JLR Classic Defender V8: Driven

I knew my brief drive in JLR Classic's "new" V8 Defender -- one of a batch of around 150 being re-engineered to take a 5.0-litre 400hp V8 -- was going to be something pretty special when I heard our editor had told Land Rover's people he'd "literally drive over his mother" to be first into Solihull's £150,000-plus sod-hopper, intended to commemorate the marque's 70th anniversary this year.

Luckily for Mrs Cackett senior I happened to be the bloke on the ground, not Nic, and managed to grab a five-mile punt through Geneva's back-blocks in the new toy. It was a bit of a surprise. A Defender will always be a Defender - what with the cramped driving position and all - but the Recaro seats, an eight-speed ZF auto and enough velvety grunt for a 5.6 second 0-60mph time - plus an unimpressive 106mph top speed, which shows how bad those aerodynamics really are - make this a really engaging vehicle, at least for those of a filthy rich persuasion.

That grunt is one thing, but what really gets your attention is the effect of the re-engineered springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, massive new brakes and a superb set of saw-tooth, 18-inch alloys running 265/65 tyres. Suddenly the car rides. It swallows bumps instead of amplifying them. You can have a proper conversation as you drive along a rutted street, instead of concentrating on driving around the craters. All that bucking about is just, well, gone. This Defender's never going to be a Lexus, but it's really quite comfortable. Better yet, the steering is re-engineered with zero slop at the straight-ahead (usually a Defender given) and zero drive-line backlash.

Somebody called this "the Defender as it always should have been" which is stretching the friendship somewhat because you've got to spend silly money to have a Landie as good as this. You can do lots of creative things with £150k. But there is a feeling, once you've driven that Classic, that JLR's engineers have zeroed in on the the weakest spots of the Defender, and discovered how to fix them, all in time for the 70th anniversary. Better late than never...

Land Rover Defender V8 - Specifications
Engine 4,999cc, V8
Transmission 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp) 405@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft) 380@5,000rpm
0-60mph 5.6 sec
Top speed 106 mph
Weight TBC
Price from £150,000

Steve Cropley







P.H. O'meter

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Comments (120) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sidesauce 07 Mar 2018

    A case of too little, too late perhaps...?

  • josh00mac 07 Mar 2018

    I have been quietly muttering for years that LR should have invested in it to make it their G-Wagen which has become huge for MB. I know it’s an old, restrictive design but where there’s a will there’s a way.

  • LooneyTunes 07 Mar 2018

    sidesauce said:
    A case of too little, too late perhaps...?
    Most definitely, in my view.

    Had my name (and deposit) down with a dealer when there were rumours of a V8 last hurrah back in 2014/2015... zero interest in paying £150k for one of these re-manufactured ones.

    The standard TDCi is slow and deeply flawed, but it makes no attempt to hide what it is and has tremendous character as a result. Have the cash and want a V8 or travel in greater comfort? There's the FFRR... or a 50th. I know where my money would go.

  • cmvtec 07 Mar 2018

    I wish this car as a whole would go away.

    I work in the QA department of one of the suppliers and the particular part we make is absolutely disastrous to buy off on every time we make it.

    Interesting take on a Defender, though. Not my cup of tea.

  • easytiger123 07 Mar 2018

    cmvtec said:
    I work in the QA department of one of the suppliers and the particular part we make is absolutely disastrous to buy off on every time we make it.
    Genuine question, what does the above mean? It is unclear to me. Thanks

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