Land Rover brings the Defender back from the dead and stuffs it with a 5.0-litre V8. What could possibly go wrong?
A couple of years ago Land Rover did everything the marketing team could think of when it came to hyping the run-out Heritage Edition Defender. After 70 years of pretty much the same beloved thing the British off-roading icon was finally ending production and Land Rover naturally wanted to coin it on the way out.
Even though Solihull stoped building them however, the Brits decided the Defender wasn’t done yet because somebody at the factory remembered they hadn’t done a V8 in a while (20 years) and that just wouldn’t do.
Around our parts in the Middle East you can see plenty of Defenders with V8 engine swaps done, and there are more than a few with GM’s LS motors under the bonnets, usually the 6.2-litre ones.
Only 150 examples will be going around, or have gone around, because they’ve sold out within a month. So, err, onto the review.
Land Rover simply looked around and noticed the obvious demand, and figuring $200,000 for a Defender left plenty of room for profit, decided to just do the conversion themselves.
In fact, the deal is the you basically pay for a service, because Land Rover doesn’t actually fire up the old Solihull presses once again. They source a Defender short-wheelbase or long-wheelbase model for you, and then build a Works V8 70th Edition out of it. Only 150 examples will be going around, or have gone around, because they’ve sold out within a month. So, err, onto the review.
The build entails some big 18-inch wheels, with a kind of too contemporary diamond-turned finish. There are also sports buckets trimmed in leather with raspy plastic seatbacks, and plenty more of the raspy plastic you always got in Defenders. The roofline is Alcantara, trimmed by some upholsterer who was having an off day. The billet aluminium door locks and door handles exude fabricating precision – they stick out in stark contrast to the rest of the slapped together cabin. Call it hand-built charm when you’re justifying the purchase to one of your mates.
Just as cramped as I remember a Defender, the driving position in the Works V8 isn’t unlike that of a fork-lift, and the last thing you’d think necessary is a 5.0-litre V8 making 400 horsepower and 515Nm of torque. You normally don’t figure that as a perfect combination to go with a ladder frame and solid axles. If you can hang on while it squats, the Works V8 will do zero to 100kph in less than six seconds, so it never comes across as all that quick, seeming to store more in reserve than it lets on. It could be the relaxed gait of the transmission, an eight-speed automatic with a pistol-grip shifter out of a Jaguar F-Type that’s in total dis-accord with the rest of the interior.
Of course, next to a four-cylinder diesel engined Defender this is still frighteningly fast. During Motormouth’s short ride around Geneva, Switzerland, with some snow and drizzle on the day, nothing was ever rushed though despite all the power at your disposal simply because with its hopeless steering feel and jumpy throttle response, you’re not exactly imbued with confidence in the Works V8. Uprated springs and dampers, as well as a bigger anti-roll bar, do little to give the Works any sort of handling capability. The game here is slow in, slow out.
The brakes work well in practice, despite a lackluster pedal, with big 335mm discs up front and 300mm rears.
Of course a real test of this car would’ve been us heading up the Alps somewhere instead of faffing about in Geneva amongst all the black S-Classes, but even that might have been somewhat unnecessary. With so few examples built the Works V8 is a collector’s item and surely now the last Defender ever to officially come from Land Rover, not least because a new Defender is green-lit and on the way.
Our source from Jaguar Land Rover Middle East disclosed the new Defender will be very much lifestyle orientated, so for everyone willing to pay a high price for nostalgia the Works V8 70th Edition could be the last true off-roader on the market and worth every penny, dodgy stitching and all
Land Rover Defender Works V8 70th Edition
5.0-litre V8 | eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | 400 horsepower and 515Nm of torque | 0-100kph in less than six seconds and a top speed of 170kph | $200,000