2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V-8 First Test Review: Power Bump

Ethel Walsh
land-rover defender Full Overview


  • Powerful supercharged V-8 engine
  • Fantastic highway driving dynamics
  • Rugged off-road style and capability



  • Lackluster fuel economy
  • Steep learning curve for infotainment system
  • Standard 22-inch wheels kill off-road performance

It’s been difficult to get our hands on the latter version, thanks to the combination of ongoing supply chain constraints and high consumer demand, but we’ve now finally put an example through our full testing regimen.

How Does It Drive?

Beneath the 2023 Defender 110 V-8’s hood is Land Rover’s tried-and-true supercharged 5.0-liter engine. It churns out 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel. Jaguar Land Rover has employed the AJ133 V-8 since 2009, and is phasing it out slowly in favor of a new BMW-sourced 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft in Range Rovers. However, despite its days being numbered, the AJ133 still packs quite a punch.

It is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and propelled the 5,655-pound 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 from 0-60-mph in an impressive 4.6 seconds. Running through our quarter-mile test required just 13.1 seconds at 107.7 mph. By contrast, the 3.0-liter I-6 powered Defender 110 sprinted to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 92.0 mph. If you’re looking for a similarly sized, non-Land Rover V-8-powered off-road SUV, Jeep’s 6.4-liter V-8 equipped Wrangler 392 is capable of clicking off a 4.2-second 0-60 time, and the Mercedes-AMG G63 with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 does so in just 3.9 seconds.

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V-8 is incredibly fun to drive on the road. The strong engine produces plenty of grunt to get into and out of trouble, and it pumps a fantastic growl out of its quad exhaust tips. The eight-speed transmission fires off shifts quickly with appropriate firmness, and it holds gears long enough to take full advantage of the V-8’s powerband.

Switching the Defender into its Dynamic drive mode, which is accessed through the terrain management system, unleashes the vehicle’s full fury. Increased throttle response, more aggressive shifts, stiffer suspension damping, and torque vectoring from the electronic active rear differential combine to create a sensational driving experience—especially for a nearly three-ton boxy off-roader.

This Defender 110 V-8’s ride quality is equally impressive. To facilitate the sort of dynamic driving expected by owners of the most powerful Defender model, Land Rover fit these versions with unique springs, larger anti-roll bars, unique damper tuning, and larger 15-inch front brakes. We found the brakes are strong and progressive while giving ample feedback, without aggressive initial bite. Steering proved a tad heavier than previous Defender models we’ve driven, but not to the point of hampering drivability. And while the Defender 110 V-8’s suspension worked well to hug corners and maintain its composure under hard acceleration and braking, we found during normal city driving it produces a fair bit of road noise and feels almost harsh traversing broken pavement and expansion joints. We suspect these negative behaviors are attributable mostly to the vehicle’s 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires.

A Familiar And Comfortable Interior

Sliding into the driver’s seat, you notice the same well-appointed cabin that has graced the current-generation Land Rover Defender since its introduction in 2020. The interior design exhibits plenty of character through the use of exposed bolt heads, contrasting colors, soft-touch materials, and real metal finishes. We especially appreciate the copious amount of storage available in various slots, cubbies, and nooks spread throughout, though we inadvertently dropped items into the void of the center console on several occasions. The 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V-8 also features a generous offering of both USB-A and USB-C charge and data ports, along with a now standard wireless-charging pad.

A new 11.4-inch curved infotainment screen is arguably the most impressive addition to the Defender’s interior. This new screen option, standard on V-8 models, runs Land Rover’s latest version of its Pivi Pro software and offers both a sharper-image picture and a much more user-friendly interface. But if you’re not already familiar with Land Rover’s UI, the learning curve is still fairly steep. Meanwhile, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also now available.

They Killed the (Off-Road) Fun

One of the Defender’s big selling points is the vehicle’s off-road prowess. Equipped with Land Rover’s exceptional Terrain Response 2 system, the 2023 Defender 110 is fitted with a two-speed transfer case with low-range; center- and rear-locking differentials; All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC); low-traction launch control; hill descent control; air suspension; quasi torque vectoring (brake activated); and more. Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe that adding another 123 horsepower should enhance the off-road fun-factor.

Disappointingly, this isn’t the case. When configuring a 2023 Land Rover Defender 110, selecting the 5.0-liter V-8 engine option automatically adds 22-inch wheels and low-profile all-season tires. While the classic five-spoke wheel design is quite handsome, this choice undoes almost all the Defender’s off-road aptitude. Thankfully, Land Rover for $350 allows customers to order their Defender V-8 with 20-inch wheels and a more off-road-oriented tire. If only the 18-inch steel wheel from the base Defender would fit over the V-8 model’s massive 15-inch brake rotors—that would be Defender nirvana.

Is The V-8 Really Worth Having?

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V-8 starts at $112,775, shocking at first glance considering the base Defender 110 starts at just $54,975. However, the driving experience provided by the powerful V-8 engine combined with the vehicle’s improved on-road handling, elegant yet rugged interior, classically boxy exterior, and exceptional off-road capability may soften the blow somewhat for buyers who fully understand what they get for their money.

Looks good! More details?

2023 Land Rover Defender 110 V8 Specifications
BASE PRICE $112,775
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 5.0L Supercharged direct-injected DOHC 32-valve 90-degree V-8
POWER (SAE NET) 518 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 461 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,655 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 119.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.3 x 78.6 x 77.4 in
0-60 MPH 4.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 13.1 sec @ 107.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 120 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.0 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
EPA RANGE, COMB 381 miles

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