Land Rover Defender 130 V8 – Review

Land Rover Defender 130 V8

By Liam Bird

F986 EFM, I can remember it as if it were only yesterday. Supplied new by James Edwards, Chester, to H Harvey and Sons (Metalworkers) Ltd, Clywd, with aluminium dropside bodywork, a traditional pick-up style three-seater truck-cab, bonnet mounted spare wheel, and twin diesel tanks, my Uncle Peter’s new Land Rover 127 (note: not a 90; not a 110. A 127. The number denotes the wheelbase in inches). It made quite the impression on me.

Resplendent in bright red, with a white roof and steel wheels, F986 joined Mr Harvey’s, already at that point very well-used Series 3 108 inch pick-up (ULG 56V), and was destined from day one, like everything else that passed through the gates of The Forge, to a life of very hard labour.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8

“Patch things up”

When I joined Harvey’s in 1991, the 127 was already carrying battle scars; a life of hauling heavily loaded trailers to and fro along the A55, plus minimal maintenance – Uncle Peter had little time for such things – had seen to that. Nevertheless, F986 gallantly soldiered on. New engines came and went, as did new clutches, new gearboxes, new brakes, new seats, a new front wing… you name it. Fletcher’s, the local Land Rover specialist would patch things up, and straight back into service went that poor old Trigger’s Broom of a Land Rover 127.

When H. Harvey and Son’s eventually decided to turn off the oxy-acetylene and the radial drills for good, I was offered the 127 for £1000. It would cost double that, even then, to have put everything wrong with it right. Still, oh how I wish I wish I’d bought it; with hindsight, it was a bargain. I must’ve driven more miles in that 127 than in any other vehicle since.

Up until very recently I’d never even so much as sat in another extra-long Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8


I used to think the 127 felt big, but the new 130 feels enormous.  At very nearly 5.4 metres long, and 2.1 metres wide, (a five-seat hard-top is also available) Land Rover’s modern-day Defender 130 is larger than most double-cab pick-ups – and it’s heavier too. Rearward visibility is limited, to say the least – the camera is an essential – and there’s a huge blind-spot upfront caused by the thick windscreen pillar/door mirror combo. Parking takes practice; you’ll need two spaces at Tesco, and the turning circle is huge.

Once you’re acclimatised though…

I’m all too aware of just how loud and uncompromising, not to mention tiring, driving old Land Rovers can be. In comparison, the new Defender in any length is a revelation.

Where once an old Landy would bang and crash over almost everything in its path, it now glides, independent (in this case air) suspension smoothing out all but the worst of imperfections. At (ahem!) 80mph, you can happily chat to your passenger without having to shout, a little wind noise from the A-pillars the only intrusion. The new cabin is quieter, better insulated, and better trimmed than that of many-a-similarly-priced car – those deliberately exposed screw heads are fooling no one – and you now can happily listen to the digital radio rather than just hear the whine of gearbox. Which, incidentally, is now a very smooth shifting 8-speed automatic. As a mile-muncher, and over any terrain you can point it at, the new Defender is up there with the best of them.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8

“Off-road prowess”

There is a price to pay for such pace and off-road prowess. Firstly, a Defender 130 in 8-seater guise weighs in at very nearly 2 ¾ tonnes – dry, and without passengers. There’s no front-row jump seat as fitting it would make the Defender a 9 -seater and thus, technically, make it a mini-bus. Such heft inevitably makes for heavy fuel consumption. I’m told a diesel 130 will return approximately 28mpg, whereas the 5 litre supercharged V8 we have here rarely betters 19mpg, drive with a sense of urgency and you’ll easily see that dip into single figures. CO2 figures of 325g/km are also astonishing, for all the wrong reasons. So too the price; this is a six-figure Land Rover.

But drive you will.

I challenge anyone not to indulge themselves in the mighty V8’s lusty burble and seemingly endless torque. This behemoth of a troop carrier can dash from standstill to 60mph in 5.4 seconds, and embarrass many a so-called sports car when pulling away from the lights. Just don’t go barrelling into a roundabout or down your favourite twisty road with similar levels of enthusiasm, there’s only so much the Brembo brakes, the enormous tyres, and the laws of physics can do.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8

“I enjoyed every minute”

Still, if you did go through the hedge and into a field, you could probably just as easily get back out again.  If you were selecting the low range and the Mud and Ruts setting within Land Rover’s Terrain Response system you’d be back on the Tarmac in no time.  Not that I could ever condone such things, that is!  The 900mm wading depth might occasionally come in handy too…

Quite who needs a supercharged, 5 litre V8, extended length Land Rover with 8 seats I’m not really sure. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my week with it – well apart from trying to find a parking space big enough to put it in, and the constant need to quench its insatiable thirst.  Nevertheless. I’m all too aware that as sublime as the Defender 130 V8 is, it is in reality as every-bit equally ridiculous.

I’m genuinely glad Land Rover made such a thing, but unless you absolutely need one – and nothing else is as up-to-the-job – recommending you buy a Defender 130 V8 is nigh-on impossible.

Land Rover Defender 130 V8
Engine: 5,000 cc, 8 Cyl, supercharged, Petrol.
Transmission: 8-speed. Automatic. Four Wheel Drive – with Terrain Response and selectable low range
Power: 493 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 450 lbft @ 2,500 – 5,000 rpm
0-62 Mph: 5.4 sec
Max Speed: 149 mph
Mpg: 19.6 (WLTP combined).
CO2: 325 g/km (WLTP combined).
Unladed weight (EU): 2,745kg
Max Vehicle and trailer combination (GTW): 6,380kg
Price: from £114,185 (as driven £117,375)


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