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2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 pulls like a hungry dog on a leash

The Short and Loud One. That’s what I dubbed the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 within four minutes of being behind the wheel.

Land Rover has taken its incredibly capable new Defender and supercharged it with a V-8 engine to make it one of the most ridiculous and capable SUVs money can buy in the U.S. today. This might not even be the top dog model, yet. But more on that in a minute.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

Constantly tugging on the leash

The second I pushed the start button my senses were greeted with the sweet, sweet sound and vibrations of a massive V-8 performing a cold start. It’s a bit more subdued than expected, but it’s still a deep guttural tone.

Land Rover shoved its well-known 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 under the hood of the Defender V8 in place of the standard 2.0-liter turbo-4 or available turbo-6. Here it produces 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque through a well-sorted 8-speed automatic transmission. Full-time four-wheel drive is standard as is a 2-speed transfer case, of course. An SVR model with more power might be in the works already. But this very well could be the last hurrah for this engine as Land Rover moves on to a BMW-sourced twin-turbo V-8.

At a stop light with auto start-stop enabled the engine comes back online with such vigor the Defender essentially leaps forward like a hungry dog on a leash. It can barely contain itself. Mash the throttle and the front end lifts on its air suspension as the rear squats and The Short and Loud One lunges forward.

Land Rover claims it will sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and that feels about right. It’s not violent like the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was, and it’s slower than the V-8-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 on 35-inch tires with its 0-60 mph sprint of 4.5 seconds. Still, it snaps your back into the seatback.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

The quad exhaust tips peek out from beneath the short rear overhang. The more pedestrian Defenders hide the exhaust tips for better clearance and departure angles. Still, the V8 model’s tips are tucked up close to the bumper to avoid being damaged off-road.

Cruising down the road, the Defender has much better manners than a Bronco or a Wrangler. Outward vision is terrific with a high seating position, low dashboard and cowl, and tall windshield, which is much more curved than those in the Bronco and Wrangler. It’s quieter, too, thanks to a non-removable metal roof, curved windshield, smaller side mirrors tucked in closer to the body, and thicker non-removable doors. It’s more comfortable and controlled thanks to its well-sorted four-corner independent air suspension with adaptive shocks.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

Rugged yet upscale

Inside, the Defender V8 features soft-touch materials, rubberized trim, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, though my tester featured an optional 11.4-inch touchscreen. The latter is easily the best infotainment system in the automaker’s history, which isn’t exactly a high bar. It’s a joy to use with a very quick startup sequence, instant wireless Apple CarPlay pairing, and quick hot keys on the left side to find the CarPlay, navigation, and audio functions. The interface is tile based with swipe functions.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

There are real buttons and knobs to control the climate, audio system, and a creative digital solution for the off-road controls to help clean up the clutter. You can tap a button and choose whether the climate control knob changes the climate control or off-road drive modes. Neat.

My tester was equipped with leather and suede seats, though full leather is a no-cost option. Your taste may vary, but the suede seats seem like they would be difficult to wipe clean after an adventure.

Despite being The Short one with only two (long) doors, the rear seat is spacious and four adults will fit fine. My kids never complained about the back seat. But there’s essentially no cargo room behind the second row despite an alleged 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space. It seemed to barely hold two backpacks and some water bottles after camp. But fold the second row down (which doesn’t fully fold flat) and it becomes a useful 58.3 cubic feet. That’s enough space for ¾ of a butchered cow. Ask me how I know.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8

In this economy?!

The numbers for the Defender 90 V8 are painful across the board.

When it was announced in March 2021, the 2022 Defender 90 V8 was going to cost $98,550. It doesn’t. The world we live in now is much more expensive, and the 90 V8 now costs $105,550 including a $1,350 destination charge. My tester had the optional 11.4-inch touchscreen for $140, premium interior protection and storage package, and WiFi data plan adding $1,160 total to the bill. Brace yourself, because it’s going to cost $109,250 to order a 2023 90 V8.

That pricing is more than double the 2022 Defender’s base price of $49,050 with a 2.0-liter turbo-4. Adding a turbo-6 tacks on a little under $12,000. The turbo-4 adds nearly a full two seconds to the 0-60 mph time of the V-8 model while the turbo-6 adds nearly a second. There’s now a dizzying 12 models of the Defender when taking into account the three wheelbases and multiple trim levels. The 90 and its V8 is far and away the most unique and special with its huge power output and short wheelbase, which is great for off-roading, but its price premium is large.

Then there’s the fuel cost. The 90 V8 carries EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg city, 19 highway, and 16 combined. Over the course of 256 miles of mixed driving the supercharged V-8 consumed premium gas at the average rate of 15.6 mpg. It’s more efficient than the Mercedes-Benz AMG G-Class, V-8-powered Wrangler, and far more efficient than the Trackhawk ever was, so there’s that.

It costs big money to play at this level. But the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 packages refinement, power, and capability almost better than anyone this side of a Mercedes-Benz AMG G-Class.




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