A limited run of modernised, V8-powered Defenders? How on Earth could I say no to that…
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to describe this as an entirely pointless review. It’s a car that we’ll never get in Australia, and it’s a car that has now finished production.
But, I’ve been a fan of the Land Rover Defender for some time now, so when I heard Land Rover was making a limited run of V8 ones, I almost lost my mind.
What you’re looking at is the 2018 Land Rover Defender V8 Works. Built partly to celebrate Land Rover’s 70th anniversary and partly just because, the limited production run will include just 150 units (built in both 110 and two-door 90 body styles).
Under the bonnet of this thing is a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine from the Jaguar stable that produces 297kW of power and 515Nm of torque. Gone is the old Defender gearbox, instead swapped for an eight-speed ZF transmission.
By comparison, the most recent Defender was powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel making just 90kW and 360Nm, good for a 15.8-second ‘stroll’ from 0-100km/h. The diesel was also only available with a six-speed manual.
True to Land Rover style, it still features heavy-duty front and rear differentials, a torque-sensing centre differential and a low-range gearbox.
To the naked eye it looks like any other Defender, but take a closer look and you’ll find a lower ride height, unique badges, bi-LED headlights and exclusive 18-inch diamond-turned ‘Sawtooth’ alloy wheels with 265/65R18 all-terrain tyres.
Inside the cabin there’s leather everywhere – from the dashboard to the roof, plus a new mount for the ‘pistol grip’ gear shifter, along with unique badges.
The driver and front passenger get leather-clad Recaro seats, and infotainment comes in the form of an aptly named Classic infotainment system that includes basic audio functions and satellite navigation.
This car’s party trick has nothing to do with leather and new badges, though. Turn the engine over and instead of a clattering diesel, a healthy V8 rumble resonates in the background.
Give the throttle a stab at idle and it’ll blow you away.
The nasty V8 noise is gruff and unbecoming of a vehicle built as an off-road utility. It moves from 0–60mph in just 5.6 seconds, compared to a leisurely 0–100km/h dash of 15.8 seconds if you’re driving the regular diesel. Top speed is limited to 170km/h.
Our drive was only incredibly brief – some 20 minutes on snowy backroads – but boy was it fun. Drop the hammer in any gear and the engine throws you back into the seat and delivers the gnarliest bark this side of an AMG Mercedes-Benz.
It sounds insane inside the cabin, with the noise only amplified further on the outside. The best part is the look on the faces of bystanders when they hear and then see a Defender fly past barking quality V8 noise at them.
The engineering team behind this car upgraded the brakes, with the Defender Works V8 using 335mm front rotors and 300mm rear rotors. While they’re up to the task of pulling the car up, they require a really decent stab to operate at full capacity.
The steering hasn’t really received any work either, so it’s still a million turns lock to lock, meaning you won’t be throwing the Defender through too many mountain passes – unless you can turn the wheel at lightning pace.
But that’s where the negatives end.
The ride has been refined to a level you’d never expect from a Defender. Revised springs, dampers and anti-roll bars give the Defender a comfortable feel on the road, even when you hit sharp bumps and undulations mid-corner.
How much does it cost? Well, a lot. In the UK it’s priced from £150,000 (that’s around $260,000). But with only 150 units being produced, it could be a worthwhile investment for astute buyers.
Speaking to the engineers behind this project, they said the hardest job was making the engine fit. It sits just below the bonnet line, squeezing in almost too perfectly beneath the bonnet.
The rest of the project came into place on its own, with cooling testing done with a 3000kg load in the searing heat of Morocco, proving that it’s up to the task regardless of the climate.
It really was a surreal experience driving what will go down in history as one of the craziest Defenders ever released. It’s entirely pointless and doesn’t make any sense… But I want to have one in my life. It’s a truly sensational machine.
My hat goes off to the guys behind this awesome project.
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NOTE: Click through to our gallery for more photos of the Defender Works V8.