► Defender Works V8 tested
► It's a 400bhp 4x4...
► ...that's priced from £150k
Happy birthday Land Rover Defender. The back-to-basics, go-anywhere off-roader is 70 years old, accounting for everything from the original Series I right up to what we know as the recently defunct Defender today.
We’ve still got a year or two to wait for the next-generation Defender, but in the meantime Land Rover is in the midst of a ream of anniversary celebrations for its iconic 4x4, with this being one of them: the Defender Works V8.
Defender Works? What does that mean?
That this isn’t a newly-built one. The JLR Classic Works programme sources models that are already out there, registered between 2012 and 2016, thoroughly inspects and completely strips them down and rebuilds them from the ground up at the JLR Classic facility in Coventry.
It's the same team that has injected some life into models like the first-gen Range Rover and even the XKSS, as JLR taps into the lucrative and growing niche for retro moderns, as pioneered by the likes of Singer in the Porsche field.
Just 150 Defender 70th Edition models will be made, with production starting later in 2018 (our test model was a final stage prototype). Cost? A steep £150k a pop for a 90 Station Wagon. Cool retro nostalgia don't come cheap!
A V8 Defender? Sounds mighty…
Certainly does, but this isn’t the first time a Defender has used a V8, don't forget. There’s been a few, in fact, with the last before this being a 4.0-litre V8 option available on the 50th Anniversary Defender 90 in 1998.
Logically enough, the 70th Edition uses a 5.0-litre V8 already in service within the JLR range, albeit without forced induction. So you get a supercharger-less 400bhp of grunt and a claimed 0-62mph of 5.6 seconds for the 90 or 5.8 seconds for the 110 version we drove.
In case you need it spelling out: that sounds pretty terrifying in an agricultural Defender...
Its top speed is rated at 106mph, not because of the Defender’s Blenheim Palace-like aerodynamics but because of the ruggedly off-road tyres fitted.
An eight-speed auto that’s also used in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport handles the shove, apportioning drive to all four wheels.
Time travel agents: Inside Jaguar Land Rover’s Classic Works HQ
As for specifications, all Works V8 70th Edition models have more modern LED headlights, aluminium door handles, side and rear treadplates and 18-inch Sawtooth-design alloy wheels.
Inside, you’re treated to Windsor leather upholstery on… almost every surface, it seems, plus Recaro sports front seats and a frankly laughable infotainment system with a navigation screen so tiny that you’d need one of those floor-mounted magnifying glasses just to read it.
So how does the Works V8 drive?
The engine is an absolute cracker, for a kick-off. Regardless of how much you’re exercising it, it’s a joy to listen to; burbling through villages, rising to a bassy growl at a motorway cruise.
The eight-speed Quickshift auto does its best to swap the cogs, dropping two or three when you hoof it. When you do, there’s a surprising surge of speed – something you don’t expect from a Defender. It’s hilarious fun to step on it down a B-road, just to hear the V8 roar and feel the relentless shove.
It's at once wonderful, incongruous but also very silly given what you’re actually sitting in.
The Defender Works V8's steering is vague, while the 335mm front/300mm rear disc brakes are good enough but lack the punch of what a modern SUV can offer. Remember this when you're barreling towards M-way speeds in no time at all.
Brave enough to go at a corner with considerable speed? Pack a spare pair of pants. Body roll is significant and if you chicken out and let off the throttle half-way round a corner, lift-off oversteer is entirely possible – something that’s both hilarious and terrifying in a Defender, believe us.
The whole thing is quite an experience, that’s for sure.
Could you use a Works V8 every day?
Well, it’ll still climb mountains, has seven seats if you opt for the 110 version and boasts an interior you can wipe clean pretty easily. The Defender footprint is slim enough to fit into a supermarket car park space comfortably, too.
But the driving position is still naff: you sit almost bolt upright and very high up, clutching a truly enormous yet thinly-rimmed steering wheel, wondering where you can put your left foot and feeling exposed to everyone and everything around you in the Defender’s massive glasshouse and narrow, cramped cockpit.
Plus, it’s very thirsty if you’re heavy on the throttle, has a turning circle similar to that of the QE2 and although it’s more refined than most other common-or-garden Defenders, there’s still plenty of tyre roar and wind noise.
It's a pricey curio, for sure...
Land Rover Defender Works V8: verdict
Objectively, the Works V8 is just daft. Even with leather everywhere and sat-nav, the Works V8 is still crude and mildly terrifying to drive quickly on the road. Not only will owners have to fork out at least £150k for one, but they’ll have to keep a bank vault full of cash to keep it running, too.
But it’s quite easy to love. That engine is a joyous thing to hear and experience, driving it is just hilarious and all of the Defender’s quirks in the grand scheme of things are just part of the whole package.
It’s for the die-hard Land Rover fans, but with orders streaming in already, it seems there are plenty of them out there that will be happy to own another little piece of Defender history. Consider this an expensive stepping stone, as the company keeps interest ticking over before the new Defender lands later this decade.
Check out our Land Rover reviews