First Drive: The 2023 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Edition Is A Stylish SUV Success

Righteous as it may be to reduce greenhouse emissions by downsizing car engines, the experience of a big burly V8 […]

(Kyle Edward)

Righteous as it may be to reduce greenhouse emissions by downsizing car engines, the experience of a big burly V8 and its unhinged roar is an unbeatable one. And that’s what one can expect from the Land Rover Defender 90 V8.

V8 Power

Internally nicknamed P525, the V8 Defender revolves around a no-nonsense 5.0-liter V8, supercharged to 518 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. At 2,500 rpm, the engine spits out 461 lb-ft of torque, raging loudly when the hammer is dropped. But the best part is that, unlike most SUVs with big horsepower on long wheelbases, the Defender 90 V8 is available on a two-door chassis with just 101.9 inches of wheelbase. 

(Kyle Edward)

The D90 V8 launches from the start line without mercy. Aided by 275/45R-22 Continental CrossContact RX tires, it reaches 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and 100 mph in 10.6. At 12.9 seconds and 109 mph, the Defender 90 V8 whooshes past the quarter-mile mark. 

On the street, you won’t have any issues passing other cars, as the shift from 30 to 50 mph happens in 3 seconds, while surges from 50 to 70 mph take 3.6 seconds on average. If you’re easy on the throttle, the EPA says the D90 V8 can achieve 15/19/16mpg (city/highway/mixed)—average for its segment.

(Land Rover)

Impressive Ride Quality

The 2022 Defender 90 V8 is a tall machine with a predisposition to body roll when driving on the road. To counter this, the front and rear independent suspension has been tuned for a sportier driving style. 

The wider street-oriented tires are paramount to stability, however the air springs and adaptive dampers also play an important role in keeping all four wheels grounded and minimizing body roll. Furthermore, Land Rover replaced various link bushings and upgraded the front and rear anti-roll bars to more more rigid versions. All 5,334 pounds are distributed equally over the front and rear axle, further aiding in stability.

(Kyle Edward)

All this balancing prevents excessive body lean when roads get twisted. While this definitely isn’t a sports car begging to be pushed around canyon bends, the D90 V8 won’t complain under a bit of hustle. Standard factory tires can handle up to 0.78g of lateral acceleration. It achieved better numbers than the Mercedes-AMG G63, which managed only 0.75g under the same conditions. 

The low-range transfer case of the Land Rover Defender 90 V8 can accommodate some off-roading. While the independent suspension eats some of the rumble and road deformities, this Defender isn’t really at home on the trail. 

Carpathian Style

(Land Rover)

On the inside, the Carpathian trim brings a blacked-out view with various dashboard texturing. The steering wheel is wrapped in a pleasant-to-touch microsuede—just keep it clean. The standard 10-inch touchscreen should always be upgraded to the 11.4-inch unit with the Pivi pro infotainment system, with great graphics and a boosted user experience. 

Overall, the controls of the Defender are straightforward and don’t require much time to learn. The configurable instrument panel comes loaded with various display options. The rather generous rear space makes for three seats complete with climate controls and USB-C ports.

(Kyle Edward)

As with any range-topping trim, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 90 V8 Carpathian edition tends to mix all possible features and push them down to the driver. The Carpathian trim definitely stands out in the crowd. The matte black paint and 22-inch starfish wheels contrasting against the blue Brembo calipers.

The rear is beautifully complemented by four exhaust tips fed by dual exhaust outlets and the glorious V8 badging. You don’t need to be a car fanatic to know this Defender is something special when it passes you on a busy avenue. 

(Kyle Edward)

While the Defender 90 V8 starts at $106,260, the Carpathian Edition spec and extra options bring the price up to $114,000. It looks good, and while it doesn’t quite reach G-Wagon levels of boldness, it compensates by dropping a tens of thousands of dollars in price.