Land rover defender 130 v8

3 min read

The Defender’s extremes of size and propulsion are combined to create a monster

FELIX PAGE @felix_page_


There’s something delightfully naughty about all of this. You get the sense, given the general trajectory of the market and prevailing public opinion, that something this large and loutish shouldn’t really exist in 2023.

This hulking, imposing Goliath, all 2670kg, 5000cc and 5358mm of it, arrives as the latest in a long line of mammoth-engined, go-anywhere apocalypse wagons from Land Rover – a brand that in less than 12 months will be selling its first electric car. How’s that for diversity?

The 130 V8 takes the Defender name into hitherto untapped territory, not just in terms of its heft and presence but also in its positioning in the heartland of the sporting luxury SUV sector – where it contends obviously with the Mercedes-AMG G63 but also indirectly with other V8 behemoths like the Audi RS Q8 and certain flavours of Porsche Cayenne.

Like the 90 and 110 V8s, the most powerful version of the stretched 130 uses JLR’s supercharged ‘AJ’ engine, rather than the 4.4-litre BMW V8 deployed in top-rung Range Rovers, albeit downtuned a touch for ‘just’ 493bhp and 432lb ft.

JLR bosses refused to tell us whether this was the last time we would sample the hallowed AJ, but production has finally ended after nearly three decades and the units used here are from a stockpile of indeterminate quantity, with some reserved for the last-of-the-line Jaguar F-Type, so the end is nigh.

There have been worse swansongs. For a brand whose engines have never been the star of the show, there’s something admirable about how this super-Defender celebrates its V8 without overshadowing or compromising the attributes that are intrinsically associated with its name.

There’s a muscular but understated baritone on start-up, which befits the sinister aura that emanates from the black-on-black-on-grey paint scheme and chrome quad exhaust, while cultivating a sense of occasion that’s rather more obvious and aspirational than that of a diesel workhorse.

So, too, is it incongruously and hilariously quick. In a straight line, grunt is delivered with such surprising immediacy and captivating aural drama that you quite forget the sheer size and weight of the damned thing.

The squeal of the supercharger alone is a joy to be savoured, giving way as the revs climb to a viscous, angry growl that has a charisma unmatched by the

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