Nearly three years after its official launch in 2019, the Land Rover Defender has proven itself a top-notch product. Whether crawling rocks or malls, this swanky off-roader has ultimately won the hearts and wallets of its target demographic. The secret behind its success comes mainly from its dual personality, effortlessly delivering terrain-conquering abilities without on-road comfort drawbacks. The question is, then, how do you improve a vehicle that already offers so much? 

According to Land Rover, the answer involves extra cylinders, a supercharger, and a re-tuned chassis. Enter the 2022 Land Rover 90 V8 Carpathian Edition. As its lengthy name suggests, this trim is the most luxurious and expensive variant of the two-door Defender.

 After a week of tackling off-roading trails and city streets, it's clear that this version of the Defender won't be for everyone. Defender owners that use these SUVs exclusively to commute won't be sitting in rush hour traffic patting themselves on the back for shelling out an extra $19,000 over the top I6-powered model to get the biggest engine. However, for the folks that will put all 518 horsepower to use, either tackling off-roading trails or big open highways, the addition of the new engine is a proper game changer. 

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Design/Styling

Most of the changes introduced for the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 live under its hood. From afar, it looks like any other Defender. Only minor details such as the quad exhaust tips, trim-specific 22-inch wheels, and Xenon Blue brake calipers set it apart. I'm glad they didn't mess around with the styling. Thanks to its baseline good looks and distinctive boxy shape, it doesn't lose any of its original appeal. Plus, considering it is a proper off-roader, it would've been a huge mistake to widen its body and potentially limit its ability to conquer tight trails. 

While only the eagle-eyed among you will be able to distinguish it from its siblings, my Carpathian Edition tester is an exception. For starters, it's finished in Carpathian Grey, with a contrasting Narvik Black hood roof and tailgate. However, its stain look doesn't come from the paintwork itself. Instead, Land Rover installs a satin protective film that changes this SUV's finish and protects against scratches and off-road debris. This should incentivize owners to go out and explore without worrying too much about their six-figure ride. 

Final touches such as the Carpathian Edition badges, Carpathian Gloss finished skid plates, and front grille bar rounds up the list of changes. While this unique trim doesn't revolutionize the Defender's look, it gives it a darkened aesthetic that is equal parts sleek and aggressive. It may cost $7,000 more than a standard V8 model, but its unique look and factory-installed PPF soften the upcharge's blow.

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Engine/Performance

The 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 doesn't change much in the styling department, but its powertrain is a different story. Under its hood lives JLR's well-known supercharged 5.0-liter V8, developing 518 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. It sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite its 5,445-pound curb weight, this two-door SUV hits 60 mph in 4.9 seconds before continuing to a top speed of 149 mph.

If that sounds sports car quick, it's because it is. The V8-powered Defender rockets off the line, leaning back as its suspension tries to keep its high-riding body in check. With peak torque at a relatively low 2,500 rpm, this off-roader pulls hard to redline with peak power at 6,000 rpm. There is no situation where this Defender feels slow, and its transmission is quick during hard accelerations and smooth the rest of the time. 

Around town, it feels like any other Defender, civilized, refined, and quiet. However, one blip of the throttle reveals a nasty bark from those quad exhaust tips. Just like in the F-Type R and the Range Rover Sport SVR, this engine is eager to deliver a guttural growl leaving passersby to wonder if that cute boxy SUV really just made that sound. 

After leaving a congested Los Angeles behind, I took my tester out to Hungry Valley to hit some off-roading trails. This included rock crawling, sandy dunes, and plenty of tight maneuvering. This two-door example did great, fitting in almost anywhere. Thanks to its larger engine, it's eager to power out of any situation and delivers the occasional controlled slide. With the engine blaring in the background and ample power on offer, the V8's appeal becomes apparent. It's just a far more exciting vehicle to drive than its siblings. Thanks to its retention of all the standard off-road modes, you don't lose on capabilities to score the added fun. 

To handle all of the added power, Land Rover implemented new suspension tuning with new springs, damper rates, and an Electronic Active Rear Differential. In practice, these help the Defender V8 deliver a driving experience that is exhilarating but not out of control. A new Dynamic setting within the onboard Terrain Response system firms up the suspension, sharpens throttle response and puts the engine in its most aggressive setting. While the updated tuning doesn't turn this off-roader into a sports car, it has all the necessary tools to handle the added power. At no point does it feel like the powertrain overwhelms the rest of the vehicle. 

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Interior/Tech

Step inside the Defender 90 V8's interior, and a host of new materials will meet you at the door. The Carpathian Edition takes the standard Ebony Windsor leather seats and adds Miko Suedcloth and Robustec accents. There's also a new Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and illuminated tread plates. While these new materials add plenty of luxurious textures to the Defender's interior, they don't quite make sense in a serious off-roader. 

As mentioned in the intro, my specific tester isn't for everyone. For those who want to do a bit of serious off-roading in their new Defender, materials such as suede and Alcantara won't do well once you introduce ordinary dirt and grime from the outdoors. In contrast, this version of the V8 would do great in city environments. Its interior feels decidedly upscale, well put together, and aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps most importantly, this Defender is exceptionally well insulated, adding to its luxurious vibe. 

On the tech side, the Defender V8 has plenty to offer. In front of the driver, you'll find a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster that's both highly configurable and easy to read at a glance. It's supplemented by an updated 11.4-in screen in the center of the dashboard powered by the latest Pivi Pro infotainment system. Navigating its many menus is a breeze as the system is excellently laid out and offers high-quality graphics. 

While there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard, the central screen's primary purpose is to help the driver interact with the various off-roading modes and camera systems. While off-roading multiple camera angles will populate the display, assisting the driver in tackling challenging trails without needing a spotter. Digging through the menus reveals further fine-tuning options of the standard drive modes to best use the available hardware. Overall, this onboard system delivers a sleek user experience with a surprisingly low learning curve. 

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Pricing

The Land Rover Defender 90 is a premium product with a price to match. The standard V8 starts at $104,200. This is $19,000 more than the most expensive I6-powered variant. Stepping up to my Carpathian Edition tester brings that price tag up to $111,200 before destination and additional fees. The two Defender 110 V8 trims start at $107,500 and $114,400, respectively. 

2022 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Closing Thoughts

After a week with the new Land Rover Defender 90 V8, it's clear that the British carmaker's formula to spice up its latest best seller is an effective one. By shoving an enormous engine under its hood, Land Rover has given the Defender a more aggressive personality with looks to match. It's quick, loud, and engaging to drive. However, it remains to be seen whether or not this will be enough to sway buyers. In most scenarios, the V8 Defender behaves just like its I6 and I4 siblings, blending comfort, luxury, and convenience in a properly off-road capable package. 

When you leave congested roads behind, this newest Defender makes a case for itself, delivering excitement its siblings can't match. It will be up to potential buyers to determine if they will often be in these environments to allow this SUV to shine. To commute, an X-Dynamic HSE with the efficient I6 engine is ideal. However, for a blast through the desert or an open road, the Defender 90 V8 is tough to beat.