We were never going to turn our lips down at a V8 Defender were we? Rational, bored minds might consider it too much for what really is an SUV with offroad intention more than anything else. The new Defender however, was created with a commendable balance of being intent on going off the road yet with equal composure in the urban bushveld of metropolitan South Africa. A V8 Defender was always going to be received well by most. It’s a yes from us anyway.
It is excessive though. Land Rover couldn’t have it snarling with the same thunder as a SVR-badged product but it still sounds as intoxicating as a supercharged V8 should. The quad exhausts bark for attention and the V8 badges applied on the flanks and door inserts, though subtle, leave no doubt that 386 kW lurk beneath the bonnet. That’s a lot. It’s 92 kW more than the next most powerful Defender P400 and if the numbers don’t convince you, the monstrous drive certainly will.
As the flagship in the range, the V8 Defender doesn’t suffer from technology and comfort gaps. Standard equipment sees the 11.4-inch Pivi Pro system serving as the central nervous system of the SUV. It is a loaded system that allows access to all of the Defender’s tricks and trinkets drawer. It can suffer from some processing issues, our test unit’s screen blanking out on 2 occasions during our evaluation programme. A simple restarting procedure seemed to help but it’s worth a note. Beyond this, the Defender’s build quality and build concept is exemplary. The car is spacious and luxurious yet at the same time, seems to be rugged and robust and able to withstand a real pounding.
Apart from the V8 badges on the sills, the interior is very much the standard fare you would get in any other Defender. This isn’t a bad thing and the options available can tailor quite an exclusive mix of materials and choices should that be your thing.
The other notable reminder is the natural lighting in the cabin which enhances that feeling of space. The Defender hardly ever feels short on space or practicality but it is experienced more because of the light that washes in from the panoramic glass roof, the large cab windows all around the vehicle.
It goes hard smashing through the air with the aerodynamic grace of a delivery bakkie with a two-door fridge on the back. The Defender 110 V8 will go from 0 – 100 km/h in 5.4-seconds, tested at altitude in Gauteng. And it does so with glorious tune, that ZF 8-speed auto transmission flicking through the gears at will especially in Sport mode or even making use of the paddles behind the steering.
For 2,6-tons of fun, the V8 is mega. But despite Land Rover adding some meat to the anti-roll bars and suspension components, and retuning its Dynamic setup, weight has its limitations. The V8 accelerates and stops with surprising performance but the weight transfer is still strongly at play. Mash the throttle and you’ll see the nose point considerably skywards and it’s the exact opposite on the brakes. Lateral weight transfer too is felt through the seats and the weighted body roll eventually trumps any electronic damping and wizardry to ultimately cause lights to flash on the driver’s digital display. Despite this, the V8 is heaps of entertainment. It’s entirely characterised by that V8 and when you eventually focus on other things, you realise that it is still a Land Rover Defender 110.
This means that it will still bully its way off-road with some arrogance. The Defender’s latest Terrain Response 2 system is highly intelligent, if not too smart for its own good. Everything is push-button controlled and the entire process of 4x4’ing has been made quite fool-proof. In case that isn’t enough, the Auto function will essentially do all the thinking for you. So whether you need re-adjusted ride heights that can still extend to 290mm, or you need to get into some deep water, literally; or whether you need to lock some differentials as the going gets tougher, the Defender V8 still has the mental and engineering capacity to do so. You may want to consider fitting a tyre set that is more adept at hard off-roading should you choose to use the Defender’s plethora of skills.
At R2 614 000 before any packages and options are loaded in, the V8 does beg the question of whether it offers real value for the price. The rational me says a fierce no. It’s a hefty price tag made more hurtful at the pumps – our best consumption was 16.4l/100km and at the current rate with a 90-litre tank, that is no small cost.
Consider tyre costs and overall running costs and there’s an argument to suggest one gets a P400 or D300 option.
The other consideration is how the current ownership journey is going for other new Defender owners. The car is no longer all-new in the sense that many have been on the road for almost 2 years now. Are they as reliable as we all hoped? We’ve unearthed stories of a few cars with electronic faults which is an ongoing concern for some.
All considered, rational thinking is boring. Get the V8. It’s ridiculously amusing and will make for better stories. The V8 will excite you a little more. Isn’t that what life is about? Yes it’s ill-mannered and a bit loud and unnecessary but this excess, though expensive, is way more fun.
There’s also a cool-factor to consider. Much like a G63 AMG, the V8 Defender oozes coolness. It will fetch more street-cred and ego than the more rational options and for some, that’s very important.
Expensive. Inefficient. Cool.