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New 500bhp+ Land Rover Defender V8 caught on camera for the first time

Plate check reveals new Defender prototype with 5.0-litre engine is roaming the grounds of Gaydon

Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations team is developing a range-topping V8-powered version of the all-new Defender, and these spy shots are what we believe to be our very first look at what could become the Defender SVR, due in showrooms within the next 18 months. 

From the outside it looks almost identical to previous Defender mules, but one or two important details mark this out as a rival Mercedes-AMG’s G 63.  

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Red brake calipers hiding behind the wheels point to a new level of performance, while around the back a new quad-exit exhaust system bursts out from beneath the Defender’s rear bumper. The biggest giveaway, however, comes with a licence plate check - this Defender is registered as having a 5.0-litre engine, all but confirming that the supercharged V8 used in the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover SVAutobiography is under the bonnet. 

It means that the Defender SVR could be the last model to use the marque’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine, currently made in Ford’s Bridgend factory that is set to close later in the year. A power output in excess of 500bhp is expected.

The Defender’s all-new, super-stiff aluminium-intensive platform is said to make tuning the chassis for a performance-focused model much easier. The new Terrain Response 2 system is likely to include a track mode, too, although Land Rover engineers are insisting that the Defender SVR keeps much of the standard model’s off-road ability.

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The spy shots don’t reveal any exterior modifications, but they are expected. As our exclusive images show, the new Defender lends itself well to a hot makeover, with large 22-inch alloy wheels sitting under extended wheel arches and reprofiled front and rear bumpers with enlarged air intakes, which will give the overall illusion that the Land Rover sits lower to the road.

The three-door Defender 90, set to be launched in the middle of next year, would lend itself well to the SVR treatment from an aesthetic point-of-view, but it’s expected that only the longer 110 five-door car will be offered as an SVR model. 

Speaking at the launch of the Defender last September, Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern said: “From a technology point of view, we say we’ve future-proofed it, so it’s got all the things from a technology point of view that will keep it going for a long time. Because of [the Defender’s] product orientation it gives us the ability to do more versions, and I think that’s the way we’ll go with it.”

It has been strongly rumoured that a BMW-sourced V8 is heading to future JLR models; the companies have already confirmed they’ll be working together on electric powertrains. A deal has apparently been agreed that will see BMW’s 4.4-litre replace JLR’s ageing 5.0-litre V8. The new engine is due to be rolled out across the JLR product portfolio and will eventually appear in the next Jaguar F-Type, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models.

What do you think of our exclusive Land Rover Defender SVR images? Let us know your thoughts below...

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