New Land Rover Defender V8 tests at the Nurburgring

Land Rover is working on a range-topping V8 version of the new Defender and the latest spy shots show it’s being put through its paces at the Nürburgring.

Although it is not the natural habitat for the rugged 4×4, it suggests that extensive chassis retuning is required to ensure the Defender can handle the additional power.

Previous shots showed an undisguised Defender driving on the roads outside Land Rover’s research and development facility in Gaydon, Warwickshire, sporting the ‘Prototype Vehicle’ stickers reserved for testing mules. That was the first official sighting of a V8 variant, which had been rumoured for some time and hinted at by bosses.

Although no changes were visible at the front, a rear view of the test car revealed a quad exhaust system – used by Jaguar Land Rover for V8-powered variants only. On the Nürburgring prototype, we can now see red brake calipers, again an indication of the extra performance potential.

Sources close to the firm have confirmed the project’s existence, but the official JLR response is: “We are unable to comment on the specific nature of these [technology development] programmes.”

Autocar obtained registration data for the car pictured that shows it has a 4999cc petrol engine, suggesting it’s powered by the ‘AJ’ 5.0-litre supercharged V8 used in the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography.

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Either way, chassis revisions will be required to ensure the V8 Defender is capable of handling such power. Air suspension could be fitted as standard, offering a range of driving modes.

The Defender’s aluminium-intensive body structure, said to be the stiffest Land Rover has yet produced, provides a strong base for engineers.

Expect the quad-exhaust system to make production, along with the usual larger wheels, lower ride height and subtle non-SVR body add-ons necessary to mark out the V8.

And marked out it will need to be: with prices already exceeding £75,000 for the top-spec six-cylinder petrol Defender, there’s every chance that the V8 Defender will cost well in excess of £100,000.

One mystery remains, though: whether Land Rover will offer the V8 in the short-wheelbase Defender 90 as well as the 110 spotted testing.

Conventional wisdom says customers at this end of the market expect five doors, but this is a limited special project, so the unique proposition of a three-door V8 SUV is possible.

Don’t expect to see it before late 2021, however, because Land Rover will prioritise the roll-out of fleet-emissions-reducing hybrids and new series-production models.