New Land Rover Defender V8 tests at the Nürburgring

However, production of the long-serving AJ will come to an end before this year is out, as the Bridgend Ford factory in which it’s made is closed down.

For future high-performance models, JLR is set to make use of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that BMW produces for its larger M cars, under a wide-reaching powertrain deal struck between the two firms.

This alliance began with the intention to develop electrified powertrains, but sources close to the German manufacturer revealed last year that it had been extended to include supplying JLR with a range of internal combustion engines.

Although the use of the 4.4-litre V8 has yet to be officially confirmed by JLR, Autocar understands that it’s merely a formality.

It’s plausible that the 5.0-litre engine is being used primarily to test the Defender’s dynamic responses with the weight and power increases.

However, Autocar understands the V8 Defender is intended as a low-volume special variant rather than a series-production mainstay. Land Rover may well be stockpiling the Ford-built V8 for use in the Defender, because emissions targets are much less of a priority for low-volume specials.

Interestingly, sources tell us that JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division isn’t directly involved with the Defender V8 project; instead, it’s an offshoot of the existing Defender engineering operation.

It’s likely, then, that the engine won’t offer as much firepower as full-on SVO cars, such as the 567bhp Range Rover Sport SVR. Indeed, we expect it to be tuned to near or below the 500bhp mark.

Likely to be paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox supplied by ZF, it would still be potent enough to make a credible rival to the Mercedes-AMG G63, which gets 577bhp from a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 but is a good deal heavier than the Defender.

JLR engineers have previously hinted to Autocar that the G-Class was used as a benchmark for higher-end Defender variants and, with the hot G63 making up a high proportion of G-Class sales, it’s only natural that the British manufacturer would want to cash in on the sector.

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