As Land Rover gears up to reveal the largest and most luxurious version of its reborn Defender 4x4, our spy photographers have snapped a test mule sporting an aggressive quad-exit exhaust, which all but confirms the range-topper will get a V8-powered range-topper.
The new Land Rover Defender 130 has been spotted testing several times in the run-up to its reveal – expected to be in the coming months – and patent images have already given a good look at its final design, but this is the first time we've seen strong signs of a V8 model.
Like the existing Land Rover Defender V8 – launched last year in 90 and 110 forms – it will likely get a chassis overhaul from JLR's Special Vehicles division to go with its extra power, but it remains to be seen whether it will use the same 'AJ' 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as those cars, or the BMW-derived twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre unit as used by the new Land Rover Range Rover. The former would mean 518bhp, a 0-62mph time of around 5.5 seconds and a top speed of around 145mph, while the latter would bump power up slightly to 523bhp and could improve pace in line with the most potent Range Rover.
This extended-wheelbase variant will be the third body style in the reborn Defender line-up, positioned as a luxury-oriented flagship to rival the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X7 in Europe – and segment stalwarts including the Cadillac Escalade and Jeep Grand Wagoneer in the US.
The model was previously photographed near Land Rover's headquarters in Warwickshire. The two sightings give a close look at the longer car's final styling and an indication of its readiness for production, before sketches posted to the European intellectual property website outed its basic design.
A precise launch date for the range-topping Defender has yet to be confirmed, but prior to the 2019 unveiling of the Defender 90 and Defender 110, a leaked internal presentation confirmed it will arrive in 2022 with eight seats – one more than the current five-door model.
The 130 will be positioned as the "premium explorer" of the Defender range, while the entry-level 90 is the "halo, image icon" and the 110 is the "definitive Defender". It's therefore likely to command a substantial price premium over the other Defender models and be available in top-end trim levels only.
While the original Defender 130 featured an extended wheelbase over the 110, the new car's longer footprint instead comes courtesy of a visibly upsized rear overhang, which takes its total length to 5.1m - 342mm longer than the 110 and 227mm longer than the rival Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
The previously spotted prototype was fitted with Land Rover's new mild-hybridised 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine, which in the Discovery produces 355bhp for a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec. It is also expected to be offered with diesel and plug-in hybrid options.
Also expected, as reported by Autocar last year, is an open-backed pick-up truck variant to rival the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi L200.
Vehicle programmes executive director Nick Collins told Autocar that "there were no structural limitations" to a Defender pick-up and hinted at the potential for such a model by recalling Land Rover's previous intentions to market the Defender as a complete "family" of models.