Land Rover Defender V8, next Range Rover, new BMW M3 share the Nurburgring

From open-track days to 24-hour races, so many events are held on Germany’s Nürburgring track that carmakers need to share the tarmac with their rivals to put new models through their paces. Industry pool days are normally closed to the public, but a seven-minute video reveals what Land Rover, BMW, and several others are testing.

Posted on YouTube by StatesideSupercars, the video shows prototypes racing around the track in the mid-summer heat. Land Rover’s engineers are busy putting the final touches on the V8-powered variant of the new Defender, which our spies have previously spotted testing in its home country of England, and they’re developing what looks like the high-performance, SVR-badged version of the next-generation Range Rover due out in 2020.

As we reported earlier in 2020, the hot-rodded Defender packs a 5.0-liter V8 between its fenders, though its horsepower and torque outputs remain under wraps. Unverified rumors claim it will arrive as a limited-edition model to avoid sending Land Rover’s fleet-wide CO2 emissions through the roof. And, the video confirms chassis engineers have made extensive modifications to the SUV’s suspension, partly to keep body roll in check.

Walking down the pits, members of BMW’s testing team are getting up early to put track miles on an enigmatic variant of the face-lifted M5, and on the next-generation M3. We’ve already seen the M5 in the metal, so why is it still camouflaged? One possible answer is that we’re looking at the rumored CS version, which should receive a 641-horsepower V8 thanks to software tweaks and a better cooling system. The simpler (and more boring) possibility is that BMW isn’t quite done testing the M5, and it doesn’t want to waste time removing the black and white wrap. Your author regularly spotted i8 prototypes in full camouflage regalia months after its debut.

As for the M3, much has already been said about its mammoth grille, which seemingly mirrors the one worn by the new 4 Series. Autoblog drove a pre-production prototype in June and walked away impressed. It receives an evolution of the X3 M’s 3.0-liter straight-six turbocharged to 473 horsepower, though selecting the optional Competition package will increase that figure to 503. And, fear not: The six-speed stick is coming back.

Land Rover and BMW aren’t the only companies playing on the ‘Ring. Peugeot is seemingly testing a hotter version of the 508, which likely packs a hybrid powertrain, and Porsche is tossing a Cayenne into the bends. Mercedes-Benz brought several models, including a GLE and a couple of C-Class-based test mules.

One car we’re puzzled by is a yellow Opel Astra GTC, a 276-horsepower hot hatch built between 2011 and 2015. It looks mostly stock, we’re not seeing extra sensors or measuring equipment taped onto the body, and we’re fairly certain it’s a factory-owned car because its registration number’s GG prefix corresponds to the Groß-Gerau district in Germany, which is where Opel’s Rüsselsheim headquarters are located. Opel is not planning an OPC-badged version of the current Astra, it’s not planning much of anything for the slow-selling model, and even if it was it wouldn’t be using a car that’s nearly a decade old to test it. Were its road testers looking for a reminder of how fun an econobox with a big, turbocharged engine under the hood can be? Your guess is as good as ours.