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Not only is there a new, larger addition to the Defender range, namely the 8-seater 130 but there’s also one with a V8 heart, and guess what, we got to drive the prototype in Dubai.

Topping off what had already been an epic two day adventure playing in the vast and expansive sand pits that are the UAE, Land Rover opted to give us one more treat, an exclusive first-drive taste of their new Defender 130 boasting a V8 heart. What’s more, they had Randal Jackson, JLR’s Vehicle Integration Manager on hand to answer any questions we may have.

Let’s get straight to what lies under the bonnet. The Defender 130 V8 comes with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine that produces 368kW and 610Nm of torque, and powers Defender 130 from 0-100km/h in as little as 5.7 seconds. 

Land Rover Defender 130 V8 review

Dimensionally of course the V8 Defender 130 is the same as the P400, however, don’t think that all they’ve done is whack a hefty big engine up front and walk away, although the engine is pretty hefty.

“The V8 in the 130 is a 500PS with an impressive 610 Nm of marvellous torque,” says Jackson, “it’s slightly less power than we deliver in the 110 and 90 but I think when you drive the car you’ll understand why.”

He says that the 130 isn’t about ‘driving around on the door handles’ or being an ultimately sporty icon, it’s about covering thousands of miles absolutely effortlessly, and it’s about helping you avoid getting into trouble.

“There’s an electronic eDiff on the rear as standard, another key tool to keep you out of trouble when you head off road.”

The Defender 130 V8’s exterior is available exclusively in Carpathian Grey or Santorini Black, it includes quad outboard-mounted exhausts (only available on the V8), a Sliding Panoramic Roof with Black Contrast Roof, V8 exterior badging, Matrix LED headlights with signature daytime running lights, darkened tail lights, Privacy Glass and 22-inch Satin Dark Grey alloy wheels.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8 review

The interior fit and finish has been upgraded, and it was already darn good. There is a heightened sense of luxury and refinement throughout and with it, an elevated sense of achievement. with 14-way heated and cooled electric driver memory seats finished in Ebony Windsor Leather with Dinamica suedecloth and Robustec fabric. They are complemented by a suedecloth heated steering wheel, Ebony Morzine headlining and Satin Black cross car beam. 

Defender 130 V8 also features Four-Zone Climate Control, heated row-three seats and climate seats in the second row. There’s also a Meridian Surround Sound System, Head-Up Display, Interactive Driver Display and Cabin Air Purification Plus.

The Pivi Pro infotainment features an 11.4-inch glass touchscreen with Software Over The Air capability meaning it is always up to date. Standard Wireless Apple CarPlay is included, Wireless Android Auto is also standard and what3words addressing technology is integrated for accurate destination finding in even the most remote locations. Wireless Device Charging provides fast and cable-free charging, while Alexa voice AI6 provides intuitive control of key vehicle functions.

Jackson told me that in chassis terms it has the same articulation as the P400, but they have put a lot more into the car. The 130 V8 comes with 20-inch alloys as standard (however our test model came with 22’s, road tyres and road tyre pressures), and they tuned the steering to match the characteristics of the powertrain.

“It has twin air intakes (single on the P400), the exhaust has a different note that will appeal to V8 customers and being top of the range there’s quite a lot of kit inside the car.”

Jackson believes that being the V8, people are going to want a slightly more engaging and rewarding connection with the car, you’ve now got gear shifter paddles, although it’s still an 8-speed.

“I think the way the whole package comes together. You can often shoehorn a big engine into a car and maybe stretch its capabilities beyond the point at which the car feels comfortable, but this has just raised the level.”

Land Rover Defender 130 V8 review

With that the V8 arrived and it was time for me to jump aboard. The route would be a short and simple one, a straight line, foot to the floor run along some arrow-straight tarmac and a tame (in comparison to what we had been doing in the past couple of days) stint along a sandy track.

My initial impression was just how comfortable the powerful V8 Defender was, the expansive cabin was the same as the P400 but just seemed bigger and more together, in fact just more of everything.

With limited time in my hands, I switched it straight to Sport and planted my foot down hard on the accelerator, the result was a bit of a surprise. The outside world goes past very quickly and the gruff V8 note supports the intent, but it’s not as ferocious as I was expecting, in fact the power delivery is more evenly calculated, oh and endless – I blew through 160km/h like it wasn’t there. 

The paddles obviously offer more power control, with the revs heading more north than in auto (and therefore more melodic tunes from the exhaust), but somehow, letting the Defender do all the work seemed more apt.

The sandy trail was again short and sweet with the V8 Defender making very light work of the soft sand, as to be expected. However, I had to remind myself that we were riding on 22-inch wheels and rubber that had been designed for a high class mall, not an Arabian desert, so maybe how easy it covered the sandy terrain was what made it impressive most of all.

Although the stint behind the wheel was quick, it’s plain to see that the V8 is a big upgrade to the ‘regular’ 130, however, with the world moving towards electrification, of course the big question for this big V8 Rangy is why? And Jackson has a simple answer, “because in some markets customers are going to love it.”

He says that the l663 is a really rewarding, engaging and effortless car in the first place but the V8 raises the bar.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8 review

“It’s even more effortless,” he says “and to me in sand in particular that’s a really important characteristic. Markets which are big on sand and big on utes are going to be keen on the V8.”

In terms of market, Jackson is expecting this car to be well received in the States, the Middle East and in China. 

“If they’re in the market for a big V8 SUV then they’re probably not in the market for an electric at the moment, this is Land Rover’s version of the best car in that segment.”

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