Now we’re talking! For the 2022 model year, Land Rover is cramming its familiar supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 under the Defender’s shapely aluminum skin, giving the 2021 MotorTrend SUV of the Year some serious hustle. If you hate fun (or gas stations), then you’ll be pleased to know the rest of the Defender lineup grabs some updates for 2022 as well, so get that 2021 Defender prepped for trade-in.
We knew a V-8 Defender was somewhere on the horizon, but we weren’t privy as to what power the new engine would bring, nor what kind of optional extras would come along with the additional cylinders. Regardless if you order the new engine in two-door Defender 90 or four-door Defender 110 configuration, the 5.0-liter spins out 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, a whopping 123-hp and 55-lb-ft jump over the P400-spec turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that was, until this point, the SUV’s most potent powertrain option. Power is managed by the Defender’s existing ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission, routed to all-four wheels through an upgraded version of the regular SUV’s four-wheel-drive system, now carrying a new electronic rear differential.
Pick the Defender 90 V-8, and 0–60 mph takes a wild 4.9 seconds. It will continue to defy the laws of aerodynamics until it reaches a mighty limited top speed of 149 mph. As this is far more performance than the regular four- and six-cylinder Defender was designed for, the V-8 incorporates a sled of tweaks to keep your new 4×4 right-side-up when you immediately overcook that curved entrance ramp.
Stiffer bushings and larger anti-roll bars are logical additions to scuttle some of the nasty body lean, while that new rear diff incorporates yaw control that works in tandem with a new Dynamic drive mode slotted into the Defender’s trick Terrain Response 2 program. The changes levied in Dynamic mode are straightforward: sharper throttle, stiffened suspension, and active torque vectoring battens things down and presumably turns the Defender into something you could kinda-maybe-sorta use to charge down a twisting country road. Be careful.
If it does get a bit hairy, the new 22-inch wheels hide larger 15.0-inch front brake rotors to help slow things down. When you eventually pull over to light a cig or rip your vape to calm your nerves, you might as well take the moment to admire the Defender V-8’s new paint colors: Carpathian Grey, Yulong White, and Santorini Black. Quite the soothing palette, especially with the contrasting Narvik Black roof on the former two options.
Inside, the V-8 arrives with a darkened theme, complete with satin metal touchpoints, an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, metal shift paddles, and special V-8 badging on the sill treadplates. If this isn’t enough finery, you’d better spring for the V-8 Carpathian Edition. Finished exclusively in the namesake Carpathian Grey, the model includes splashes of Narvik Black on its roof, hood, and rear tailgate. Carpathian Edition-specific badging is scattered around the exterior, along with color-matched front-and-rear skidplates and satin tow hooks. The final touch is the standard Satin Protective Film that protects against paint scratches and scuffs, on- or off-road.
If you find the 3.0-liter inline-six just fine and dandy but want a bit of the specialness offered by the range-topping V-8, the new Defender XS Edition should be right up your alley. Spotters can pick the XS Edition out from the hordes of bog-standard Defenders by its body-colored cladding and Satin Grey wheels, and if you manage to catch one in the valet lot, stick your head inside and take a gander at the extended Ebony Grained leather upholstery and XS Edition-specific treadplates.
Dang, still not satisfied? Lucky for you, the regular Defender 90 now comes in X-Dynamic SE and X-Dynamic HSE trims for 2022. For picky owners looking to zhuzh-up their new mall-crawler, a Bright package, Extended Bright package, and Extended Black package can be tacked onto most Defender trims, as can a newly optional 11.4-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Aside from these optional extras, every 2022 Defender carries standard wireless charging
We bet you’re chomping at the V-8-powered bit, Sorry, you’re going to have to be patient for the time being—Land Rover is keeping mum on both pricing and availability for the newest member of the Defender family.
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