2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise

The Defender V8 might be worth it to some, but it’s truly overkill for most of us

While Ford and Jeep are messing around with new 400+ horsepower versions of their most extreme off-roaders, Land Rover’s like “wouldn’t you rather have a 518-horsepower supercharged engine?” Well, that’s the deal with their new Defender V8 - a six-figure SUV designed with a more dynamic side.

  • 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise
  • Year:
    2022
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    8-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    518 @ 6000
  • MPG(Cty):
    15
  • MPG(Hwy):
    19
  • Torque @ RPM:
    461 @ 2500
  • Energy:
    Direct-Injection
  • Displacement:
    5.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    149 mph
  • Layout:
    Front
  • Price:
    54850

MODEL EXCLUSIVITY

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Exterior
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Bronco Raptor. Wrangler 392. And now the Defender V8. It’s a glorious time for affluent 4X4 enthusiasts who prefer their hotrod SUVs with factory warranties. Regardless of engine, I’ve fallen hard for the Defender since its rebirth a couple of years ago making it my pick in this resuscitated segment. The LEGO-esque styling, the amalgam of toughness and boutique milieu; the Defender is indisputably cool. Plus, Land Rover’s accessory page plays like a Christmas catalog for grownups with pages of fun choices. And with a starting MSRP of $54,850 it’s not unreasonably priced. But that’s if you choose a 4-door 4-cylinder model.

For some, that’s just not good enough and neither is the turbo-six. Nope; the highest level of prestige and exclusivity lies with a 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood. Now, do you need 518 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque? Of course not. The 3.0-liter Ingenium inline-six is a brilliant engine that doesn’t disappoint whether on the road or on the trail. So, the Defender V8 is a tale of wanton excess with its trump cards being a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a sonorous exhaust note from the supercharged powertrain. And with that comes some needed modifications to harness its additional weight and dynamic capabilities:

  • Suspension tuning with firmer spring and damper rates
  • Aggressive gearing for the 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Larger anti-roll bars to reduce body sway
  • Rear differential with additional yaw control
  • New Dynamic setting within the Terrain Response 2 system that amps up the Defender with the usual sport mode tweaks to throttle response and suspension stiffness.
2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Exterior
- image 1086639

And that Jaguar sound played through quad tailpipes is the kind of tune typically reserved for muscle cars. But other than the exhaust and 22” wheels, there’s not much visual distinction for the V8. It would’ve been cool if Land Rover gussied it up a bit more. This Yulong White is one of 3 available Defender V8 colors and comes with a contrasting black roof. Its appearance is stubby yet sexy in a four-wheel drive kind of way. And depending upon how high the air springs are jacked up, the Defender can take on the stance of a Tonka truck with up to 11.5” of ground clearance.

Defender 90 V8 Driving Impressions

OFF-ROAD DRIVING

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Exterior
- image 1086648

Without the optional off-road tires and because I’ve previously taken my Defenders deep into the mud and water, I’m spending more time on the tarmac this week, and isn’t that truly where this V8 will likely reside? But don’t worry; this one still has all the go-anywhere capabilities, all the electronic tricks, and all the off-road goodies. Even on these all-season Contis which were developed specifically for Defender, wet grass, gravel, and mud are all very much in play. The added V-8 power is nicely corralled by the multitude of off-road programs that tailor the vehicle to what lies underneath, including a setting that will automatically choose the best setup for you. The 4X4 programs and the information they feed to the driver are really impressive including critical camera views of your surroundings. The head-up display also goes into off-road mode with an inclinometer right in your line of view. And in typical Land Rover fashion, the Defender exhibits vault-like quietness, is pampering of its occupants, and extremely confident in its capabilities. It’s that feeling of seclusion and invincibility from behind the wheel that drivers will love about the Defender – V8 or not.

ON-ROAD DRIVING

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Interior
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On-road, it’s a bit of a different story. The short wheelbase/high center of gravity design doesn’t exactly lend itself to Range Rover Sport maneuvers. Even hunkered down in Dynamic mode, the Defender V8 lacks the level of body control needed to make sporty driving truly fun. Instead, it muscles its way around relying on the V-8’s brawn to overcome natural physics. There’s big power here that’s always on-tap and paddle shifters that allow you to ring out the V-8 soundtrack, but this is not a sporty SUV in the vein of a similarly priced Porsche Cayenne GTS – this is an adventure vehicle with a big engine. It doesn’t embarrass itself on the backroads but its true purpose is clearly evident.

INTERIOR FEATURES

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Interior
- image 1086640

The suede-covered steering wheel and leather seats with suede inserts add to the sporty vibe. There’s wireless phone projection for the Pivi Pro infotainment system – much better than Land Rover’s previous screen but still not the most user-friendly IT, a refrigerated center console, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, and a driver information display that’s a little half-baked in terms of configurability and the way in which the plastic buttons on the steering wheel work it.

CARGO ROOM - BEWARE

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Interior
- image 1086637

As compared with my previous Defender 90 test drive, this one forgoes the frivolous front jump seat, making this arrangement much more practical. The rear is accessed via one-touch power sliding seats on both sides, so it’s fairly easy to get back there and feels surprisingly spacious once you do. An abundant greenhouse with windows all around also keeps it from feeling like a cave and passengers also get their own climate controls. But the 90’s cargo area is definitely compromised both in size and its cut, so carrying lots of gear isn’t in the cards. Moreover, you can forget about the roof ladder, roof rack or roof box, or even that cool side-mounted gear carrier - the dynamic capability of this V8 prohibits attaching anything up there; a huge consideration when choosing this model. There are controls in the cargo area for lowering the air springs however so loading this tall SUV isn’t a struggle. Towing is rated at about 7,700 pounds.

Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Pricing

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Exterior
- image 1086635

My previous Defender test drives in both the 90 and 110 wheelbases came with the mild-hybrid turbo-six - a fantastic engine that’s both powerful and relatively fuel-efficient, which is why this V8 is completely overkill. Of course, that’s exactly what some rich dude will want; the model no one else has at any cost. And that’s the problem I have here: the $110,000 starting price. That’s $20,000 more than the 395-horsepower Defender X which is only 8/10ths of a second slower to 60 mph than this one, and it’s miserable 16 mpg combined driving rating. But logic often doesn’t matter when you’re solely fixated on having the top-of-the-line.

At $110,260 as-tested and rated at 15 mpg in city driving, the Defender 90 V8 is a bit perplexing when a well-equipped six-cylinder, more usable Defender 110 can be had for tens of thousands of dollars less.

DEFENDER FAMILY

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review: Overpowered and Not Without Compromise Exterior
- image 1086646

The Defender is now available in 3 flavors: the 90 which is this 2-door, the 110 which is the traditional 4-door, and the new 130 which is a 3-row Defender. So, this Land Rover family continues to grow. But this 2-door V8 model is going to be a rare sight; an oddball for sure.

Steven Hammes
About the author

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