2022 Land Rover Defender V8 review – it's probably not what you think
Living with a £100,000 Defender
The new Land Rover Defender is a pretty smashing thing, all told. We've fallen in love with its mix of rugged off-road attitude and easygoing family transport ability. Sure, it's not cheap, but it feels like a premium product and it sits nicely in the Land Rover range as an alternative to the likes of the Discovery.
Which does make you wonder why Land Rover's introduced a V8 version. It's expensive at £101,000 for the three-door 90 version (add £3,000 for the more practical 110 version), and it's clearly going to be thirstier… so why would you buy one?
Well – there's a good reason. Watch the video below to find out or read on for more thoughts.
What is it?
It's just a Defender, albeit one that's had the six-cylinder petrol or diesel engine junked in favour of that classic JLR 5.0-litre V8, with 525hp and 625Nm of torque. There have been a few other mechanical tweaks, namely an electrically controlled rear differential, larger anti-roll bars, stiffer suspension bushes and a higher effective spring rate for the air suspension. But don't be fooled into thinking this is a sporty car from the Special Vehicle Operations mob – it isn't. It's just a Defender with a silly engine.
How does it drive?
Amusingly, to be honest. That engine doesn't feel hugely rapid off the line (it has 2.5 tonnes to shift with the car in three-door form), but mid-range shove is impressive and quite startling in something so big. There's a lovely V8 burble on startup and you're always tempted to give it a bootful even when you're just pootling. It doesn't crackle and pop like the old Range Rover Sport SVR, and you can thank petrol particulate filters for that – but it has enough of a soundtrack to justify the upgrade from a six-cylinder Defender.
V8 models get four big exhaust pipes and an ugly old collector box
Arrive at a corner (and arrive you will – quickly too) and you're suddenly reminded that the new Defender is not designed to be a sports car. Remember that this is a car that's designed to be pretty uncompromised when it comes to off-road ability, which means that the on-road experience can be a bit… wallowy. Even in the new, V8-only Dynamic driving mode it rolls and leans into corners almost alarmingly. Press on, ignoring the fact that your wig has slipped into another county, and you'll find tonnes of grip, but your passengers will absolutely hate you for driving the Defender V8 quickly.
It also shares the problem all other new Defenders have – it feels intimidatingly huge on the road, and you feel like you're sitting on the top deck of a London bus, which makes squeezing through narrow gaps a nerve-wracking experience.
Brakes calipers are an exciting (and garish) blue colour… but only the front ones...
Driving it fast takes guts and a determination to do so – but the Defender V8 is best enjoyed in straight-line blasts. The brakes are fine, but the pedal is soft and can lead to some alarming moments of arriving at corners faster than you'd like. And the less said about the Xenon Blue front brake calipers the better (again, this is a V8-only thing). One thing's for sure – if you want a V8-powered SUV with some real handling chops, you're better served heading to the Jaguar dealer and asking for a go in an F-Pace SVR. But there's something quite appealing about a brick-like Defender with a silly-big engine in it.
What about the rest of it?
The V8 Defender gets some specific aesthetic upgrades over the regular line-up, notably a black roof (which you can do away with in favour of a body-colour one), a small V8 badge behind the front wheels, special V8-specific 22" rims and quad exhausts at the back. There's nothing up front to scream 'I'm the fast one', and we quite like that.
Badges on the front doors are the only overt mention of the engine that's under the bonnet
Inside you're treated to the typical Defender cabin, albeit one with a nice thin suedecloth steering wheel (and metal gearshift paddles), as well as V8 kickplates. The exposed metal beam that runs across the front of the cabin is also painted in satin black for V8 models (it's the bit where the glovebox goes with 'Defender stamped into it).
We still like the Defender's cabin and infotainment, but the steering wheel buttons are a bit plasticky
It's a comfy car to drive, and the upgraded 11.4-inch curved touchscreen is pretty delightful – it has gorgeous icon design and just feels very modern. What's not so nice are the plasticky buttons on the face of the steering wheel, or the fact that the front seats don't remember your driving position when you flip them forward to let back-seat passengers in.
You'll want the 110 if you have a family to transport
They also slide irritatingly slowly – after running the 90 for a week with two kids in the back we were ready to stump up the extra cash for the 110 version.
Should I buy one?
Sort of pointless, but fun all the same!
Not really, no. We can't think of a single rational reason to buy a V8 Defender that struggles to get 15mpg on a run. But that's sort of the joy of it – it's a silly machine that has no reason to exist. It's fun to blast around in, and the modern Defender's shape suits the big V8 noise, if that makes sense. It's a cool thing – we just wish you could spec it in a colour that isn't black, white or grey.