New Land Rover Defender SVR to take on Mercedes-AMG G 63 with 500bhp
The all-new Land Rover Defender was only revealed a few weeks ago, but Auto Express can exclusively reveal that the British firm is planning a range-topping model with V8 power under its bonnet. And it could be landing in showrooms within the next 18 months.
A running prototype of the hot Defender already exists at Land Rover’s engineering base in Gaydon, Warwickshire. JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division is likely to be heavily involved in the vehicle that is set to rival Mercedes-AMG’s iconic 577bhp G 63. It’s expected to be called Defender SVR, following the lead of the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover SV-Autobiography cars.
Sitting under the bonnet will be a V8 coming from JLR technical partner BMW. The companies have already confirmed they’ll be working together on electric powertrains. However a deal has apparently also been agreed that will see BMW’s 4.4-litre replace JLR’s ageing Ford-sourced V8, which is currently made in Ford’s Bridgend factory that is set to close in 2020.
The BMW V8 is due to be rolled out across the JLR product portfolio, and will also appear in the Jaguar F-Type, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. Although the twin-turbo engine produces up to 616bhp in BMW’s own X5 M SUV and M8 coupé, the same engine would be expected to produce around 500bhp in the Defender SVR, in order to keep it competitive against the Mercedes-AMG G 63. Like other Defender models it will be four-wheel drive and use an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
The Defender’s all-new, super-stiff aluminium-intensive platform is said to make tuning the chassis for a performance- focused model much easier. Standard-fit air suspension is a given for the range-topper that is likely to cost well in excess of £100,000. 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.
As our exclusive images show, the new Defender lends itself well to a hot makeover, with large 22-inch alloy wheels sitting under extended wheelarches 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 launched with V8 power. High-performance SUV rivals are all five-door cars, showing where the greatest demand is. Also, the additional cost of engineering 90 and 110 versions would be prohibitive.
Inside, leather sports seats will sit in the most luxuriously trimmed Defender interior we’ll see. Technology will be brought to the fore, including Land Rover’s 10-inch Pivo Pro infotainment system, 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a head-up display and Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View to show what’s immediately in front of the car.
Speaking at the launch of the Defender in 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.”
Officially, the Defender SVR isn’t on Land Rover’s future model plan, but insiders say we could see the hot version of the Defender towards the end of 2021.
However, McGovern also told us: “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.”
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