Land Rover Defender 90, V8 Edition – The Last of a Dying Breed?

The completely new L663-generation Land Rover Defenders hit the global market in 2019, reviving a legendary model that hadn’t been offered for sale in the United States in well over 20 years. All three new variants – the 90, 110, and 130 – have been powered by very respectable four- or six-cylinder engines… until now. Enter the new V8 Defender 90, an SUV with two doors and eight cylinders that’s hitting the market for the first time in the year 2022. Yes, you read all of that correctly.

Anyone who’s turned on the news over the past two years has noticed a massive move towards electric vehicles and hybrids. Lamborghini will likely never make another V12 motor again with the end of production of the Aventador, and Ferrari (Ferrari!) has announced that they will be releasing an all-electric vehicle in 2025. For car enthusiasts, this is a lot of bad news that is pretending very hard, to be good news. The displacement wars are definitely over, the horsepower wars are probably nearly over, and for many, the fun seems to be over entirely. So then, why is Land Rover cramming their V8 into a brand-new model? Could it be possible that in this day and age, Land Rover is actually having a bit of fun?

The Numbers Game

Two doors on a 90-inch wheelbase, and a total vehicle length of only 170 inches. A 5.0-liter supercharged V8 making a staggering 518 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. All of this is good to push the pint-sized Defender to 60 miles an hour in a shade under 5 seconds (around .8 seconds quicker than the six-cylinder). At first glance, all of this seems wholly illogical. As we’ve discussed above, the internal combustion engine seems to have one foot in the grave at this point, and it’s well known that two-door SUVs don’t do well when it comes to sales figures in the United States. None of these figures add up to one incredibly practical vehicle; the rear seats can be a little tough to access with only one set of doors, and with those rear seats up, cargo space is extremely limited. Some speculate that cramming this monster engine into a vehicle with such a short wheelbase may result in a squirrely ride under hard acceleration, but those who’d nitpick this vehicle’s shortcomings are missing the point a little. Climb inside the cabin and let the tour begin.

Glass Cockpit

Once inside, you’ll likely notice one major detail first: windows are absolutely everywhere. Huge, panoramic glass flanks the rear passengers, and above those are the smaller “safari windows” that have been a mainstay on Land Rovers for decades. A massive sunroof spans almost the entirety of the roof, and all of this glass helps to open up the cabin and reduce any feelings of claustrophobia that can sometimes accompany vehicles with this seating arrangement. The gauge cluster is all-electronic as well and adjustable on the fly, and the rearview mirror doubles as a backup camera. This new Defender 90 model also offers a 12” center screen, which runs Land Rover’s stellar in-house infotainment system. The result of all of this is a sleek, modern, and spacious feel inside what would otherwise be a very small cabin by today’s standards. Available Alcantara accents throughout also help to lend a sporty flair to the upholstery; other than these details, the interior remains similar to the rest of the Defenders

The Heart of the Matter.

Of course, outside of the Defender 90’s quirky and unmistakable styling, the real big talking point is the V8 motor. It’s not a new from-scratch motor, but can currently be found in several time-tested variations of the Range Rover. According to the official EPA rating, it’ll return a very optimistic 16 combined miles-per-gallon, which is right on par with other eight-cylinder offerings. There have been some other upgrades done to the platform to make the sheer horsepower and driveability mesh a little better. These include the addition of a limited-slip differential, as well as electronically-controlled dampers and throttle mapping. These tweaks don’t turn it into a Porsche, of course, but they do help keep the rubber on the road.

It’s important to note that the V8 isn’t exclusive to the 90; for those seeking a Defender with a bit less whimsy than what we’re discussing here, this same motor is also available in the new four-door Defender 110.

The Final Word

It’s a wonderful thing for us that Land Rover has decided to put all the time, energy, and resources into creating such an objectively insane vehicle focused squarely on motoring enthusiasts rather than corporate bean-counters and economy-minding bureaucrats. It’s also one of the few SUVs you can order today where any perceived impracticality in design can be pretty much written off as insignificant; in fact, these impracticalities might be the very point of a vehicle so focused on creating a specific and intentional driving experience. It’s not likely that this will be a big seller for Land Rover, but this is also a Defender that won’t be forgotten on the secondary market and is likely to retain its value for the specific kind of buyer.

All of these things go to show that Land Rover is paying attention to their fans, and not losing sight of what made the Defender such an iconic and beloved marque for decades – the sheer fun factor. With electrification coming to every corner of the auto industry, this very well could be the last two-door, V8 powered SUV that we ever see offered for sale.

While you can option this out with 20-inch wheels and All-Terrain tires, it would be great to see another trim level closer to the Ford Bronco’s Sasquatch package; even bigger tires, more options for recovery points on the front bumper, and perhaps even a winch included with the whole thing. Does this sound like too much to ask for? Probably, but a year ago, a two-door Land Rover Defender with a V8 in it would have sounded like too much, too.