Currently reading: New Land Rover Defender V8 tests at the Nurburgring
V8-powered reborn 4x4 joins prototype test sessions at the fearsome German circuit ahead of an expected 2021 debut
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4 mins read
29 July 2020

Land Rover is working on a range-topping V8 version of the new Defender and the latest spy shots show it's being put through its paces at the Nürburgring.

Although it is not the natural habitat for the rugged 4x4, it suggests that extensive chassis retuning is required to ensure the Defender can handle the additional power. 

Previous shots showed an undisguised Defender driving on the roads outside Land Rover’s research and development facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire, sporting the ‘Prototype Vehicle’ stickers reserved for testing mules. That was the first official sighting of a V8 variant, which had been rumoured for some time and hinted at by bosses. 

Although no changes were visible at the front, a rear view of the test car revealed a quad exhaust system – used by Jaguar Land Rover for V8-powered variants only. On the Nürburgring prototype, we can now see red brake calipers, again an indication of the extra performance potential.

Sources close to the firm have confirmed the project’s existence, but the official JLR response is: “We are unable to comment on the specific nature of these [technology development] programmes.”

Autocar obtained registration data for the car pictured that shows it has a 4999cc petrol engine, suggesting it’s powered by the ‘AJ’ 5.0-litre supercharged V8 used in the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography.

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However, production of the long-serving AJ will come to an end before this year is out, as the Bridgend Ford factory in which it’s made is closed down.

For future high-performance models, JLR is set to use the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that BMW produces for its larger M cars, under a wide-reaching powertrain deal struck between the two firms.

This alliance began with the intention to develop electrified powertrains, but sources close to the German manufacturer revealed last year that it has been extended to include supplying JLR with a range of internal combustion engines.

Although the use of the 4.4-litre V8 has yet to be officially confirmed by JLR, Autocar understands that it’s merely a formality.

It’s plausible that the 5.0-litre engine is being used primarily to test the Defender’s dynamic responses with the weight and power increases.

However, Autocar understands the V8 Defender is intended as a low-volume special variant rather than a series-production mainstay. Land Rover may well be stockpiling the Ford-built V8 for use in the Defender, because emissions targets are much less of a priority for low-volume specials.

Interestingly, sources tell us that JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division isn’t directly involved with the Defender V8 project. Instead, it’s an offshoot of the existing Defender engineering operation.

It’s likely, then, that the engine won’t offer as much firepower as full-on SVO cars, such as the 567bhp Range Rover Sport SVR. Indeed, we expect it to be tuned to near or below the 500bhp mark.

Likely to be paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox supplied by ZF, it would still be potent enough to make a credible rival to the Mercedes-AMG G63, which gets 577bhp from a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 but is a good deal heavier than the Defender.

JLR engineers have previously hinted to Autocar that the G-Class was used as a benchmark for higher-end Defender variants and, with the hot G63 making up a high proportion of G-Class sales, it’s only natural that the British manufacturer would want to cash in on the sector.

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Either way, chassis revisions will be required to ensure the V8 Defender is capable of handling such power. Air suspension could be fitted as standard, offering a range of driving modes.

The Defender’s aluminium-intensive body structure, said to be the stiffest Land Rover has yet produced, provides a strong base for engineers.

Expect the quad-exhaust system to make production, along with the usual larger wheels, lower ride height and subtle non-SVR body add-ons necessary to mark out the V8.

And marked out it will need to be: with prices already exceeding £75,000 for the top-spec six-cylinder petrol Defender, there’s every chance that the V8 Defender will cost well in excess of £100,000.

One mystery remains, though: whether Land Rover will offer the V8 in the short-wheelbase Defender 90 as well as the 110 spotted testing.

Conventional wisdom says customers at this end of the market expect five doors, but this is a limited special project, so the unique proposition of a three-door V8 SUV is possible.

Don’t expect to see it before late 2021, however, because Land Rover will prioritise the roll-out of fleet-emissions-reducing hybrids and new series-production models.

READ MORE

Opinion: The V8 Defender is an indulgence that should sell

New Land Rover Defender: UK prices confirmed for 90 and 110 

New £25k Land Rover to be followed by luxo-Defender 

Land Rover Defender: The story behind the 4x4's production

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Comments
32

6 May 2020

What does the Range Rover do then? Mercedes-Benz website states G Wagons start at £96220, AMG G63 starts at £143520. From Land Rover's website; Evoque from £31725, Disco Sport from £31905, Defender from £40330, Velar from £45710, Disco from £48340, Rangie Sport from £65295, Range Rover from £84015, £112515 and £144265 for a 5.0 V8 Supercharged. Base G Wagon money gets you a proper Range Rover with £12000 worth of options. Then, for £100,000+ you can have a Defender V8? I'm guessing it's getting an interior work over to make it more, well, like a Range Rover? It doesn't read as if they're planning on selling many, which is probably a good thing. If they put the higher spec V8 in, and up the price to similar to a G63, are they really going to be able to make it feel like it's £100000 more of a thing than a regular one?

6 May 2020

Putting a BMW engine back in a Land Rover is a mistake when they are responsible for the terrible reliablity reputation that Land Rover inherited in the USA because of BMW engines.

 

BMW have had far too many problems with their engines, and it marred Land Rover in one of their most important markets.

 

6 May 2020
russ13b wrote:

What does the Range Rover do then? 

The RangeRover competes with the GLS not the G-Class

289

29 July 2020

...in theory perhaps citytiger....although in the UK the GLS is all but invisible - probably through its ridiculous size on UK roads.

Fact is that owners switch between Range Rover SVR's and AMG 63's based on price and received status.

Still cant beleive that these muppets still test high power SUV's on the Nurburgring.....I mean relevance ?!!!

29 July 2020

So very true 289, Nurburgring, Defender, Chelsea?

A34

6 May 2020

Blocky design and all. Except you can get a 3 door 4cyl diesel "cheap" at c45K. Nice toy, although in the real world the PHEV Disco Sport will be more practical for the same money...

6 May 2020

Have any of you actually been in let alone owned a G wagon like I have. Like the Landcruiser they are bombproof with a build quality that is indestructible. Just closing the doors is like closing a bank vault with a click-clunk that has you opening and shutting it just to hear and feel the quality. The german army rely on them so they are subject to every abuse you can imagine soldiers will put them through. the high prices reflect decades of solid, cast iron build and reliabilty. JLR products? Candyfloss in comparison. 100K for the top models?

Good luck with that

289

6 May 2020

Quite agree Lambo.

I have had quite a few G-Wagens as company cars in my time, and it is one thing to shove a fancy interior and large capacity V8 into a 4x4.....quite another to replicate an icon.

The build quality and vault like construction is amazing - totally over-engineered. Land Rover would have to up their game to an amazing degree to even approach this level. You cant just buy your way into a market by pricing similarly - you have to earn such respect.

Its a big ask, and I doubt they can walk the talk. 

I dont think Mercedes-Benz will be too concerned at this news!

6 May 2020
289 wrote:

Quite agree Lambo.

I have had quite a few G-Wagens as company cars in my time, and it is one thing to shove a fancy interior and large capacity V8 into a 4x4.....quite another to replicate an icon.

The build quality and vault like construction is amazing - totally over-engineered. Land Rover would have to up their game to an amazing degree to even approach this level. You cant just buy your way into a market by pricing similarly - you have to earn such respect.

Its a big ask, and I doubt they can walk the talk. 

I dont think Mercedes-Benz will be too concerned at this news!

 

I partly agree, but this does make me chuckle somewhat.  But Matt Watsons tug of war between the G63 and a RRS does mak me chuckle somewhat.

6 May 2020
lambo58 wrote:

Have any of you actually been in let alone owned a G wagon like I have. Like the Landcruiser they are bombproof with a build quality that is indestructible. Just closing the doors is like closing a bank vault with a click-clunk that has you opening and shutting it just to hear and feel the quality. The german army rely on them so they are subject to every abuse you can imagine soldiers will put them through. the high prices reflect decades of solid, cast iron build and reliabilty. JLR products? Candyfloss in comparison. 100K for the top models?

Good luck with that

Lol, do you actually believe what you write, or expect other to? 

Various militaries and rescue services have relied on LandRovers since 1947, far more than have relied on or trusted the G-wagon, many of which were produced under licence by Puch and are now built by Magna Steyr (who build the Jaguar iPace, the Toyota Supra and few other vehicles), they have a reputation of being tough, but also very expensive, the G-Wagon is expensive because "Merican rap artists" like them, they are overpriced and over rated, bought by fools with too much money. 

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