The Tonka-Toy Truck. That’s what we dubbed the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 within a few minutes of being behind the wheel.
This is a combination of Land Rover’s most iconic vehicle combined with one of the British brand’s most iconic engines. In this platform, the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 punches out 618 hp (386 kW) and 625 Nm (461 lb-ft) of torque good enough for a claimed 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint of 5.2 seconds although we managed a 4.6 using Dragy. Not bad for something with aerodynamic proportions of a block of flats.
This grunt is sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission to all four corners which means you scamper off the line no matter what the quality of the surface you are sitting on. Extra power means beefed-up suspension as well as a new electronic active rear differential with ‘Dynamic’ mode to help increase the Defender’s agility in the bends.
Styling-wise the test unit sported a murdered-out theme finished in Santorini Black with a gloss finish to match the 22″ 5-spoke wheels. With very few changes from a regular Defender, you might be wishing that it packed a bit more visual drama but if you know what you are looking for, you will know you are looking at a V8 version. If you miss the quad exhaust pipes sticking below the bumper then you might see a small V8 badge on its flank or the Xenon blue calipers up front. If you see one of these features don’t challenge it at a traffic light in your regular Defender.
Hop inside and other than the very nice 11.4″ Touchscreen with Pivi Pro infotainment, you may be a little bit let down. The only real difference between this and the other Defender options is that the dashboard and steering wheel spokes are finished in textured black paint, the steering wheel and seats are covered in suede and ‘V8’ is written on the illuminated treadplates. The tester was equipped with leather and suede seats, though full leather is a no-cost option. Your taste may vary, but the suede cloth seats seem like they would be difficult to wipe clean after an off-roading adventure.
The 90 model is the short model so one can expect to lose a fair bit of boot space and one would be very correct. If you pack four adults into the Defender 90 you might need to tow a trailer as the boot space is almost non-existent. If you find yourself travelling alone or with one passenger, then you can fold the second row down and you have a much more reasonable amount of storage and packing space.
The main focus of this current range-topper is of course in the name, the V8 engine under the hood, so what is it like to drive?
Simply put, it feels like an angry dog on a leash. Point the Defender V8 in a straight line, select ‘Dynamic’ mode, mash the throttle and see how long it takes for you to giggle. The front end lifts on its air suspension as the rear squats and while it sadly does not sound as raucous as the Range Rover Sport SVR, it still delivers a very satisfying V8 soundtrack. Even though it makes use of the same auto gearbox in all the other Defenders, you do get some high-quality paddles to ‘do it yourself’ and the software has been tinkered with to change slightly faster.
Sure there is the familiar Land Rover body roll, but no matter how tight the turn, the Defender 90 V8 feels planted and composed.
The air suspension makes urban driving superbly comfortable even with the short wheelbase and while the steering is a bit weightier than that of non-V8 models, it also delivers better feedback from the road.
The V8 range was born to please people who like driving fast and if you are patient enough, it might just get a bit faster. There are talks of a full-blown SVR model with more power in the works already but this could very well be the last hurrah for this engine as Land Rover moves on to a BMW-sourced twin-turbo V8.
The Defender V8 is what we like to call the ‘stupidly fun SUV’ and although no one needs a vehicle like this, it’s one of those rare vehicles that simply makes you smile while you’re driving it. Well, except maybe not as you’re pulling up to the petrol station, again.
Pricing for the Defender 90 V8 starts from R2,494,000 while the 110 variant will set you back R2,614,000.