Although no changes were visible at the front, a rear view of the test car revealed a quad exhaust system – used by Jaguar Land Rover for V8-powered variants only. On the Nürburgring prototype, we can now see red brake calipers, again an indication of the extra performance potential.
Sources close to the firm have confirmed the project’s existence, but the official JLR response is: “We are unable to comment on the specific nature of these [technology development] programmes.”
Autocar obtained registration data for the car pictured that shows it has a 4999cc petrol engine, suggesting it’s powered by the ‘AJ’ 5.0-litre supercharged V8 used in the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography.
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.
Either way, chassis revisions will be required to ensure the V8 Defender is capable of handling such power. Air suspension could be fitted as standard, offering a range of driving modes.
The Defender’s aluminium-intensive body structure, said to be the stiffest Land Rover has yet produced, provides a strong base for engineers.
Expect the quad-exhaust system to make production, along with the usual larger wheels, lower ride height and subtle non-SVR body add-ons necessary to mark out the V8.