The two-door SUVs are multiplying.
Rewind to 2020 and the only one on sale was the Jeep Wrangler, but the new Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender 90 arrived on the scene the following year.
Now, Land Rover has stepped things up a notch by stuffing a V8 into the Defender 90, making it the most powerful of the trio, by far.
The Defender 90 V8 features a 518 hp supercharged 5.0-liter engine and eight-speed automatic transmission that’s shared with other Land Rover models and is also available in the four-door Defender 110.
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It is able to accelerate the Defender 90 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds on its way to a 149 mph top speed, which makes the boxy model one of the fastest bricks in the world.
Unfortunately for muscle SUV fans, it is the most expensive 2-door at a starting price of $109,375. To put that into perspective, the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 that is powered by a 470 hp V8 starts at $81,190. However, the Defender 90 V8 is a more luxurious in the Land Rover way and comes loaded with a long list of standard equipment that includes a 360-degree camera system that provides a virtual view of what’s under the vehicle and an independent suspension with adjustable air springs that can lift the body to provide up to 11.5 inches of ground clearance for serious off-roading.
It can wade through 35.4 inches of water without bogging down the engine and is equipped with ultrasonic sensors that measure the depth of the water, which is displayed with a live graphic on the central touchscreen. If you’d rather go boating, you can tow one with a trailer that weighs up to 7,716 pounds.
The Defender 90 may only have two doors, but it’s longer than the Wrangler and Bronco and provides adult-size accommodations in the rear. Six footers can fit all around and a pair of alpine windows above the side windows and an enormous sunroof keep it from feeling claustrophobic back there. There are even air vents and charging ports for the back seat area, not something you find in every vehicle, let alone most two-doors.
The cargo area is not as impressive. There is only enough for a couple of backpacks or small duffels with the seats up, making the Defender 110 the better choice as a family car, if not an off-roader.
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The Defender 90’s shorter wheelbase means it much easier to navigate tight trails with and brings the tires closer together to improve its rock crawling capabilities. A locking rear differential, low range transfer case and a traction management system with settings for every imaginable type of provide inscrutable capability across the board.
Of course, the entry level Defender 90 that is powered by a 295 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and costs half as much as this one can handle the rough stuff just fine, as can a Defender 90 with the optional 395 hp turbocharged six-cylinder engine. But that’s not why you buy the V8.
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It’s for delivering thrilling bursts of speed accompanied by the sort of thunderous soundtrack that makes you feel like a bad guy in a British action film. The all-wheel-drive system works well in this application, putting the power to the ground without any tire slip, even when it’s covered in gravel.
For pavement, there is a full suite of electronic driver aids including adaptive cruise control with automatic lane-centering, and the cabin remains remarkably quiet for such a rugged, upright ride.
You may want to avert your eyes from the pump at the gas station, however, as the Defender 90 V8 is rated at just 16 mpg combined.
The question is how long it will take Land Rover to offer the V8 in the new stretched-wheelbase Defender 130, which has three rows of seats and could put the power to good use hauling a lot of people around.
2022 LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90 V8
Base price: $109,375
Type: 5 passenger, 2-door all-wheel-drive SUV.
Engine: Supercharged 5.0-liter V8
Power: 518 hp, 461 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 15 city/19 hwy
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