Land Rover Defender Proves Boxy is Beautiful

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

Three years ago, it was apparent a styling trend was beginning to take over the auto industry. More and more vehicles, specifically SUVs, were adopting flat-sided, right angle, boxy designs. We even made a post about the top boxy-shaped vehicles currently on sale.

With the trend continuing to gain momentum in 2024, a vehicle that has always been a box on wheels ever since it was created has suddenly become a trend setter. The Land Rover Defender. For decades, the off-road orientated SUV has kept its familiar shape. While everything got rounded in the ‘90s and swoopy in the ‘00s, the Defender stayed the course.

An icon and image of off-road prowess, the recent trend of ‘adventure lifestyle’ vehicles have seen a drastic increase in similarly styled vehicles to the Land Rover. Below we explore these other square-shaped vehicles in four main categories.

The Other Stalwarts

Like the Defender, two other off-road focused vehicles have been on sale for several decades adorning the same basic profile. Arguably the boxiest vehicle on sale today, the posh Mercedes G Wagon was born for military applications but morphed into a high-end luxury cruiser. This isn’t to state it has lost any of its prowess off-pavement, but more G-Class SUVs will be spotted at a country club rather than the trails of Moab.

The other old-school boxy vehicle with incredible off-road prowess is the Jeep Wrangler. Maybe the hood and front fenders have gotten a bit rounder over time, but the rest of the vehicle remains a rugged box with the option of removing the roof.

The Comeback Kids

A few years ago, Ford revived the brand’s Bronco nameplate. It’s affixed to a squarish, off-road SUV that heavily borrows styling from Broncos of old. Like the vehicles mentioned above, the roof, rear hatch, and side panels are all very flat. This isn’t the only Bronco to return either, as the smaller Ford Bronco Sport also made a comeback, inspired by the original, boxy Bronco Sport of the 1980s.

Just released is the return of the Toyota Land Cruiser (LC). This nameplate has a confusing history as both the Land Cruiser and Land Cruiser Prado have been around, on sale in various forms, all over the world. The latest Land Cruiser in North America is actually based on the Land Cruiser Prado lineage, not the regular Land Cruiser. Confused? Don’t worry about it as both LC models got rounder and sleeker as the years went on.

For the 2024 model year, like the Ford Bronco, the new Toyota Land Cruiser’s styling is inspired by squarer models of the past. It’s quite a styling departure compared to other Toyota products, and one we quite like.

New Boxes

Sharing the same platform origins as the new Land Cruiser (Prado), the 2024 Lexus GX is just as angular as its mainstream cousin. Full of luxury options and engine choices, the GX looks as rugged as the models listed above and is a different styling direction compared to GX models of the past.

Moving up a size class, two new offerings have really taken the square theme to heart: the Rivian R1S and Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer. In fairness, full-size jumbo SUVs, like the Chevrolet Suburban, have a squarish shape by default since passenger and cargo space are prioritized over style. But the Rivian R1S and Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer siblings really embody the big rectangle box on wheels look with nearly upright rear hatches.

At the more affordable end of the utility vehicle spectrum is the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe. IT's drastically different from any Santa Fe before it or anything else in Hyundai's lineup. The new Santa Fe's design has been heavily likened to that of a Land Rover, specifically the Defender.

The Exception - Baby Boxes

We cannot finish this article without covering a few exceptions. Subcompact crossover hatches are also prevalently square in shape and have been for years. Vehicles like the original Scion xB, Kia Soul, Jeep Renegade, and Hyundai Venue to name a few. Like the jumbo SUVs, this class is all about maximizing space, by having a roof line and rear hatch that meet at a 90-degree angle.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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