Currently reading: Land Rover Defender V8 driven
Brand's Classic division has transformed off-roader into 399bhp luxury proposition

It’s been a long time coming, and it’s very expensive, but Land Rover has now produced a version of the traditional Land Rover that has been around since 1948 with proper performance and truly long legs.

Jaguar Land Rover Classic is obtaining about 150 recent Defenders, in both short and long-wheelbase forms, and equipping them with a 399bhp, normally aspirated 5.0 V8 so that they can accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.6sec and hit 106mph flat out.

399bhp Land Rover Defender V8 sold out

I had a brief drive in one of these just before the Geneva motor show. A Defender will always be a Defender - what with the cramped driving position and flappy doors - but with Recaro seats, an eight-speed ZF auto 'box and lots of smooth power, it felt transformed.

Lr classic defender worksv8 170118 06 0

Even more impressive are the re-engineered springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, the mighty new brakes and an eye-grabbing set of 18in saw-tooth alloys running aggressive-looking 265/65 tyres. Suddenly, the Landie swallows bumps rather than amplifying them.

You can have a proper conversation as you drive along a rutted street, instead of concentrating on driving around craters. This Defender’s never going to be a luxury saloon, but its comfort is now pretty good. Better still, the steering is re-engineered with zero slop at the straight ahead (usually a Defender given) and no drive-line backlash.

Lr classic defender worksv8 170118 12 0


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Next Land Rover Defender edges closer to production

Of course, it’s very expensive. I get the feeling that the majority of what JLR Classic touches is expensive, mostly because it’s all done by hand – and to a very high standard. No production lines here and they’re not into cutting corners. But you can do lots of exciting things if you have £150k to spend.

Still, there’s no doubt JLR Classic’s engineers have identified the weakest spots of the Defender, dynamically speaking, and found robust fixes for them all. The only matter of regret is that it took 70 years…

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Nige 8 March 2018


All of you "men" what sit at home crying about emissions and safety on your cars, how do your wives sleep with you at night?  I could not imagine waking up in the morning and being that pathetic.

Chris C 7 March 2018

ROPS, galvanised chassis

ROPS & rollcages - possibly centre of gravity, wind noise and pedestrian impact reasons. Fair point though but I doubt that many of these will go seriously offroad.

Galvanised chassis - there are better anticorrosion techniques nowadays, eg see the comments on the Marsland website. It can also cause distortion and there is the extra cost of having to redrill many holes.

Rtfazeberdee 7 March 2018

its limited to 106 mph?

"normally aspirated 5.0 V8 so that they can accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.6sec and hit 106mph flat out."


typo or limited?