Land Rover Defender 110 V8 Brings Attitude to 2022

Even with four doors, Land Rover's 518-horsepower brute remains obscenely excessive.

While performance SUVs are plentiful these days, automakers have taken their time applying their fire-breathing formulas to more utilitarian offerings. Land Rover, for example, is only now bringing its V-8-powered Defender to the jungle. However, as far as block-shaped missiles with six-figure price tags go, the wait was worthwhile. Safari experiences will never be the same again.

If the recipe for the Defender V8 sounds familiar, it's because Mercedes-AMG followed a similar path when transforming Benz's rugged G-class into the swaggering expression of superiority known as the G63. The Defender V8 owes a great deal of its performance to its supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine. With 518 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque, it provides the audible cues necessary to project a menacing attitude. Even the quad exhaust tips on the rear appear to be made of the same metallic material, though the soundtrack blaring through the pipes is more dulcet in tone than the G63's machine-gun rat-a-tat-tat.

The Defender's roughly three-ton curb weight helps to tame its beastly engine, resulting in more authoritative than urgent acceleration. Consider 60-mph times in the low-five-second range—roughly a second or so faster than the 110-horsepower inline-six model we previously tested, but the V8 also carries a few hundred pounds more. Nonetheless, it's clear from behind the wheel that the blown V-8 enjoys countering this Rover's enormous mass, roaring merrily all the way to its redline of 6750 rpm. The Defender's standard ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is a willing partner, responding instantly to the click of the V8 model's paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. Once a gear is selected, the transmission will faithfully retain it until otherwise directed. Fortunately, the V8 model's large brakes—14.9-inch front rotors and 14.3-inch rear rotors—are robust and inspire confidence, providing a reassuringly firm and progressive pedal feel even after extended use.

The Defender V8's Terrain Response system gains a new Dynamic mode, which sharpens the engine's throttle response and stiffens the adaptive dampers. Additionally, larger anti-roll bars and an electronically activated rear differential lend this portly top-heavy beast an admirable sense of agility. While hustling through the Angeles National Forest's winding canyon roads, the Defender V8's tenacity in corners surprised several drivers. However, if you push it too hard, the stability control will intervene with the delicacy of a bear trap.

Of course, despite its newfound pavement prowess, the Defender's roots remain ostensibly off-road. With the air springs cranked all the way up to their maximum height—11.5 inches of ground clearance—and the low-range transfer case engaged, there are few trails that this Defender cannot traverse. Climbing steep inclines is a breeze for the V8 model, which burbles contentedly just above idle, stress-free and brimming with torque. And, while these off-road excursions are technically possible with standard 22-inch wheels and all-season tires, we do not recommend them. The thin sidewalls betray the suspension's poise by directly transmitting every impact, no matter how minor, into the cabin. If you're determined to maximize the Defender V8's utility, we strongly advise you to opt for the free 20-inch wheels and $350 all-terrain tires.

Those hoping for additional options will be disappointed, as the Defender V8 comes fairly loaded out of the box. The vehicle's color palette is limited to three uninspiring shades—black, white, and gray—and the vehicle we drove appeared to have been dipped in a black hole. As if that weren't enough to absorb all available light, the Extended Black Exterior package ($1180) applied dark finishes to the remaining contrasting components. On the inside, the Pivi Pro infotainment system features a larger 11.4-inch touchscreen—a $140 option in our example; it will be standard on 2023 models. We continue to find this system sluggish at times, despite its highly configurable options and well-organized Terrain Response menus, which include detailed descriptions for each mode. We wish, however, that we could read up on a mode without first engaging it. Additionally, given the Defender V8's towing capacity of up to 8201 pounds, we'd like to be able to monitor the engine's vitals beyond a single water-temperature gauge.

While these details may be significant to us and a few others, we suspect that the majority of Land Rover Defender V8s will be spotted with a trailer about as frequently as they will be spotted off-road—that is, infrequently. This is partially due to the starting price of $109,560 for the 2022 110 model. Unlike the Mercedes G-class, the Defender is available in a variety of milder flavors aimed at a more practical crowd—allowing the V8 models to revel in their supercharged excess.

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