When Land Rover launched the new Defender, the obvious expectation was that an electric version would be introduced as the world transitions to some form of electric propulsion.
The company does have a brilliant new plug-in hybrid electric version for some markets, but there’s also this, a stonking great supercharged V8.
It’s careful not to attract too much attention to itself but unless there is an oversupply of V8 engines on a shelf at Land Rover HQ, you have to wonder what the point of it is. Then you drive it, and all becomes clear – because it’s fun.
When it arrives in Australia towards the end of 2021, the Defender 90 P525 V8 will start at $210,716 before on-road costs, with the longer wheelbase 110 P525 V8 starting at $215,676 before on-roads.
Both models are the flagships of their respective line-ups.
While $210,000 is a big wad of cash, the Defender compares favourably to the more expensive (and more powerful) Mercedes-AMG G63, which is priced at $298,876 before on-road costs.
You get a new Defender capable of hitting 100km/h in just over 5.0 seconds and which is also able to wade through rivers, climb mountains and tackle sandy tracks.
It’s also stylish, slightly understated, spacious and with enough tech to keep most of the family happy, if not the traditionalists. That’s quite a lot of Defender then.
Unique equipment highlights for the Defender V8 include:
- 22-inch alloy wheels
- Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel
- Suede interior accents
In addition to the supercharged V8 engine under the bonnet, that’s on top of the specification offered in lower grades, such as:
- Windsor leather upholstery
- Panoramic roof
- 20-inch alloy wheels in gloss Dark Grey
- 14-way heated and cooled front seats with memory
- Carpet mats
- Full leather steering wheel
- Extended leather interior
- Front fog lights
- Premium LED headlights with signature daytime-running lights
- 12-way power front seats with memory
- 11-speaker Meridian sound system
- ClearSight digital rear-view mirror
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Electrically-adjustable steering column
- Automatic high beam
- Digital instrument cluster
- 12-way partially powered front seats
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Folding rear centre armrest (folding)
- Interactive Driver Display (12.3-inch digital instruments)
The Defender 110 was subjected to the usual ANCAP tests last year and received a healthy five-star rating.
It scored 85 per cent for adult occupant protection and an even better 88 per cent for child occupant protection. A rating of 71 per cent for vulnerable road users isn’t surprising given it’s a big SUV, but it did achieve 76 per cent for safety assist, a score let down slightly but a lack of backover detection.
Inside it has plenty of airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and a real feeling of solidity. Systems are a slightly mixed bag depending on which options boxes you tick.
The model we drove had lane departure detection, but its cruise control was not adaptive, which we realised while rapidly approaching the back of a slower moving truck on the highway.
All Australian versions of the Land Rover Defender come with the following safety equipment:
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Adaptive cruise control
- Driver attention monitoring
- Surround-view camera
- Front/rear parking sensors
- Safe exit alert
- Traffic sign recognition
Climb inside past the V8 sill plates and the first thing you notice is the Alcantara-covered four-spoke steering wheel, which feels fantastic.
If, however, you are planning on using your Defender V8 for proper off-roading or farming then it might not be the easiest material to keep clean, although we appreciate we’re probably pointing this out to the minority of potential owners.
The rest of the interior features leather and Dinamica suede upholstery, well-crafted plastics that should be hard-wearing while still looking good and loads of tech.
This includes the new 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment screen, a digital instrument cluster, and plenty of USB ports.
Space is excellent for driver and passengers and there’s the option of seven seats in the longer wheelbase 110 version.
Jaguar Land Rover is going to make the most of its familiar V8. It’s still essentially the same engine it used to get from Ford, but now it’s built by Jaguar Land Rover at its Ingenium engine plant in England.
In the Defender it pumps out 386kW at 6000-6500rpm and 625Nm at 2500-5500rpm. The same base engine powers numerous SVR models like the Range Rover Sport, offering up to 423kW and 700Nm.
It’s matched up to a familiar eight-speed automatic from ZF and is the first Defender to feature Dynamic mode, although it’s a pain to engage because you have to press one driving mode button on the centre console to bring up the driving mode selection icons on the screen, then find the right one and press it, usually a couple of times to get it to engage.
When you do though, you’ll be grinning, as your Defender accelerates to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds if it’s the short wheelbase 90 and 5.4 seconds if you’re in the 110. Top speed is 240km/h.
Firstly, if you are actually going to be interested in taking your Defender V8 off-road, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s as capable as any other. Unlike rivals like the Mercedes-AMG G63, this is still a vehicle designed and engineered to tackle the rough stuff.
Stiffened anti-roll bars do reduce the wheel travel slightly, but we drove through mud, streams and across fields with ease, although we confess it wasn’t the most challenging of off-road routes.
Not that many owners will ever know what their Defender V8 is truly capable of. They will be more interested in the performance and the sound, although the latter is a little more muted than in other Land Rover V8 models.
The car has a rawness to it, but it’s not as boisterous as we expected, even being rather well behaved on the road. Part of this is because the suspension has been tweaked and the Defender V8 gets ‘Pitch Balance’, which adjusts the suspension to keep things as flat as possible.
If you’ve driven an older Land Rover V8 you may have enjoyed seeing the nose lift under hard acceleration as though taking off – there’s less of that in this one.
Land Rover says it is the sharpest model it produces and to an extent we’d agree. There’s a little bit of lag at times but keep it in the power band and it leaps around like an animal. It grips too, with sudden direction changes, once the fear of any Defender owner, now confidence inspiring.
The steering is good, the driving position excellent and save for a bit of bellowing behind you coming from the pair of twin exhausts, it’s all sporty but comfortable.
Just how sporty though? Well to find out we put it through its paces on a makeshift rally stage.
The Defender V8 is equipped with an electronic rear limited slip differential and something called a Drift Predictor, which presumably helps you enjoy a controlled drift in the right circumstances. We have no idea whether our drifts were controlled by computer or human, but it was great fun and not something we’ve done in a production Defender before.
It’s not all about accelerating, drifting, chucking it about or diving into rivers, though.
The Defender V8 can be quite civilised, cruising along and gobbling up the miles with ease while driver and passengers sit comfortably in their Dinamica-upholstered seats and watch the world go by.
If you have to ask…
Seriously though, this is an off-roader with a supercharged V8 so don’t expect great fuel consumption.
Land Rover quotes a combined figure of 14.7L/100km, but good luck achieving that.
As for maintenance, the Defender line-up is offered with a five-year service package, with the V8 covered for up to 130,000km (up from the 102,000km of other models). The package costs $3750 for the V8.
The Defender is also covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Unlike many other models using the same V8, the Defender is surprisingly understated, with only blue brake calipers up front, discreet badges and four exhaust pipes to give the game away visually.
It’s something of a stealth machine really, which we rather like. Will there be a full Land Rover SVO model? The answer we were given was “who knows”, which to us means it’s already under development.
As we’re now on the rumour mill, there are also whispers of a switch to a BMW V8, but nothing is yet officially confirmed.
For now, the new Defender V8 is a fantastic plaything. It still has the same off-road ability as other new Defenders, plenty of style and whether you agree with it or not, more tech than you will find in a Toyota LandCruiser.
It’s a really fun package and quite possibly the Defender many will have been waiting years if not decades for.
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