2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V8 review
Who would have thought there’d ever be a supercharged V8-powered Land Rover Defender 110?
It seems to go against all logic. The engine – also used in cars like the Jaguar F-Type sports car – has been an important part of Jaguar Land Rover’s performance-focused models for years now, and will soon meet its end.
With the world moving away from crazy engines (the F-Type is due to bid farewell to the world by 2025), this could be the last chance to get something this bonkers into your driveway. It’ll likely have to be a well-manicured driveway, leading to a multi-car garage alongside your multi-million-dollar property – but hey, if you have the means, this thing is truly mean!
I spent a week with the 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 to see what it was like as a family wagon, living vicariously for a short period of time. And let me tell you, I’d have this in a heartbeat over something like a Mercedes-AMG G63, which costs more and is almost unobtanium.
And like most owners, I didn’t venture off road… apart from parking on a nature strip once. As such, don’t expect any off-road review component to this test. I didn’t dare get the 22-inch rims damaged, let alone the Santorini Black paintwork.
How much does the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 cost?
You’re looking at an RRP of $226,500 before on-road costs and options, according to Land Rover. And, unusually for a JLR product, it wasn’t loaded up with another 20 per cent of the purchase price worth of options.
There were just a few modest additions to this model, including:
Front Undershield: $1037Intrusion Sensor: $1001Wi-Fi enabled with Data Plan: $600Loadspace storage rails: $230
The price as tested is $229,368 plus on-road costs – so, get out your abacus and do the sums, as this is not going to be for all budgets.
But, then again, if you compare it to its most direct rival – the aforementioned Mercedes-AMG G63 ($365,900) – it looks like a freakin’ bargain.
What is the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 like on the inside?
In my review of the Defender 110 D300 SE, which costs less than half the price of this one, I lauded the “terrifically utilitarian cabin”.
That’s still the case here, but quite honestly, it’s not as luxurious as it arguably should be for the money you’re paying.
That’s mainly down to the seat trim, which simply doesn’t feel or look nice enough for this price point. The official trim finish is Ebony Windsor leather, Dinamica suede and Robustec seats, but the leather bit is just around the edges of the seat, while the “Robustec” woven textile finish is, well, a bit too workmanlike.
A G-Wagen’s cabin definitely feels more upmarket, and so will a Range Rover Sport’s. But there are other interior finish options if you wish, including a Vintage Tan Windsor leather finish – and it doesn’t cost extra, either.
But as it was, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to another rough-and-tumble SUV with a G-Wagen-like interior, the GWM Tank 300, which, frankly, looks more special at a quarter of the price of this Defender.
Now, to practical considerations such as the utilitarian-ness of the cabin, which remains astoundingly good.
It has terrific storage options throughout the interior – the massive shelf across the dash with storage sections in front of the driver and passenger, massive door bins (but without bottle holders), a huge centre console bin area with tiered storage, cupholders, a wireless phone charger, and a sealed centre console bin with armrest.
As with the other Defender models, there are manual, physical controls for air conditioning and fan speed (you have to hit a button to make it a fan controller), plus you get things I value like a volume knob.
The 11.4-inch Pivi Pro touchscreen media system has a number of different menu options on it, and there’s ample information and customisation available.
You can even monitor if your centre or rear differential is locked (they’re auto-locking in some situations), how much load is on each airbag shock absorber, angle diagrams, vehicle dimensions, and plenty more; including a system whereby you can set and save trailers (caravans, horse floats, boat trailers) and the system will adjust its safety tech parameters for the towed load.
Further, the camera system is excellent – it’s a surround-view setup with off-road mode, towing mode and a 3D artificial intelligence-style graphic layout too. It’s super easy to come to terms with the extremities of this car because of that camera system.
I was impressed by the crispness of the display and the speed of response to commands, plus I had wireless Apple CarPlay running all week and had zero issues with it once connected. The stereo was great, too – it’s a 15-speaker Meridian system with subwoofer in this spec.
I whinged about the material on the seats, but the comfort and adjustability was good. The steering wheel is quite large, but I loved the microsuede trim – a lovely thing to grip for hours on end (which I did, with a four-hour road trip thrown in to my week of testing).
Unlike in the lower grades, the P525 model gets a fully-digital instrument cluster which is easy to navigate, and I am constantly blown away by the amount of charging ports available in the cabin of the Defender; including a 12-volt, USB-A, and 2 x USB-C ports on the dashboard, as well as a wireless phone charger. Second-row occupants have half a dozen charging choices, as well.
Rear seat comfort is assured with quad-zone climate control – two zones front and rear, the back including its own fan controller. Plus, the seats are broad and supportive.
I’m 182cm or 6’0”, and I could sit behind my own driving position just fine. The P525 V8 model is exclusively a five-seater, so there is no sliding second-row to allow for better boot or passenger space if needed.
Even so, I had enough knee- and toe-room, while headroom was good, and so was outward vision from the back row – my daughter loved the huge panoramic sunroof and overhead windows… spoilt, much? On the topic of kids, you’ll find three top-tethers and outboard ISOFIX points for child seats.
Storage is good for rear riders too, with bins in the doors (again without moulded bottle holders) and a pair of cupholders in a flip-down armrest.
Boot space is claimed to be 972 litres – but that figure is to the headlining. Most brands don’t measure it that way. Fold down the seats in the second row (40:20:40) and you get 2277L of cargo space (again, to the ceiling).
The biggest issue with the boot is the side-swinging door, which has a huge and heavy 22-inch rim attached to it.
While the strut looks like it’s sturdy enough to stop the door swinging back at you, sometimes it won’t hold the weight (if the car is parked on a certain angle), and I copped a wallop in the back from the door at one stage. Lucky I’m a big tough adult, and not a little kid…
There are a few charging options in the boot, including a powerpoint (domestic plug) and 12-volt, and even though there’s no third-row seating, there’s a third-row fan controller. Odd.
Other controls in the boot include a pair of switches to raise or lower the car on its airbag suspension, to help loading or unloading items. It does have quite a high load-in lip.
What’s under the bonnet?
The P525 in the model name is a reference to ‘petrol’ and ‘525 metric horsepower (PS)’ – so yeah, this thing has some grunt.
It’s packing a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine producing 386kW of power (6000-6500rpm) and 625Nm of torque (2500-5500rpm). That’s enough for it to jump from 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.4 seconds, according to Land Rover.
It’s no lightweight (literally), tipping the scales at 2678kg, which makes that 0-100 all the more astounding. Imagine if they did a lightweight verison of it…
As with all the Defenders, it has an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case.
Towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 3500kg for a braked trailer. Gross combined mass (GCM) is 6730kg.
And if you’re wondering, a G63 AMG has a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with 430kW/850Nm. Ahem…
How does the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 drive?
I don’t think there’s a 4×4 on the planet that can do what this car can do. It can be a comfortable, supple, daily driveable SUV for family duties, and then it has that mammoth engine to call upon if you need that sort of power – a lot of people won’t need that sort of power, but plenty will want it.
It is superb. Solid, strong, speedy, sublime. All of these adjectives came to mind driving the Defender V8, and honestly I didn’t want to give it back.
My daughter didn’t either. She is 21 months, so her vocabulary is still developing, but she was even requesting to go in the “big black car”. She even gave me a few “oooooh!” noises when I took off from the lights on one of her daycare drop-off runs.
I’m sure I got a few “oooh!”s from the public too – I had quite a few onlookers checking out the car, including a fellow daycare drop-off dad who was very enthusiastic to have a look (and likewise let down by the interior trim, for the money).
What’s so impressive about it is that it seems so at odds for a combination like this to work.
This huge, off-road-focused SUV is capable of all sorts of insane all-terrain feats (again, I didn’t do that in this test, but have driven another Defender 110 off-road before and it was brilliant), yet in this spec it is teamed with this terrific supercharged V8, and as a result feels more like an urban menace.
The engine’s aural presence is unmatched, with the telltale supercharger whine under hard throttle, and a terrific exhaust note with cracks, pops and overrun burbles. It is noisy when you start it, so hopefully your neighbours are also car enthusiasts.
Power delivery is terrific, too – it soars towards the horizon under light throttle, and seemingly grabs the road by the scruff of the neck at full throttle.
The eight-speed auto shifts smoothly in most situations, but – somewhat alarmingly – I noticed several instances of the transmission thumping into gear when I suddenly hit the gas. It was the only issue I noted, because the gearbox was otherwise clever in choosing what cog it needed.
It is extremely comfortable, composed and sophisticated, despite running on those aforementioned 22-inch rims shod in Continental CrossContact RX mixed-terrain rubber.
It has a stable, planted and very solid feeling on the road, with the air suspension keeping things in check most of the time.
The huge rims can find sharp edges occasionally, but you have to expect that kind of pay-off with a wheel package like this.
Being air suspension, it’s height adjustable; so you can raise or lower it for different purposes, and it drops itself at highway speed to help with aerodynamics.
It has nicely weighted steering – accurate and easy to turn, despite a pretty big (12.8m) turning circle.
If you’re itching to see off-roading in a Defender, check out Paul’s video of the Defender 90 and its multiple drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Grass Gravel & Snow, Mud Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl and Wading) being put through their paces.
What do you get?
The Defender 110 is well equipped as it is, and this V8 P525 model is no exception – nor would it want to be, at this price.
The standard gear is listed below, but just note: most models in the range have the choice of either electronic air suspension or coil springs, but the P525 only offers the airbag struts. That might be a consideration for you, if you do plan to tow often.
Defender P525 V8 highlights:
Satin Chrome paddle shiftersQuad exhaust outletsTerrain Response 2 with Dynamic ProgramPrivacy glassHeated windscreenHeated washer jetsSolar attenuating windscreenAdvanced Tow AssistTow hitch receiverHeadlight power washersHeated steering wheelWindsor leather upholsterySuedecloth-wrapped steering wheelFront centre console refrigerator compartmentTri-zone climate controlAir quality sensorCabin air ionisation with PM2.5 filter22-inch wheelsLeather-wrapped shifterBlack contrast roofSliding panoramic roofDigital instrument cluster14-way heated and cooled front seats with memoryHeated rear outboard seatsHeated steering wheelLeather/Robustec upholsteryPower-adjustable steering columnCarpet mats15-speaker Meridian stereo with subwoofer11.4-inch touchscreen media systemWireless Apple CarPlay, Android AutoMatrix LED headlights with auto high-beamHeated, electric folding door mirrors with approach lights Auto-dimming driver side mirrorDigital rear-view mirror3D surround-view camera 360-degree parking sensorsDriver fatigue monitorDigital instrument clusterWade SensingCruise Control incl. Speed LimiterTraffic Sign Recognition incl. Adaptive Speed LimiterKeyless Entry40:20:40 folding rear seats with centre armrest
Is the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 safe?
In 2020, Euro NCAP awarded the Defender 110 scored a five-star safety rating. It then got the same from ANCAP.
The report card read: 85 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 76 per cent for safety assist. Pretty good for a big, heavy thing like this.
Standard safety equipment includes:
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)Pedestrian, Cyclist detectionJunction assistBlind-spot monitoringRear cross-traffic alertLane-keep assistAdaptive cruise controlDriver attention monitoringSurround-view camerasFront, rear parking sensorsSafe exit alertTraffic sign recognition
Dual frontal, front side, and side curtain airbags are standard, too. It doesn’t have a front-centre airbag like some rivals, though that may be due to the cabin width.
And further, it is missing an increasingly common tech inclusion, reversing AEB with pedestrian detection. That’s part of the testing criteria, these days, and we’ve all seen those all-too-common reports about driveway accidents with children – this technology, in theory, should mean we see less of those horror stories.
How much does the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8 cost to run?
There’s a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The British brand also offers a five-year/130,000km servicing plan for the Defender priced at $3750 for the V8 – or an average of $750 per year.
Five years of roadside assistance is included. That could be important, too, given Land Rover ranked dead last in the 2023 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study in the US, reportedly plagued by technology tussles and powertrain problems.
If you can look beyond that, the Australian arm’s warranty and roadside assist package should at least help put your mind at ease.
As for, gulp, the fuel costs? The official combined cycle figure for this powertrain is 12.7 litres per 100 kilometres.
And, amazingly, I managed exactly that over a week of testing. I spend more than 500km of my time in this car, with a day trip down the Hume and back, and a few jaunts on Sydney’s clogged motorways. I was impressed.
The fuel tank capacity is 90 litres, and don’t you dare think about putting regular unleaded in the there – the minimum is 95 RON premium unleaded.
CarExpert’s Take on the Land Rover Defender 110 P525 V8
This is a vehicle that is unlikely to be around for much longer.
With global pressures and the seemingly imminent demise of JLR’s excellent 5.0-litre supercharged V8, the days are surely numbered for the Defender P525 V8.
And what a bloody shame that is, because this is a superb vehicle – a multifaceted mega SUV that, frankly, makes a G-Wagen look overhyped. If you have the means, I mean it – go test drive one.
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