What has 518 horsepower, 461 pound-feet of torque, can go 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, and has a top speed of 149 mph? A Defender? Sorry, what?! Well, you heard right, Land Rover has brought back their iconic V8, but this time it’s more than just a soundtrack.
Sure, us English folk are pretty used to the Land Rover V8 burble on quaint countryside lanes, but we’re certainly not used to being overtaken by one. The Defender V8 has always been a coveted model, but certainly not for its straight-line performance—until now. The new 5.0-liter V8, with its unique suspension, transmission tuning, bespoke spring and damper rates, larger-diameter solid anti-roll bars, and new Electronic Active Rear Differential promise handling that matches its blistering performance. The latest incarnation may be a mile-munching rocket ship, but the company hasn’t forgotten that off-road capability is the ‘Defender Hallmark’. Consequently, it integrates a new Dynamic program within the Terrain Response system (only available on the V8), which helps drivers fully exploit the massive power on tarmac and loose surfaces. This mode sharpens the throttle, offers bespoke tuning for the Continuously Variable Damping, which, combined with the stiffer suspension bushes, provides immediate steering responses. This works in harmony with the torque vectoring, traction control, and Yaw Controller to ensure the Defender is faster, more engaging, and offers better handling than ever before.
The new Land Rover also looks the part with unique exterior badging, quad-exhaust tailpipes (calibrated to suit different driving situations), 22-inch alloy wheels, three colours (Carpathian Grey, Yulong White, and Santorini Black), and Xenon Blue front calipers. Further still, the company offers greater personalization with new exterior packs: the Bright, Extended Bright, and Extended Black (these include Noble Chrome finish for front and rear skid pans/front grille/badging, and Ceres Silver to lower body cladding, and wheel arches). The interior is trimmed in Ebony Windsor leather, illuminated tread plates are completed with a V8 script, and the exposed Cross Car Beam features a Satin Black finish. The four-spoke steering wheel is enhanced by an Alcantara rim and tactile satin chrome gearshift paddles. There have also been updates to the Defender’s Pivi Pro infotainment system, which receives a signal booster, improved connectivity, and an optional larger 11.4-inch touchscreen. Additionally, the advanced navigation uses self-learning algorithms and dynamic guidance to optimize routing, whilst the built-in Software-Over-The-Air helps deliver the latest mapping. Finally, the company announced the Defender V8 Carpathian Edition, which showcases unique styling cues and will be the very pinnacle of the Defender range.
The new Land Rover Defender V8 is very exciting, and I don’t doubt that its performance on and off road will be class-leading. Whilst the Defender is growing on me, I still struggle with the company’s motivations that seem to prioritise high-end luxury over the model’s dependable workhorse origins. As a result, it will undoubtedly be one of their best sellers; after all, this reflects the requirements of the modern Land Rover customer. For me, it just feels like another step from overlanding hero to West London runabout. While no doubt an exceptional contender in the market, I’m just not sure it’s the Defender I know and love.
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