Our off-road venturer Oliver Keohane recently spent some time with Land Rover’s Defender V8 Carpathian Edition for Leisure Wheels. While the price tag may not justify venturing off of the beaten path, here is why he believes the V8-powered model may become a sight for sore eyes in the future.
Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Edition fast facts
Price: R2 882 600
Engine: Supercharged, 5,0-litre V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Power: 386 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 625 N.m @ 2 500-5 500 r/min
Top Speed: 240 km/h
0-100 km/h: 5,2 seconds (Claimed)
Fuel consumption: 12,8 L/100 km (Claimed)
Braked towing capacity: 3 500 kg
Luggage space: 297 – 1 263 L
CO2: 290 g/km
Rivals: Mercedes-AMG G63
What are we driving?
In the context of the SUV/4×4 space, not the car you need, but the car you want – at least after you’ve driven it once. This is the Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Grey Edition. The snarly Supercharged V8 petrol engine under the muscular bonnet a far cry from the 2,0-litre diesels that defined older Defender 90s. Equipped with 22-inch 5-spoke Gloss Black wheels a statement on the road but never to be taken off-road.
The Defender 90 V8 is an anomaly. It holds, in heritage, a place in off-roading conversations. It also possesses all the mechanical capabilities to take you through some serious terrain… Whether you are going to drop close to R3 million and actually take a Supercharged V8 into the bush is a different story.
So what we are driving is a two-and-a-half tonne two-door truck, that reaches a top speed of 240 km/h and is probably best suited to its role as the Bond Villain Car in the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. It is mean, it is excessive and it is impressive.
Why is the Defender 90 V8 significant?
This Defender 90, along with its 110 and 130 Outbound siblings and the Jaguar F-Pace SVR will be the last models released by Jaguar Land Rover featuring their 5,0-litre Supercharged V8 petrol engine. A new 4,4-litre Twin-Turbo engine, sourced from BMW, is being introduced into JLR new products to succeed the familiar 5,0-litre monster, so the Defender 90 holds some significance at least in being among the last of its kind when it comes to the engine.
It is also just so unique… You’ve got this whopping engine packed into a two-door SUV, that has also had its suspension and chassis toughened up and electronic rear-diff lock added to beef up its off-roading package, and then in complete contrast a Dynamic Mode introduced for opening the throttle on-road. I guess you choose your route by opting for either all-terrain or low-profile tyres!
I believe that this particular Defender is significant, though, in that it may very well join its ancestors one day as a collectable model. New Defenders with V8 engines are limited in numbers, and will not possess the sizeable engine that these do. To buy a Defender baring a Supercharged V8 engine will be a rare opportunity in a few years’ time, and to get it packaged into such a tremendously capable and good-looking car is a scarce luxury.
What is the Defender 90 V8 like to drive?
Stupidly fun. It is not often you have the luxury of V8 power – packaged into, for all intents and purposes, an SUV – sent to all four 22-inch wheels, riding the comfort of an electronic air suspension.
To drive the Defender V8 legally is to drive it well within its potential. The engine begs to be pushed, the quad-exhaust system is eager upon engine start to be set wild. It is an exhilarating and wonderfully comfortable drive. It is made to be driven on a long, empty road (if fuel costs are not an issue for you).
Badged the P525 in the Defender, the glorious 5,0-Litre V8 – which I can’t seem to stop mentioning – churns out 386 kW at 6 000 r/min and 625 N.m at 2 500-5 500 r/min. The Supercharged petrol engine sends this power to all four wheels thanks to the Defender’s intelligent All-Wheel drive system, via an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Related: Land Rover Owners Can Now Get OEM Upgrades for their Classic DefenderIf you are brave enough to risk those “Defender”-engraved 5-spokes, the Defender V8, despite its performance-based engine, possesses pretty much all the off-road technology you could ask for. The spec sheet for this car is 16 pages long, so I won’t get into everything, but high and low range transfer case? Yes. Electronic Active Differential? Yes. Traction control, stability control, hill descent control and all of that? Of course. Oh, and that wonderful Air Suspension that I’ve already mentioned. To put it simply, Land Rover’s All Terrain Response ticks all the boxes in the Defender V8.
We took it through Highlands Road, a long dirt stretch en route to Hermanus, and the car was more than at home. I wonder how it would do on set of beefy BF Goodrich or Goodyear Wrangler tyres. Scary prospect.
While the V8 growls from ignition to powering off, the actual gear changes are smooth, the drive is responsive and engaging and the steering is surprisingly soft and accurate for such a strong and weighty car. I found the turning circle to be exceptional too, with it never being too hard to squeeze out of a parking bay or manoeuvre around town.
As the leading model in the 90 series, the Defender V8 boasts a wealth of standard features. The front seats are 14-way adjustable with heating and cooling capabilities, while the suede-accented steering wheel is heated too. There’s a beverage cooler located in the central armrest, obviously.
Adding to the luxury allure of the rugged SUV is the tri-zone climate control, a slick digital instrument cluster and notably, the latest 10-inch touchscreen Pivi Pro infotainment system – recognised as one of the top in the premium SUV category – and an infotainment system that I have gushed over before. This system is known for its quick responsiveness and start-up time, thanks to its dedicated power source. Regarding safety and assistance features, the Defender V8 is equipped with surround-view cameras, six airbags, and emergency autonomous braking.
The Defender 90 V8 pays homage to its off-roading heritage with a formidable 4×4 package, and it dominates the streets riding just that bit higher than the rest of the traffic, growling quite a bit louder. It is a luxury SUV cooler than most others, a muscular and sporty maverick in a rather saturated motoring segment. Driving the V8 Defender is an exercise in opulence and it is a unique experience. In a few years’ time, when twin-turbos and downsized engines fight for space in a hybrid future, it will be a rare luxury to own or have driven 5,0-litres of V8 power packed into the meanest-looking two-door SUV around. I loved it.