Land Rover has done the impossible and managed to successfully replace the iconic Defender.
The all new version of one of the most famous 4x4s off all time manages to be even better than the original off road and – for the first time – superb on road as well.
Now Land Rover has launched a flagship version of the Defender. The Defender V8 gets Jaguar Land Rover’s superb 5.0 litre supercharged eight-cylinder petrol engine.
With 525hp and 625Nm of torque the unit makes even the 2.3 tonne Land Rover accelerate like a sports car.
Put your foot down from a standstill and you’ll be travelling at 62mph just 5.4 seconds later. Remarkably, given how lacking in aerodynamics the Defender is, top speed is just shy of 150mph.
It feels every bit as fast as the numbers suggest. In fact there’s something almost intoxicating about hurtling forward in such a big car.
Is bigger better?
The chassis and suspension have been beefed up to cope with the extra power. There are thicker anti-roll bars, stiffer suspension bushes and retuned spring and damper rates.
The Defender V8 is available in five door, long wheelbase 110 guise or three door, short wheelbase 90 format.
Prices for the 90 V8 start at £98,575 and the 110 V8 costs a little over £101,000. Given that an entry level Defender is less than £42,000 and a very well equipped one can be had for £55,000, that’s quite a premium.
Land Rover are not expecting to sell millions of them, though. They’ll be snapped up by well-heeled lovers of the brand who want something extra special.
Besides, the only comparable car on the market is the Mercedes G-Wagon, and it’s even more expensive – up to £170,000 for top models.
I spent an hour driving around Highland Perthshire in a Defender V8 90, where Land Rover had sponsored horse trials, so I fitted right in.
The Defender really is incredible to drive. You sit even higher than in a Range Rover, giving you a clear view over virtually every other car on the road.
While the suspension has been tightened up a bit to cope with the extra power it’s still very cossetting. Sitting at 70mph on the A9 it was whisper quiet.
The V8 engine really is sublime. Nudge the throttle and it surges forward on a wave of power. Overtaking manoeuvres are completed in a heartbeat.
It looks the part as well, thanks to four exhaust pipes, snazzy brake callipers, 22in wheels and unique paint colours.
There are various modes to play with. Dynamic tightens everything up and is useful if you want to press on. Comfort, as the name suggests, is perfect for long journeys.
Even in Dynamic mode it’s no sports car. The best suspension in the world can’t make 2.3 tonnes handle like a lightweight hot hatch.
Show it a bend and the Defender will do its best, but really its performance is intended for use in a straight line.
Should you be happy to take a £100,000 car off road – and I am if it belongs to someone else – the Defender V8 will leave virtually any other 4×4 on the market stuck in the mud. It’s also capable of towing up to 3,500kg.
‘An absolute hoot’
Of course plenty about the Defender V8 makes no sense.
Its price is absurd.
It’s ridiculously inefficient.
Even its official fuel economy figure is only 19mpg, and in real world driving you’re looking at 14-15mpg. And in three-door guise it looks great but has a tiny boot.
When you’re behind the wheel none of that matters, though.
The Defender V8 is an absolute hoot.
I may never be able to afford one. I couldn’t justify it even if I did have the money. But still I find myself jealous of anyone who does own one.
- Model: Land Rover Defender V8
- Price: £98,575
- 0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
- Top speed: 149mph
- Economy: 19.2mpg
- CO2 emissions: 332g/km