What is it?
Arguably the most brilliantly bizarre cars on the market today – a combination of farm truck and sports car. The Defender 90 V8 is the British brand's now-iconic short-wheelbase off-roader with the same supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from the Jaguar F-Type squeezed under the bonnet.
It's an unlikely combination but in a market dominated by SUVs and performance cars it ultimately makes sense. This combines Australia's passion for both types of vehicles, and if you want something more sensible there is a long-wheelbase 110 version, which gives Land Rover a rival to the popular Mercedes-AMG G63.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
While it may seem an unlikely racing car, the Defender has a rich history of motorsport thanks to Bowler Motors. The British company has been building Land Rover-based off-road racing vehicles since the 1980s and since 2019 has been part of the Jaguar Land Rover group.
The latest Defender 90 has been turned into a one-make rally car, but misses out on the V8 and instead uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
What's under the bonnet?
It's not the most powerful V8 engine on sale today, but the bent-eight Land Rover uses is a deeply-loveable engine nonetheless. And it's not exactly a slug, with the supercharged 5.0-litre unit punching out 386kW of power and 625Nm of torque, which is enough grunt for this sizeable off-roader to run 0-100km/h in a rapid 5.2 seconds.
It's paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and, of course, a four-wheel drive system.
On the road the Defender 90 feels rapid for an SUV of its size and while the petrol particulate filters muffle the soundtrack slightly, it still has that classic V8 growl and supercharged whine.
How does it handle?
Land Rover overhauled the suspension and chassis set-up to ensure the Defender 90 could handle all the extra power. This includes larger anti-roll bars, continuously variable dampers, stiffer suspension bushes and an electronic active rear differential.
It makes for a firmer ride than your typical Defender but it feels sharp and responsive for such a tall, short-wheelbase vehicle.
Land Rover claims the V8-powered Defender hasn't compromised its “unstoppable all-terrain capability and wading ability” but it's hard to picture too many owners getting its 22-inch alloy wheels muddy.
Where would you most like to drive it?
The combination of the potent supercharged V8 and Land Rover's off-road experience would make it a blast to drive on loose surfaces. The Defender 90 feels like it would be at home tackling sand dunes in the desert or throwing up gravel on a rally stage.
What's the interior like?
The new Defender cabin is an excellent example of combining modern convenience with some design cues from the original model. The three-door Defender 90 is obviously compact inside, but the front row has plenty of practical elements that make it easy to live with, while simultaneously setting it apart from the rest of the Land Rover range.
For this V8 version there are some new materials, such as the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, that speak to its performance potential.
How much does the Land Rover Defender 90 cost?
While the entry-level Defender 90 P300 starts at $81,950, this range-topping V8 version costs nearly three times more at $221,300. Interestingly, if you want more space and opt for the five-door Defender 110 V8, you'll only pay $5200 extra as it starts at $226,500.
Would I buy one?
I've made it clear in all my previous reviews that I'm a big fan of this new-generation Defender. I enjoyed it in high-grade 110 format just as much as the entry-level Defender 90 – it's just a great example of a brand capturing the spirit of the original but bringing it to a modern audience.
This V8-powered version won't be to everyone's taste, as it takes things to the extreme, but personally I love it. It's a well executed performance twist on an off-road icon.
2023 Land Rover Defender 90 P525 V8 price and specifications
|From $221,300 plus on-road costs
|5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol
|386kW at 6000-6500rpm
|625Nm at 2500-5500rpm
|Eight-speed automatci, four-wheel drive