The Land Rover Defender could borrow a twin-turbo V-8 engine from BMW

The iconic Land Rover Defender returned in 2019 after a three-year hiatus. It continues to be a rugged-style, boxy SUV with solid off-road capability, but it’s now infused with state-of-the-art technology and premium features. Land Rover offers a range of turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines, including a mild hybrid drivetrain, but a V-8 engine is still missing. That’s about to change though, as our paparazzi just spotted a new prototype that seems to feature such a powertrain.

How do we know this prototype features a V-8?

There's a Good Chance That This Land Rover Defender Is Testing a New V-8 Spyshots
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A quick glance at this SUV won’t tell you anything about what’s under the hood. There are no badges and the hood looks identical to the regular four- and six-cylinder models. However, the rear section features two unique elements.

There's a pair of square exhaust pipes on each side and a big muffler muffler between them.

This is solid indication that the V-8 SUV will return after a very long absence to top the modern Defender range.

Does the 2021 Land Rover Defender need a V-8 engine?

There's a Good Chance That This Land Rover Defender Is Testing a New V-8 Spyshots
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Some companies are currently shifting away from V-8 engines, opting to go with six-cylinder units or beefed-up hybrids that combine four-cylinders and battery power. But this doesn’t mean that the V-8 no longer has a place on the market.

Land Rover is now offering six SUVs besides the Defender and three of them are available with V-8 engines.

Granted, all three are sold under the Range Rover division, but the Defender was sold with V-8 engines in the past and there’s no reason for this tradition to stop. The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and the Velar are proof that Land Rover still has a solid V-8 customer base, so the Defender V-8 should be worth the trouble.

What V-8 engine will power the Land Rover Defender?

There's a Good Chance That This Land Rover Defender Is Testing a New V-8 Spyshots
- image 922749

We still don’t know what V-8 will Land Rover use in the Defender, but there’s two scenarios to continue

. The old, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 rated at 370 horsepower is no longer an option, so it could feature the supercharged version that cranks out 518 horses in the Range Rover models.

However, Land Rover might detune this mill to less than 500 horsepower. But it will generate at least 450 horses in order to slot above the P400 MHEV, the six-cylinder hybrid that comes with 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque on tap.

The second rumored option is for Land Rover to borrow the 4.4-liter V-8 from BMW. Called the N63, this turbocharged engine is currently being used in the X5, X6, and X7 SVUS, as well as in some versions of the 5, 7, and 8 Series cars. Depending on the model, output varies from 444 to 523 horsepower, while torque goes from 479 to 553 pound-feet. The M-spec S63 version motivates the M5, M8, X5 M, and X6 M, generating 591 horsepower and 553 pound-feet or 617 horses and 553 pound-feet. The 456-horsepower and 479-pound-foot version from the regular X5 and X6 seems like a good choice for the Defender.

What V-8 engines powered Defenders from the past?

2007 Land Rover Defender
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note: 2007 Land Rover Defender Shown Here
The first-generation Defender, offered from 1983 to 1990, was offered with Rover’s old 3.5-liter V-8. This mill generated 134 horsepower in its most powerful version toward the late 1980s. The second-gen Defender featured an upgraded version of the same mill, this time around displacing 3.9 liters. The mill was short-lived in the Defender, offered from 1990 to 1995.

Although it lived on in the Range Rover and the Land Rover Discovery until the early 2000s, the company pulled it off from the Defender due to low sales and much bigger demand for diesel engines.

This V-8 was the sole engine in the U.S.-spec Defender from 1994 to 1998. The updated 4.0-liter version was good for 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque.

2009 Land Rover Defender Fire and Ice
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note:2009 Land Rover Defender Fire and Ice shown here
Although it discontinued the Defender in 2016, Land Rover offered a Works V8 70th Anniversary Edition in 2018. These Defenders weren’t new models, but restomods produced by Land Rover Classic. Carefully selected based on age, mileage, and condition, all 150 Works V8 models were fitted with a naturally aspirated, 5.0-liter Jaguar AJ-V8 engine rated at 399 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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