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TESTED: Land Rover Defender 90 V8 is more dynamic than you’d expect

Published Jan 7, 2022

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Pretoria - The last generation Land Rover Defender still remains an endearing sight on our roads and probably will be for years to come as enthusiastic owners continue to maintain them and keep them running. The restoration market for Series Defenders around the world is booming and fully restored to its original specification they are sold for silly money.

So you can rest assured that despite Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) move to electrification, Defenders and Defender enthusiasts will continue to fly the flag. In fact, as I write this, there’s a discussion going on on one of the Land Rover Whatsapp groups about the placing of the air filter on a Puma 2.4 that’s sucking in water during normal wet road driving. The owner is deep in the Richtersveld and asking for advice. They’re saying it’s a design fault (it’s a Defender thing) and there are a few remedies because over the years owners have been forced to improvise in order to improve on some of the outdated original engineering.

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Anyway, he’s been sorted which is another thing about Defender owners. It’s this weird collection of long-suffering owners that have never met but will go out of their way to assist and advise in order to remedy any breakdown.

Which brings us to the New Defender about which a lot has been written most of it positive and here and there a few old-fashioned grumpy old men that don’t agree with it.

I’m a huge fan, having spent a lot of time behind the wheel, and if I get to win the Lotto my first port of call will be Land Rover Centurion.

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I’m not sure whether new owners have the same enthusiasm as those of us that plod on with our sometimes not so trusty steeds, but Lotto winnings willing, watch this space. I do know however, that there’s a very exclusive little group that’s prepared to fork out almost R2.4 million to R2.5 million to get behind the wheel of one.

Not just any Defender mind you but one that’s fitted with a V8 and because they can, they’ve slapped on a supercharger. The Defender V8 is the pinnacle in their range and while the engine also does duty in some of the other JLR products it’s the first time it’s been put under the hood of a design shaped like a brick, making it the most powerful and fastest Defender ever.

With 386kW and 625Nm on tap you can be sure there’s heaps of fun to be had when you floor the accelerator to get you to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds from a standing start to even out at 240km/h with ease in eighth gear.

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Inspired by the Defender V8 Bond Edition seen in No Time to Die, we had the short wheelbase Defender 90 on test which was one of those cars that you couldn’t get enough of. From the delightful burble coming from the four tailpipes on start-up, the plush interior, driving position, blue brake calipers and all round fun factor, it brought a smile to my face every time, much like my own one but for very different reasons.

Fitted with the optional Black Pack and standing on 22-inch alloys it sets itself apart from its siblings in the range rather well.

Also different for obvious reasons is the unique suspension and transmission tuning with bespoke spring and damper rates and an Electronic Active Rear Differential with a yaw controller that Land Rover says delivers more agile and engaging handling with improved body control. It’s also fitted with larger diameter and solid anti-roll bars to reduce body roll while cornering.

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Whoever was in charge of those changes deserves high praise because it handles unlike any other SUV no matter what the speed.

The Terrain Response 2 has an additional Dynamic programme that tightens throttle response, suspension and a few other assists to provide, well… a more dynamic ride. You have to be a bit bonkers to push all of this to the limit, but I have no doubt that somewhere out there there’s a person doing exactly that.

While on a very early morning drive on the highway a typically aggressive Gauteng motorist in an expensive German SUV flashed his lights at me to move across. I was going slightly above the speed limit (the V8 Defender does that) so I pressed the accelerator to the floor, easily leaving him behind to explain to his friends how a Defender managed to outrun him.

Driving like that doesn’t do consumption any good but when you’re forking out that type of money I doubt the price of petrol or how much you use is on your list of concerns.

It has all the off-road goodies that you would find in a “normal” Defender which means it’s highly capable off the black stuff but somehow I can’t imagine seeing one on a trail any time soon.

For that they have a new Defender parked at home and perhaps even a kitted old clunky manual 90 or 110.

Land Rover Defender V8 pricing

Defender 90 V8: R2 386 900

Defender 110 V8: R2 460 500

Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Edition: R2 482 300

Defender 110 V8 Carpathian Edition: R2 555 900

Specifications (Defender 90 V8)

Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, turbopetrol

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Drive: Four-wheel drive

Power: 386kW @ 6000-6500rpm

Torque: 625Nm @ 2500-5500rpm

0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds (claimed)

Top speed: 240km/h (191 with 20” wheels)

Fuel use: 12.8 l/100km (claimed)

Boot capacity: 297 - 1263 litres

Towing capacity: 3500kg (braked)

Ground clearance: 225 (291 with air suspension)

Warranty: 5-year/100 000km

Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km

IOL Motoring

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