The 2022 Land Rover Defender V8 is the answer to a question that few asked. What would happen if you took the trail-ready Defender and infused a pinch of SVR magic into its off-road DNA? The very notion of such a thing may seem outright insane at first glance, but as we discovered, there’s more here than the sum of its parts.
Handsome Looks On A Short Wheelbase Add Depth To Defender
The exterior styling of the Defender V8 will certainly draw plenty of stares though it won’t be because of any bright work or shouty exterior styling. Instead, it’s all about black accents with our first Edition tester being adorned with a tasteful application of black and grey trim. The V8 package is available on the 90 or the 110 (the bigger 130 is left out) and your choice of body style will entirely depend on what role you want the Defender to play. The 110 version is naturally designed to appeal to families, but if your willing to accept some of its quirks, the 90 is certainly worth a look.
Like other 90s, the V8 relishes its short wheelbase and its compact dimensions allow it to have a slight resemblance to rivals like the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco. A calling card of all V8 models is their blue brake calipers and the massive 22-inch wheels which house bigger brakes that were designed to help reign in the Defender’s added power. The shortened body has plenty of callbacks to old Defender models and it also allowed our tester to easily squeeze through tighter parking spots.
Interior Pays The Price
The Defender 90’s compact dimensions are a joy to look at, but they also require a price to be paid and that appears when you slip inside the Defender. While front-seat occupants have plenty of head and legroom, things rapidly deteriorate when you try and go into the second row. The Defender doesn’t have any manual seat controls and passengers looking to access the second row will have to stand and wait patiently for the seat to slowly move forward before they can slip inside. With your passengers in place, you then have to hold the retract button down to return the seat to its original position. We like luxury as much as the next SUV buyer, but this is clearly one gimmick that needs to be pitched with the utmost urgency.
Cargo room is also on the small side, but we are willing to give the Defender a pass here since it does fall in line with rivals like the Mercedes G-Class and standard wheelbase versions of the Jeep Wrangler and is a natural consequence of the shortened dimensions of the 90’s platform. Look past this odd way of doing things and the interior manages to redeem itself in other ways. The seats for example have fabric inserts to keep occupants in place but they still provide enough comfort to keep passengers content on long journeys.
Our tester also came with Land Rover’s Pivi Pro infotainment system and like before, it’s a notable improvement over Land Rover’s older systems with the screen delivering crisp displays and the integrated software impressing us with its responses. The rest of the cabin embodies the function first motif that has always defined the Defender albeit with some minor tweaks unique to the V8. In addition to the tweaked seats we talked about earlier, the steering wheel is also covered in Alcantara trim and you get a jet black headliner too.
Defender V8 Excels In Straightline Fun
As the name implies, performance for the Defender V8 comes from a familiar friend in the form of the long-running 5.0 liter supercharged V8 which sees duty in some of Land Rover’s other models. In the Defender, the mighty eight-cylinder is good for 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic and standard all-wheel-drive are paired with this mighty engine which all work together to help the Defender leap its way to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
Land Rover claims that the V8 can hit a top speed of 149 mph and the sinister soundtrack that emanates from the exhausts when the Defender is put into Dynamic mode is sweet music to the ears. Dynamic mode also sharpens up the throttle response, shifts from the transmission and other driving parameters. It’s important to note that even with all of this vigor, This SUV still an off-road-ready model (versus a formal SVR badged offering) and it comes packed with many of the nifty off-road-focused features that buyers demand including a 360-degree camera system. With all the fun that can be had in a straight line, it’s a pity that handling is a mixed bag here. Part of this is due to the fact that the Defender V8 is a glorified science experiment, but even with the stiffened bushings and springs, this is a beats that still comes with plenty of trademark Land Rover body roll and the steering is not communicative enough to tell you what the front wheels are doing on the road.
But while the Defender V8’s handling may leave alot to be desired, the brakes proved to be a welcome surprise, especially with how effective they were at bringing the Defender down from speed. Land Rover engineers added massive 15-inch front rotors that work with the rear brakes to deliver strong confident stops from a wide variety of speeds. Unfortunately, even this enviable brake setup was no match for the laws of physics and freak timing when a driver in front of us abruptly braked turning onto the freeway. While the ensuing low-speed fender bender forced our tester to leave the office early, the incident solidified our belief in the brakes, and we’re glad that their stopping power kept things from being much worse.
Pricing for the Defender V8 partially depends on what configuration you choose with base Defender V8 90 models starting at $109,250 while the bigger 110 version begins at $112,650. Carpathian Editions are a year one exclusive and come with beefier price tags. Our example had a base price of $116,350. A light sprinkling of options helped push things up to a final tally of $117,000.
This pricing makes the V8 one of the range-toppers in the family (Land Rover claims the 130 is supposed to be the flagship) but the specter of questionable value kept rearing its ugly head when crunching the numbers. Rivals like the Mercedes G63 are more expensive, but they also offer a more complete performance package that allows them to be a better choice for well-heeled customers. Even worse, is that the bigger 110 version of the base V8 is $4,350 less than a Carpathian edition 90 and the extra seats and cargo space will undoubtedly make this version the one that most customers will go for.
That said, the 2022 Defender 90 will have its own legion of fans and if you’re willing to sacrifice practicality and value for the sake of making a potent styling statement with your friends, there are few SUVs in the market that can do the job like the 2022 Defender 90 V8
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.