runner makes it easier with a modular rack system designed specifically for the Defender 110. With over 50 accessories, the Front Runner New Defender Slimline II Roof Rack makes easy work of strapping all kinds of luggage and sports gear to the Defender roof.

From roof-top tents, to South African ammunition boxes turned weatherproof gear crates, Front Runner gear has likely been a part of even more globe-trotting expeditions than the Defender itself. The shop has long offered a Slimline II rack for the original Defender, among other vehicle models, so it was only a matter of time before it tweaked the rack around the dimensions of the new 2020 Defender, providing a tried-and-true, ultra-versatile means of cargo carry for Land Rover’s latest.

Fit to the 119-inch-wheelbase (302-cm) four-door Defender, Front Runner’s rack mounts to either the factory roof rails or directly to the vehicle mounting points using vehicle-specific foot rails. Once on, it provides a rugged, full-length platform for carrying bikes, kayaks, roof-top tents, camping gear, luggage and more. It’s made from corrosion-free aluminum stout enough to hold 660 lb (300 kg) – equal to the Defender 110’s static roof rating and way more than its 370-lb (168-kg) dynamic rating.

We looked over the Slimline II system at Overland Expo a few years ago and what really impressed us about it was the modular, plug-and-play nature of the rack and accessories. Beyond simply strapping cargo directly to the rack, Front Runner offers dozens of available mounting solutions, from simple tie-down hooks to bike and kayak carriers. With many, attaching is as simple as dropping the bolts into the T track on the top of the Slimline crossbars and securing down with nuts.

Using these plug-and-play solutions, overlanders and dispersed campers can secure down a roof-top tent, propane tank, water tanks, cargo boxes and even a Dutch oven. At camp, they can use the rack to hang Front Runner’s utensil roll, shower arm and LED flood lights. Front Runner even offers a kit for mounting its stainless steel camping table on the underside of the rack to optimize space.

Day trippers can use the Slimline II to carry equipment like bikes, kayaks, surfboards and skis. With specific mounting brackets, the outer rails of the rack can be used to hold awnings, traction boards, shovels, Hi-Lift jacks and more. Slimline II owners can even add in extra crossbars to create a solid platform to use as a rooftop deck. Or they can remove or slide crossbars out of the way to free up access to the Defender’s available panoramic sunroof or folding fabric roof.

This 2-minute clip shows how versatile the Slimline II system can be:

Front Runner launched the Defender Slimline II on the US market this week, following up on other recent Slimline II launches for vehicles like the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota RAV4. And while Land Rover offers its own expedition platform rack, we’d be more inclined to go the aftermarket route, given the Slimline II’s modular versatility and large, established ecosystem of mounting solutions. Front Runner’s rack is also cheaper, running US$1,465 for the direct-mount version and $975 for the roof rail-mount model (individual gear carriers and mounting hardware sold separately). Land Rover’s rack costs $1,850 when purchased on its own.

Given what an icon of off-roading and overlanding the Defender is, it should only be a matter of time before other brands add similar modular racks for the new 2020 4×4. Earlier this summer, Australian accessories specialist ARB launched its own BASE (Build, Attach, Set, Explore) rack system for other leading 4x4s, including various Toyota Land Cruiser series, classic Range Rovers and the Jeep Wrangler JL.


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