Just a couple weeks ago and surprising nearly nobody, Land Rover confirmed (finally!) that a V8 Defender was in the works for the 2022 model year. While perhaps more similar to a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon or a Jeep in terms of styling, the price point could entice some would-be BMW Super SUV owners. Particularly, the X5 M – which features a similar engine and sets out to accomplish similar goals as the Defender. Let’s take a closer look and see what the Defender V8 promises.
A New Power SUV
The four-door Defender V8 110 should start at $101,750, and you can get into the two-door Defender V8 90 version for $98,550. For the most part, this comparison will star the four-door since there’s a much wider market for them (which has a higher likelihood of intersecting with the X5/X7 market). You get a 5.0-liter, supercharged V8 good for producing 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, some modified suspension (more on that later), bigger wheels hiding 15” blue painted brake calipers, a quad exhaust, and of course some unique badging and trims.
You can then upgrade to the “Carpathian Edition”, which promises even more exclusivity through even more “I bought the fast one” peacocking tropes. Think unique gray paint Land Rover calls “Carpathian Gray”, some exclusive badging, and some more blacked out trim bits. The 110 Carpathian comes in at $108,550, and that buys you into some competitive territory.
Let’s start with the obvious. With the Land Rover press release proudly boasting about 22” wheels, you can tell people you bought a $110k Defender to off-road, and I won’t stop you, but I absolutely will never believe you. As far as I’m concerned, this is just another contender in the recently invented and already hotly competitive “six-figure Super SUV” segment. And unfortunately for the Land Rover, that puts you square in the sights of the very fast, and very good, X5 M.
Priced in the BMW X5 M Territory
The X5 M starts at $105,100 and that puts it right in the middle of the Carpathian and the normal Defender V8. BMW gives you 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, over a second faster from 0 to 60 (X5 M: 3.8 seconds, 110 V8 is estimated to be 4.8), and a higher top speed, as the Defender 110 calls it quits at a manufacturer-stated 149 mph. But in all fairness, I’m not sure if any of that really matters.
Most buyers of these vehicles likely will not lose sleep over their 0-60 times or their vehicle’s top speed – and they shouldn’t. The modern onslaught of Super SUVs exists for a reason – people buying these normally value the utility. It’s fast and fun, impresses at meetings, accepted in the office parking lot without much notice, and still handles the green circle off-road trails. Despite the lower power, the Defender will likely be just as competent in all these, and offers an alternative to the typical “BMW, Audi, Mercedes” for those that are looking for a little variety but aren’t quite boring enough to turn to Lexus.
An equally important but less obvious anecdote is the “upgraded suspension” on the Defender V8. What does it mean? An already adequate off roader, the Defender V8 gets upgraded anti-roll bars, specially tuned damping, and stiffer bushings. That will likely translate to a more aggressive ride on the street, but again, the X5 and Defender may be more alike than apart in this scenario. Both cars ride on 20”+ wheels, so neither will ever promise the most plush ride experience.
Plenty Of Similarities
But that’s okay – at least in the X5, there’s plenty of sound deadening and you can “choose your own loud” for the engine and exhaust sound. Land Rover says their exhaust “…provides a purposeful and authentic sound”, which I assume is sneaky marketing speak for adjustable exhaust levels, like every other vehicle in the segment has.
By this point, it has hopefully become clear that the two are at least aware of one another’s existence, and at best sibling rivals. But they do differ in some important ways. While the Land Rover Defender V8 retains its “rugged outdoorsmen” exterior and “minimalist McDonald’s Play Place” (but admittedly durable) plastic interior, the X5 offers up something else. Think “Terminator in a business suit” appearances with a cabin sporting all the leather of an 80’s night in Texas.
The Defender goes new school with standard air suspension, while the X5 M channels its inner race car with a traditional coil spring and damper system – for maximum performance and maximum driver discomfort. The X5 M offers staggered wheel sizes, inducing oversteer, while the Defender V8 has a square setup offering neutral and predictable steering. And don’t forget – you could always shrink down to the two door Defender V8 90 and save a bunch of money, if that fits your lifestyle. Or step up to the Competition trim of the X5 M and grab a 100 hp delta on the Defender V8, and move a couple black badges further up the local golf-course food chain.
A Tough Segment For The V8 Defender
Point is – the choices abound in this segment, and the details start to matter fast. The Defender’s performance lacks not only against the X5 M, but even the $20,000 cheaper X5 M50i – and all of its constituents. Mercedes’ GLC63 and little brother GLC43 both outpace the Defender V8’s 0-60 times. While the AMG G-Wagon is priced out, both it and the bargain-priced Rubicon 392 (MSRP: $75,000) offering from Jeep beat the Defender V8’s acceleration. Also – the 707 hp Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk exists at a mere $90,000.
So – one must ask – who is this for?
Well, I guess this is the car for the typical banker, and I meant that in a positive way. While it will be adequate and on-par with the rest of the segment, I’m not sure that the Defender V8 is an important car. It’s neat that Land Rover finally paid an homage to one of their most collectible models. It’s also good that there will be another Super SUV that really separates itself from the usual offerings.
But the excitement is dulled by better performance with better brands. Sure, it may be quite collectible in a few years, but it will be coveted by the descendants of the same people that collect air-cooled Porsches chronologically and organize them by VIN and option codes. And does anybody really want to be that anymore?
Or, you could simply call yourself a stereotype, throw on your Ray-Bans, hop in an X5 M for the same money and burn the tires through an 11-second quarter mile time. Over, and over, and over again, and I wager that you would have quite a bit more fun. As release of the Defender V8 gets closer, I look forward to seeing what kind of real-world performance the car offers and what separates it from its Super SUV brethren – and its legacy.