Love or hate its polarizing neo-retro looks, the new Land Rover Defender is off to a very promising start. It may lack the “character” of its predecessor — and by that I mean all the strange cabin smells and bone-shattering judders — but it does pretty much everything well, on and off road. And it’s getting better, because now, there’s a V8 option.
Land Rover announced the new engine on Wednesday, and it’s coming to both the two-door Defender 90 and four-door Defender 110 models. The familiar 5.0-liter supercharged V8 you may recognize from other Jaguar Land Rover offerings produces 518 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque in the Defender. In the case of the two-door version, that translates to a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds, according to the manufacturer.
That power is sent through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, with a new electronic rear differential equipped with a yaw controller for better cornering. V8 Defenders feature thicker diameter anti-roll bars and stiffer bushings to support the enlarged engine, as well as an exclusive Dynamic mode within Land Rover’s Terrain Response system. Dynamic mode should make the SUV a bit livelier to drive, on account of sharper throttle response and a healthy dose of torque vectoring.
V8 Defenders are differentiated from their four- and six-cylinder counterparts by a few exterior giveaways, namely gigantic 22-inch wheels and quad exhaust tips. Weirdly, the interesting colors on offer for other Defender models are missing here, leaving V8 buyers with only black, white and gray. Having seen a really nice-looking sage Defender just the other day, I can’t help but consider this anything but a downgrade you’ll pay a hefty premium for.
At least the V8 models get some interior perks, like “Ebony Windsor Leather with Miko Suedecloth and Robustec accents.” I’m sure those are all very nice, as the only way you can make leather and suede sound even more luxurious is by putting proper nouns in front of them.
If that’s not enough for you, though, there’s the range-topping V8 Carpathian Edition. Splurge on this “pinnacle” of the Defender family, and you’ll get a metallic gray body with a black-contrast roof and tailgate, as well as front and rear skid pans and a grille bar finished in something called Carpathian Gloss. Oh, and the entire exterior is coated in Land Rover’s Satin Protective Film that lends a semi-matte finish to the vehicle but apparently protects against nicks and scrapes.
The Carpathian Edition joins an almost comical number of trim levels and special editions Land Rover offers for the new Defender. Just looking at this gives me a headache:
The 2022 Defenders will hit showrooms this summer. If you’re curious about how much the V8s cost, Land Rover isn’t saying yet. As it stands, the Defender begins at $49,900, but goes up to $80,900 for the current top-line Defender X model. Just a hunch, but the one with all the Carpathian goodies will probably blow that out of the water.