So who’s king of the mountain now? Land Rover is ramping up the battle of the super 4x4s by bringing back the V8 for its new Defender and throwing down a 525PS (386kW) challenge to arch off-road rival, the Mercedes-AMG G wagon.
We are not sure what is more astonishing: a Defender that can hit almost 150mph and accelerate as quickly as a Caterham Super Seven, or a Defender that costs over £100,000. Both are now on offer within an expanded line-up announced today.
They represent a new pinnacle of the acclaimed range, with the mountainously-named Carpathian Edition slotting in at the top as new flagship. As well as JLR’s familiar 525PS supercharged 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet, it gets a new Dynamic mode within the Terrain Response system to make what Land Rover says is the fastest and most engaging production Defender ever, with “unrivalled agility and driver appeal”.
It also looks pretty cool you have to say with its black roof, bonnet and tailgate contrasting with the rest of the body painted Carpathian Grey. You won’t have seen a Defender with a black tailgate before and it works, in a Secret Service sort of way. The whole thing gets a semi-matte satin protective wrap which adds to the mystery as well as, rather more prosaically, protecting against “bramble rash”.
Other highlights on this new flagship include satin black towing eyes, blue front brake calipers, illuminated treadplates and an interior trim combo of Ebony Windsor leather and Dinamica suedecloth with an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.
The newest member of what is now a huge Defender family promises to be capable off road, despite its overt sporting emphasis. As well as the new Dynamic mode, Land Rover engineers have fitted larger-diameter anti-roll bars, stiffer bushes and a new yaw control system within the electronic rear diff for what they say is finer control of cornering attitude at and beyond the limit of grip. The result, they say, is a Defender with a “more playful and responsive character”. This then is the Defender to chuck around on a loose surface.
But will all this allow it to see off its nearest serious off-roader rival, the 584PS (430kW) AMG G63? The British V8 gives away 60PS (44kW) in power to the German as well as a heap of torque, and can’t quite keep up, but at 5.2 seconds for the 0-62mph dash (4.5 for the AMG) and a 149mph top speed it’s the fastest Defender ever made. At £98,505 for the 90 wheelbase three-door model and £101,150 for the five-door 110, it’s also around £40,000 cheaper than the AMG.
The distinctive paint job and body wrap are exclusive to the Carpathian flagship, which is a limited edition, but everything else is shared with the regular Defender V8 which, oddly, is priced the same. We think it’s a shame there’s not a less well specced V8 entry model for less money. With the Defender’s V8 heritage stretching back to the 1970s, there are surely still people who think that a Defender is not a real Defender without a bent eight and who don’t mind 19.5mpg.
The V8 option joins what is already a wide range of engines for the new Defender: petrol and diesel mild hybrids and a plug-in petrol hybrid. There’s also an array of trim designations, and now there’s a new one: XS.
The XS models, both 90 and 110s, slot in above the SE grade and take over from the First Edition models. Important standard gear here comprises air suspension, adaptive dynamics, configurable Terrain Response and matrix LED headlights. Inside you get leather, 12-way, heated and electric memory seats, ClearSight rear view camera and 11-speaker Meridian sound system. You can tell an XS by its body-colour cladding, 20-inch diamond turned wheels and special paint choices.
Best spec of all Defenders? Could be. Depending on engine, XS prices start at £63,460 for the 90 and £67,640 for the 110.
It’s all part of a modest spec refresh of the range which sees more exterior design packs, new tech such as wireless device charging and an optional larger 11.4-inch PIVI Pro infotainment touchscreen. There was certainly no touchscreen available in the first Defender V8 (then just the Land Rover Series III) in the 1970s…