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Land Rover Defender 130 V8 2024 review – an exercise in excess

The longest version of the Defender is now available with a 5-litre supercharged V8. It’s not the version you need, but it’s one you might want

Evo rating
Price
from £117,485
  • Full of personality; can still off-road
  • Enormous weight, emissions – and price

Deluges across most of the south of England would normally be bad news for a car launch. We’re in Somerset, where waterlogged fields have spilled onto the roads and the reflections of hazard lights from stricken cars dance on floodwater. Perfect PR for Land Rover’s latest Defender variant, which takes all before it in its stride, then a hard right off the tarmac before continuing unimpeded off-road across Exmoor.

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So far, so Defender. But all the splashing and wading is accompanied by a rich burble overlaid with a whiff of supercharger whine. This is the new V8-powered long-wheelbase Defender; the Land Rover Defender 130 V8 P500 to give it its full title. 

> Range Rover Sport SV 2024 review – the new king of SUVs?

It’s a variant that’s able to offer the unusual proposition of one cylinder for every seat. Land Rover already offered a V8-powered version of the shortest five-or-six-seater Defender 90 and the longer seven-seat 110 but now it’s the turn of the longest, eight-seater 130. In the shorter Defenders the V8 develops 518bhp; in the 130 it’s been downtuned slightly to a still-strapping 493bhp.

Whilst V8-powered Range Rover models have latterly used a 4.4-litre engine sourced from BMW, the Defender uses the long-established 5-litre supercharged AJ-V8, as employed in older Range Rover Sport and SVR models and Jaguars including XKR, F-type and Project 8. Production of said engine has now ceased. There’s plenty of stock (some of which is saved for end-of-line F-type production), but it will eventually run out. 

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Official 0-62mph time is 5.7 seconds, a few tenths slower than the lighter, more powerful 110 but still quick for a car that weighs 2670kg and measures more than 5.3m in length. Oh, and averages less than 20mpg. It’s not very 2024. 

The 130 V8 is available in only two colours: grey or Bond-baddie black. More black too for the grille housing, badging, privacy-glass windows, chequerplate panels on the bonnet (which are plastic, disappointingly) and the whopping 22-inch wheels. Another external clue that it’s a 5-litre V8 rather than the six-cylinder D300 diesel or P300/P400 petrol Defender is quad exhaust outlets below the side-hinged tailgate. 

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They make a nice burbly sound, although a relatively muted one from inside the cabin. It’s certainly less vocal than some older Range Rover SVR models, which sounded like an entire Goodwood Revival grid had been squeezed under the bonnet. Nor, being honest, does it feel enormously quick – how could it, given its size and weight? It’s far from slow, though, and feeling 450lb ft push this humongous car down the road at an unlikely rate of knots is highly addictive. 

The eight-speed transmission’s shifts are smooth in auto mode but can be rather abrupt on the paddles. I find the brake pedal rather sensitive, especially while wearing chunky outdoor boots – as many owners surely will. Best brake early: it’s a lot of car to slow down, especially on all-season tyres. And, predictably, a far from athletic one in corners. That said, it does drive tidily given its sheer bulk and its remit of being capable off-road as well as on. It certainly handles no less neatly than evo’s recently departed Defender 110 D300 long-termer. 

Compared with the 110 V8, the 130 has slightly stiffened front springs, and likewise the front and rear anti-roll bars. The damper valving is unchanged but all of the software calibration is unique, to allow for the spring and bar changes. Electronically height-adjustable air suspension is standard on 130-spec Defenders, and the V8 rides well, considering the 22-inch wheels. You don’t get tossed around much for such a tall car with a high centre of gravity. 

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The Defender’s dynamics are more impressive off the road rather than on. The 130 V8 can off-road very nearly as well as other Defenders; a 90 or 110 has less bulk and better departure angles, of course, but the 130 can still get over challenging terrain. It retains other models’ low-range transmission mode, electronically controlled differentials and Terrain Response 2 software. With the air suspension raised, there’s 290mm of ground clearance. We scramble down steep, rain-ravaged slopes using the ‘look-Mum-no-feet’ hill descent control, and the car lopes over collapsed surfaces that wouldn’t be particularly easy to clamber over on foot.

Launched concurrently with the V8 is another new Defender 130 variant, the five-seater Outbound, which exchanges the rearmost seats for an enormous rubberised cargo bay. It’s available with the D300 diesel engine only. And, whisper it, that’s probably the engine that suits the Defender the best. Being rational, a 5-litre supercharged V8 is not an engine the Defender needs. But it is a charismatic powerplant for a charismatic car. The 130 V8 is an enormously likeable (as well as plain enormous) creation. 

An enormously expensive one, too. It costs £117,485 on the road, versus £85,135 for a P400 petrol in Defender X-Dynamic HSE trim. The Defender 90 V8 costs £109,515 and the 110 V8 £112,285. But it’s not the sort of car that’s a rational purchase. With the P500 engine, the biggest car in the Defender line-up is the biggest character, in all weathers.

But it’s not the sort of car that’s a rational purchase. As well as being the biggest car in the Defender line-up, it’s the biggest character. Whatever the weather.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8 specs

Engine5-litre supercharged V8
Power493bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque450lb ft @ 2500-5500rpm
Weight2670kg
Power-to-weight185bhp/tonne
0-62mph5.7sec
Top speed130mph
Price£117,485
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