Wicked Landy 90 V8 is as meek as mince. Until you floor it!
Jekyll and Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson’s epic of intellectual Doctor Henry Jekyll and his scallywag alter ego Edward Hyde has gone on to define dual personality for ever and a day since. It’s also the only way to appropriately define Land Rover’s charismatic Defender 90 V8.
There were always crazy versions of the good old original Defender. It also had a V8 version. And there was a time under BMW’s tenure that it even ran Bavaria’s finest straight sixes of the time. So we suppose it was inevitable that it would not take JLR too long to pick up on that trick with the new one.
The fastest and most powerful Defender ever made, Land Rover tells us that this 386 kW 625 Nm supercharged 5-litre 90 V8 is good for 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, which we readily achieved, and 240km/h. Available in 110 and 130 5-door and this short-wheelbase 90, our Carpathian and Black Pack on frozen black wheels, was super-cool
Defender 90 V8 wakes up in a heartbeat
Still, it looks pretty normal Defender spec at first sight. So, if you’re not paying proper attention, you would be excused for missing the fact that there’s something special under the bonnet. But floor it, and boy oh boy, refined old Jekyll becomes wild Hyde in a heartbeat!
That V8 wakes up in an animal roar to lean fully on bespoke spring and damper rates, stiffer suspension bushes and electronic active rear differential. And deliver more driving fun than we’ve had in some while. Fatter solid anti-roll bars and yaw control further contribute to deliver an aggro you’d never believe possible.
That’s complimented by a ‘more playful and responsive’ Terrain Response 2 dynamic mode. It brings sharper throttle response and track-like steering response and attitude to its continuously variable damping routine.
It’s still a real Defender 90 under the skin
Climb off the throttle and retreat to a more natural driving attitude, and the V8 resorts to become a regular Defender again. Which means that it’s still the most capable and connected Land Rover to date. E even if it traces its roots all the way back to the great original 1948 Series I Land Rover.
Look, those low profile tyres on huge rims of course take away much of what most people buy a Land Rover for. We somehow managed to scratch the rims without really trying, so that is a compromise. But for the rest, its’ all you’d expect from a new-fangled Ninety.
Keyless access reveals a splendid cabin complete with intuitive always-on CarPlay and Auto-rich three-tier Pivi Pro 10” touchscreen infotainment. This one’s a bit complicated and the big knobs take a bit of getting used to shift them through their various functions and modes.
Interesting big knob interface
But it has big knobs so you need not rely only on touchscreen. Enough said! The V8 has a cool slant on Defender’s interactive driver display, 360-degree 3D surround camera parking. And even and even a driver condition monitor.
The V8 also thankfully loses those horrid side boxes so prominent on some other Defender models. A cross between Action Ban’s briefcase and Barbie’s Handbag, those quite useless cases are replaced by a sweet sheet of tinted glass. Ahat also much improves the view out of the rear flanks of the car.
Land Rover claims 90 is capable of seating six. Good luck with that! Even dwarves will struggle. It’s also nigh impossible to access the back seats. The boot is also compromised. It’s tiny. And the rear seats don’t fold flat, so it’s a challenge to load anything you’re also likely to scratch the plastic panels with any abnormal load item.
Rather just consider 90 V8 a two-seater
You shouldn’t really consider the 90 as anything more than a glorified two-seater. It works very well as that. Get a 110 or 130 for anything more. That’s offset by several nice bits like heads-up display, the panoramic roof, and Matrix LED auto headlights. And 14-way power, heated and cooled front pews for the front row lovebirds.
All of the above is actually irrelevant to this vehicles strongest suit. How it performs on the road is what sets the Landy Defender 90 V8 furthest apart. Of course, it still has the off-road pedigree too, but you’d need another set of wheels in the garage to do that properly.
One of the most exciting cars we’ve driven in a while, we’d option spec a more off-roadable wheel and tyre solution. Like that, nothing will stop this V8. It has everything from full time low range 4×4 to 900 mm wading, and Configurable Terrain Response.
But for the rest, this Land Rover Devender 90 V8 can be a hoot a minute. Or a sensible ride that could almost be called economical. Yes, Jekyll & Hyde motoring at its very finest! – Michele Lupini
Images & testing: Giordano Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Engine: 386 kW 625 Nm supercharged 5-litre 90 V8 Drive: 8-speed automatic 4x4 Load Capacity: up to 1,263 litres Towing Capacity: 3,500 kg braked trailer TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 2.60 sec 0-100 km/h: 5.15 sec 0-160 km/h: 11.08 sec 400m: 13.2 sec @ 174 km/h 80-120 km/h: 3.12 sec 120-160 km/h: 4.27 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 240 km/h Fuel: 12.8 l/100km CO2: 295 g/km Range: 700 km Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/5y 100K km LIST PRICE: R2.88M RATED: 9