What is it?
The V8 engine is something that’s been well utilised by Land Rover over the years, appearing in products as diverse as the Range Rover to the Defender, with a big, brawny engine proving to be a great fit in an off-roader, enabling performance in whatever terrain a 4x4 might find itself in.
And though the days of a big V8 engine might be numbered, Land Rover is not letting go yet, and has launched a powerful new eight-cylinder version of its latest Defender, and this time with a more sporting focus than ever before.
Unsurprisingly the majority of the changes concern what’s been squeezed under the bonnet, but more on that later.
But Land Rover hasn’t just slapped a V8 in the new Defender and left it at that. Oh no, as other changes include stiffer anti-roll bars and a new ‘dynamic’ mode that is capable of ‘promoting oversteer’, should you want it to.
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s no surprise that under the Defender’s bonnet you’ll find a V8 engine, and it’s a powerful 5.0-litre unit at that – similar to what you find in a Jaguar F-Pace SVR. It’s supercharged and develops a significant 518bhp and 625Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Sprinting from 0-60mph takes just 5.1 seconds, while flat out the Defender V8 would hit a claimed 149mph. Fuel consumption figures are unsurprisingly not all that impressive, with 19.2mpg being given as the quoted figure, along with chunky CO2 emissions of 332g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
At slower speeds, this feels like any other Defender, though with the ever-present burble from the exhaust, and some of this is piped into the cabin anyway. But generally, this V8 is smooth and relaxing, with a smooth-shifting gearbox aiding the easy-driving nature.
But as you increase the pressure on the throttle, that V8 really comes alive, and it reacts well to heavy boots of acceleration. There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big and heavy car, but it does a rather good job of hiding that when cornering quickly, and is certainly far more impressive than you might expect, though it’s at its best if you keep a moderate speedy pace, where the body roll can be kept in check. That V8 engine also certainly provides plenty of assistance should you want to venture away from the beaten track, too.
How does it look?
Though this Defender’s engine might be rather different to the other versions on offer, the V8’s styling is brilliantly undercover, and is quite hard to differentiate from the standard car. The only real design changes are four exhaust tips at the rear, revised alloy wheels and blue brake callipers, but neither aspect is particularly obvious.
The standard Defender is a brilliant looking car though, bringing the traditional boxy design of the Defender into a far more modern package, while three-door ‘90’ and five-door ‘110’ bodystyles are both available too.
What’s it like inside?
For the V8, Land Rover has taken all the brilliant aspects of the regular Defender and given them a lift. The seats get trimmed in high-end ebony Windsor leather, while an Alcantara steering wheel adds real sportiness to the Defender, while the chrome gear paddles behind the wheel are great.
The boxy, high-up feel of the Defender also gives a great view of the road ahead, and the 110 is the model to go for if you need something spacious, as real-world daily usage of the ‘90’ version is compromised by its smaller size.
What’s the spec like?
With the V8 sitting at the top of the Defender line-up, it’s no surprise that it’s packed from top to bottom with equipment.
Like the standard Defender, you get the excellent Pivo Pro infotainment screens, which are clear and very easy to use, while other standard kit includes a high-quality Meridian sound system, three-zone climate control and a sliding panoramic sunroof.
The Defender has already proven a big success for Land Rover since its reintroduction, and this new V8 version undoubtedly adds to the appeal. While few drivers need 500bhp under the bonnet of their 4x4, if your budget can stretch to it, few cars are as desirable.
It’s very well executed too, and there’s a lot more to it than just outright performance. With comfort and everyday usability on its side, this V8 model really is a great addition to the Defender line-up.