This Is the First Defender Designed to Drift (Safely)

Land Rover Defender and V8 engines are virtually synonymous with one another here in the U.S. as a burger and fries. You can have one without the other, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Buyers have been positively bonkers about the new Defender since its debut, snapping them up from showrooms in great numbers — despite not being offered with a V8 engine option. That is, until now.

This evening, Land Rover revealed the all-new Defender V8 for the 2022 model year. It’s powered by a Land Rover-developed supercharged 5.0-liter gasoline V8 that churns out 518 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. This beast of an engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

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This huge lump of horsepower, routed to all four wheels through its quick-shifting automatic, will propel the Defender V8 from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds on the way to its 149-mph top speed.

If that weren’t enough, Land Rover engineers brag this is the first Defender you can drift. And I don’t just mean theoretically. Land Rover spent most of the media introduction video going through — in technical detail — exactly how the 2022 Defender V8 can maintain a drift. I won’t attempt to recreate the technical dissertation. But suffice it to say technology enables this V8-powered Defender to drift with ease.

In fact, one engineer concluded that this V8 Defender is “the Defender you want to drive.” I will go ahead and assume that wasn’t intended to be a knock on the four- and six-cylinder-powered Defender P300 and P400 models.

Despite having a thunderous V8 under its hood, the Defender V8 is sort of subdued. Keen observers will be able to pick the V8 variant out from the crowd by its quad tail pipes, Xenon-blue brake calipers, 15-inch front brake rotors, and 22-inch wheels at all four corners. Defender V8 will be offered in both 90 and 110 body styles. And buyers can specify a new, larger 11.4-inch touchscreen in the center dashboard.

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When I was watching the press introduction video, I was thinking: Oh perhaps this is finally the Defender for me. Then they mention the wheels and brakes specs.

The Defender P400 I reviewed was fitted with 20-inch wheels wrapped in a bespoke Goodyear tire. This was a combo I found untenable for overland travel. Worse yet, to fit smaller wheels, you’d have to modify the P400s rear brakes. I fear the V8 model’s story will be much the same, but worse. I can’t help but conclude that, based upon the brakes, wheels, and drifting capabilities, this V8 model is less of a continuation of the old V8 Defender models than it is a competitor to the BMW X5 M or Mercedes-AMG GLE — sport-luxury crossovers, not hardened 4x4s.

I will reserve my final assessment, though, until I get to drive one (if I am so lucky). Until then, I’ll just say it will be nice to have a Defender V8 back in Land Rover showrooms after so many years away.


Images: Land Rover

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