Why Land Rover Tested Its New 5500-LB, 626-HP Defender Octa on the Nurburgring

spy shots of land rover defender octa
Why the Defender Octa Tested on the NurburgringAutomedia/ Brian Williams/Spiedbilde

These days, Land Rover products are as much about a luxurious experience as genuine off-road chops. But the introduction of the Land Rover Defender Octa, with its stand-out performance specs, steps things up even further. We sat down with Colin Kirkpatrick, Jaguar Land Rover's vehicles program director, to learn more about what he and his team hoped to accomplish with the new $153,000 truck.

The Defender Octa's claimed off-road abilities—like its 39.4-inch wading capabilities—are no surprise. After all, the Defender namesake was born out of all-road capability, and the addition of semi-active suspension and greater wheel articulation will only help the cause. The greater challenge with a 5500-pound SUV is making it spry and manageable—if not fun to drive on the road.

2025 land rover defender octa

The folks at Land Rover were committed to making the Defender Octa just as capable on the road as it is off of it. To that end, the company teased testing regiments such as Nürburgring laps, and the high-performance brick was even spotted getting down on the 'Ring as recently as April. For Kirkpatrick, these punishing laps were actually the crux of expanding the Defender lineup's performance.


"This is about how we stretch the capability of Defender as a brand," Kirkpatrick said in an interview with Road & Track. "We wanted to test Octa on [the Nürburgring] to ensure that as we were pushing up to this limits, from a V max perspective, that we understood what we needed to change to make it better."

Durability was the primary focus of these Nordschleife runs, particularly from a braking and tire compound perspective, but the calibration of the suspension was also tuned according to the 'Ring results. More complicated, however, was the task of tuning the powertrain for rock crawling and highway passes alike.

2025 land rover defender octa

Borrowing the N63 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 from BMW, Land Rover had already used the powerplant in its Range Rover Sport, but tuning it for the Defender Octa came with the challenge of balancing low-end grunt and top-end pull. Making 626 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, the Defender bumps its horsepower figures above its powertrain siblings, such as the Range Rover Sport, while keeping the torque hitting low at 1800 rpm. Additionally, Land Rover was set on integrating a 12-volt mild-hybrid system into the Defender Octa, and not just for compliance reasons, either.

"Because we've got a 12-volt lithium-ion battery, we store a certain amount of energy during overrun braking," Kirkpatrick said. " And that energy can then be put back and improve the performance."

Specifically, the advent of Octa's on and off-road launch control systems benefit from the increase in torque that the mild hybrid system provides, bumping the number to 590 lb-ft of torque while in use. Notably, the powertrain is not the only piece of hardware borrowed from other top-end JLR products, as the addition of its proprietary, semi-active 6D suspension originally comes from the Range Rover Sport as well.

2025 land rover defender octa

True to its luxury roots, however, the semi-active suspension tuning is more about comfort than absolute performance, Kirkpatrick explained. With a quicker steering rack, softer bushings, and by-the-moment adjustment, a Defender Octa owner should be able to experience all of the most demanding off-road moments without feeling too much in the cabin or having to put in too much effort. It's ever capable, but not tiring to drive.

"6D dynamics, as a system, gives us a much bigger breadth of capability," Kirkpatrick said. "In off-road mode and for faster off-roading we soften it up so that you can go faster over rough surfaces and there's less intrusion into the cabin. It's about how you put more fun into driving."

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