Motoring / Road Tests
Jaco Van Der Merwe
In the 12 months following the local arrival of the new Land Rover Defender last year, the Solihull-based manufacturer expanded the line-up to cater for just about every taste. Well, almost every taste.
After 90 derivatives joined the initial roll-out consisting only of 110s, Dynamic-X models were also thrown into the mix. This saw the local model line-up balloon to just about three dozen. But there was still one glaring omission: a proper performance option.
The initial range-topping P400’s output of 294kW/550Nm might suffice for most buyers in the market for generous power. But its mild-hybrid electric assistance means it’s very much a sophisticated affair under the bonnet. What the Land Rover Defender needed was a mongrel. And that mongrel finally arrived in the form of the V8 at the start of November.
ALSO READ: Playful Land Rover Defender 90 back with a bang
We liked the Land Rover Defender 90 already after spending some time in entry level D240 S guise earlier in the year. So when the V8 version of the short-wheelbase arrived at The Citizen’s office recently, the Motoring desk almost had to revert to fisticuffs to settle the issue of who got the keys.
The V8’s numbers suggest it has to be good. It’s Ford-sourced 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engine produces 386 kW of power between 6 000 and 6 500 rpm and 625 Nm of torque between 2 500 and 5 500 rpm. This is sent to all four wheels via eight-speed automatic transmission.
We could not take the Defender 90 V8 to Gerotek for the customary high-performance test. But we have no reason to doubt Land Rover’s claim that it will reach 100 km/h from a standstill in a mere 5.2 seconds.
That number makes it faster than its 110 sibling by two tenths of a second to earn it the moniker of the fastest Defender Land Rover has ever made. A nice little incentive for a vehicle that was already billed as the most capable Land Rover yet.
As our Defender 90 V8 was kitted with optional 22-inch five-spoke gloss black rims – which by the way looks fabulous with the Santorini black metallic paint – we steered clear of the gravel. The base model Defender 90 we had that was fitted with the old fashioned steelies and higher profile tyres is much more suited to tackle the rough stuff.
But what we most certainly did not try and avoid was tarred roads in less ideal condition. A spirited drive on wobbly, winding country roads around the sleepy agricultural establishment that is Hekpoort gave us the opportunity to kill two flies with one swat.
To see the Defender 90 V8’s brute strength in action on the open road and experience its standard air suspension at speed over all the imperfections.
While the Defender 90 V8 might not be the quickest SUV off the mark by today’s lofty standards, it makes up for any shortcomings off the line with generous amounts of torque through a broad range of rpms.
When you need oomph and need it fast between 60 and 120 km/h, the standard overtaking territory, it delivers handsomely. And to match its bite is a lovely V8 roar, a distinction anything less mongrel simply can’t live up to.
As is to be expected, the vooma and sound does come at a premium. Land Rover claims a fuel consumption figure of 12.8 L/100 km for the Defender 90 V8, but our end result was 19.5 L/100 km over the course of 483 km.
We made no attempt to try and save fuel as we reckoned nobody owning this car is going to be a tree-hugger anyway. And besides, when you have R2 386 900 to splash on a car filling up shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Steering wheel gear shift paddles gives you the options of changing cogs yourself. But the transmission is so smooth and efficient that it will he hard for any human input to improve on the box’s performance.
Weighing in at 2 471 kg – 337 kg heavier than the Defender 90 D240 S – and riding on 275/45 R22 rubberware, the V8 certainly feels planted to the road.
The air suspension even out any hump and pothole presented to the Defender 90 V8. The ride is further enhanced through bespoke spring and damper rates and a new electronic active rear differential.
A yaw controller in the electronic active rear differential allows fine control of cornering attitude. And experiencing such superb cornering feels kind of physics-defying in something as heavy and fast as the Defender 90 V8. Should you need to reduce your speed in a hurry, it should also be noted that the stopping power is second to none.
Speaking of brakes, our test unit had fitted the Xenon Blue front brake calipers. That, along with the optional Extended Black Pack (R12 400) makes this standard Defender 90 V8 look very similar to the exclusive Defender V8 Bond Edition that was crafted by Land Rover SV Bespoke to commemorate the latest 007 film No Time To Die.
The Bond Edition does include a few additional badges and gimmicks, but there will be only 300 of them built of which only five is destined for Mzansi. In other words, it will be much easier to make your standard Defender 90 V8 look the part than it will to get your hands on the real McCoy.
There is also the option of the flagship R2 482 300 Carpathian Edition, which features enhanced styling upgrades at a premium of almost R100k.
Whether you go for the standard look, decide to pimp it Bond-style or take the Carpathian route, the Defender 90 V8 is one attractive ride. And being the short-wheelbase version, it almost presents an imposing bulldog-like physique the 110 doesn’t quite have.
Overall, the car looks mean, sounds mean and behaves mean at the behest of our right foot. Two and a half bar can buy you a quicker, much bigger and more practical SUV. But the feel-good factor that comes standard in the Land Rover Defender 90 V8 is priceless.
For more information on the Land Rover Defender 90 V8, click here.