2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Review

One angry, stubby beast of a premium off-roader


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Rugged exterior looks match the Defender's reputation, supercar-level horsepower with exhaust note to match, low-key but well-executed interior appointments, spacious back seat, much-improved infotainment system.
Negatives: Painfully pricey, the two-door model looks like two-thirds of an SUV, thirsty as all hell, paltry cargo space.
Bottom Line: This is the most impractical and simultaneously insane version of the Defender. Not only does it look cartoonish in its proportions due to the two-door configuration, but it moves like something out of this world.
Defender permutations are growing like weeds, and the latest beast in the stable is the 90 V8. It loses two doors compared to its 100 sibling, and it's much less practical, as a result. Throw in an insane V8 engine with 518 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of twist, and you have one of the craziest SUVs on the planet. Not only does it look ferocious, but it also sounds like a muscle car when pushed. The car is 17.1 inches shorter than the 110 and loses quite a bit of interior space. We drove the Defender 90 V8 for a week to experience what might just be the brand's most ridiculous vehicle. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.2

 

This version of the Defender looks and feels more situated for hot-rodding pavement duties thanks to the enormously powerful engine. While it can still manage off-roading

Ride Quality: The Defender's suspension system strikes the right balance on just about any road surface. It feels on the firm side, but it's always very comfortable without being cushy and disconnected. The air suspension also works very well, and it adjusts the ride height depending on needs.

Acceleration: The Defender 90 V8 is very quick, indeed, launching to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds. The throttle response is near-immediate, and the forces exerted on your neck are palpable. Shifting via the 8-speed automatic is smooth and responsive. /p>

Braking: The brakes are strong but a bit on the grabby side. They work well to bring the Defender 90 to a quick stop.

Steering: Responsiveness and accuracy are good, but there's not much feel to the setup. It's not much different from the 110.

Handling: The 90 V8's suspension and tires have been changed to manage the additional power. It's sportier in feel and body control. It also has firmer air springs and retuned adaptive dampers. The result is a more taut feel and better management of turns.

Technology

8.1

 

Land Rover isn't exactly known for its in-car technology, namely its infotainment systems, but the Pivi Pro is the brand's best-looking, best-operating system to date.

Infotainment System: The optional landscape-oriented 11.4" screen is easy to read and decently responsive. The screen is split into three menus, which takes some getting used to, but overall the system is much better than before.

Controls: All infotainment controls are on the screen, which can be a little bit frustrating while driving. The climate controls are easy to operate, and we like that physical knobs are still present (along with easy-to-read temp displays in the dials).

Styling

7.7

 

There's no mistaking the Defender for anything else on the road, but the two-door version looks completely different from the four-door in a cartoonish kind of way. Don't get us wrong. It still looks tough and purposeful, but it is awfully short and it's proportions get weird with such a short wheelbase.

Front: The front end is our biggest problem with the Defender's styling. Although it looks tough, it's a little bit too rounded and busy for our liking. We also don't like shrouded headlights, and this is the first vehicle in a while where a bigger grille would've been better.

Rear: We're totally in love with the two sizes of squarish taillights, as well as the side-hinged tailgate like the original. The blacked-out top half and side strips also look fantastic.

Profile: From the side view, the 90 looks way short, like it's missing something. The black wheels, the nearly pillarless rear side glass, and the raked windshield look great. If only there were another six inches of wheelbase.

Cabin: This is the first Land Rover interior we seriously love. It has plenty of nice tactile surfaces (especially the steering wheel hub) and the overall utilitarian look is very well-executed.

Comfort

8.5

 

The Defender 90 loses a lot in terms of overall length, but both rows are surprisingly comfortable and roomy. We were surprised by how much room there is inside, and the ergonomics are quite good. Our only issue those big side mirrors.

Front Seats: These are large and cushy. Some might not like the mix of leather and fabric mesh, but it works in keeping the Defender a bit more sporty and a bit less cushy than the Range Rover.

Rear Seats: There's a ton of legroom and headroom here in all three positions. You can be well over six feet tall and also sit behind tall front occupants without a problem.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Despite the poor predicted reliability of Land Rovers, the Defender feels solid and doesn't exhibit any errant noises.

Visibility: Visibility is pretty good, with the exception of the large and quite purposeful side mirrors. They just sit a bit high and obscure sightlines out the front side windows.

Climate: Heated and cooled seats work well, as does the overall climate system. The vents in the dash are situated up top, and they are a bit small, perhaps not maximizing potential airflow, but we didn't experience any problems.

Safety

6.5

 

Although the Defender has yet to be crash tested by any U.S. entities, it did do well in the European NCAP testing, earning five stars. Our tester also came with a number of important safety measures.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Our First Edition came standard with a slew of features including Emergency Braking, 3D Surround Camera, 360 Parking Aid, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Condition Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition, Adaptive Speed Limiter, Rear Traffic Monitor, and a Clear Exit Monitor.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

5.5

 

The Defender 90 might be big in the seating rows, but it's pretty pathetic in terms of usable cargo space. If you want to transport any real gear or luggage, you have to fold down row two. In terms of its cabin storage options, those are much better and actually quite ingenious.

Storage Space: The center console had a deep refrigerated armrest for beverages/food, a phone tray and cupholder section, and a really deep cubbie to hold bigger items. The dash is set deep on the passenger side where there's a long tray area. Even the driver's side near the door has a convenient tray in the dash.

Cargo Room: The cargo area gets a paltry 10.2 cubes behind row two and 27.1 with those same seats folded flat. Don't look on taking this on a long road trip.

Fuel Economy

5.2

 

As you can imagine, the 90 V8 is super thirsty, and the muscle car sound means you'll want to be less than judicious with your use of the gas pedal. Our tester didn't fare well in terms of efficiency, and the numbers reflected that painfully.

Observed: 12.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 119 miles

Audio

8.8

 

We enjoyed our 400W Meridian sound system that's standard on the 90 V8. The sound has plenty of bass and good midrange, and there's no distortion. At six figures for the 90 V8's asking price, it's nice to have premium sound come standard.



Final Thoughts

The Land Rover Defender 90 V8 is totally unnecessary in terms of power and kind of impractical with its lack of usable cargo space. But when you hammer the throttle and you hear the burly V8 breathe fire, it almost seems worth it. It's quick, ferocious in attitude, and it has a great interior. It's just not very good for more than two people, making it almost an SUV coupe. We'd say you should just pony up for the 110 V8, which will be much more practical than the two-door.
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