What is it?
The Twisted French Edition Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon. Or, to put it another way, a new long-wheelbase Landie, modified by a little-known company in North Yorkshire, to the tune of £80,000.
Why spend that much on something intended for battering across fields and up wintery hillsides, and to be used and generally abused? Because the Twisted Defender is a bit of a rarity among tuning-house makeovers: an unpretentious and entirely justified improvement on a creditable but undeniably flawed standard product.
What Twisted does, in essence, is address the yawning gap between the appealing theory and not-so-appealing practice of real-world Defender ownership. There are plenty of reasons you might like the idea of owning a proper Land Rover, after all. Whether or not you buy into the gentrified, anti-consumerist, singularly English image that the car has come to project, anyone can see the appeal of a full-sized 4x4 with such abundant practicality. One that’s cheap and easy to maintain, super-durable, holds its value better than most, and that really will go pretty much anywhere you point it – come what may.
For so many, it’s the reality of owning one of these old-school off-roaders that spoils the picture. Defenders are everything that large modern SUVs aren’t: they’re not luxurious, nor refined, nor comfortable. And though they can be fun, they’re never particularly easy to drive.
Through Twisted, you can put a few new-age manners on your old-fashioned Landie. The firm has been offering packaged upgrades for Defenders since 2007, but has recently released several of its own modified ‘editions’ of the car. They’re available from about £45k, and amount to much more than a paint job, an ECU re-flash and some bull-bars.
What is it like?
Maturity isn’t a trait you usually find in a tuned special, but Twisted’s ‘French Edition’ 110 is a much more civilised machine than a standard Defender. That’s mostly because the firm’s work is so thorough.
It starts by stripping each ‘rebuild’ of cabin fittings, plugging the alarmingly large panel gaps that Defender owners often find in their cars, resealing the entire thing, rust-proofing the underbody and adding water-repellant sound deadening inside to keep the wind and road noise out. Leather goes on the fascia and doors, too, and Alcantara lines the roof. In the back, you can even have handmade oak gun boxes – should you need them.
Under the bonnet you get a new turbocharger, intercooler and ECU map, which turns 120bhp into 168bhp and 266lb ft into 316lb ft, and knocks about four seconds off the otherwise very sedate 0-62mph sprint. The resulting performance isn’t sporting; in fact, it isn’t even close. But it does transform the Defender from a slow car into an acceptable one.
The suspension makeover is more remarkable. Progressive-rate Eibach springs and Bilstein B6 dampers make a big improvement to the car’s body control and low-speed ride, without sacrificing any ground clearance. They don’t turn this live-axle warhorse into a Porsche Cayenne, nor even the equal of an average monocoque 4x4 for ride and handling. But they do make the Defender that critical bit more tolerable on a typical UK road. It fusses and fidgets much less on bad surfaces, and rolls less through corners than a standard car might. Dynamically, its act – while still not quite relaxing – seems less antiquated and more assured. And the Twisted car is also just as capable off-road as the standard car, with axle articulation unaffected by the modifications.
Should I buy one?
If you thought you could never live with a proper Landie, Twisted’s take on the car won’t change your mind. The company can do nothing about the Defender’s shortage of leverage space for your right arm, for instance, nor its imperfect pedal positioning. And they don’t change the emphatically rugged character of the car, either. If you don’t like the sound of that, stick to an X5.
But if you do like what the Defender represents and reckon you could almost get on with one on a daily basis – perhaps if you’ve had one before and you’ve given it up, or still have one and just want to make it more livable – there really is something interesting to investigate here. You’ll need a generous budget, and an indulgent disposition, but the end result could justify both.
Twisted French Edition Defender 110 CSW
Price £80,000; 0-62mph c.12sec; Top speed c.100mph; Economy tbc; CO2 tbc; Kerbweight circa 2200kg; Engine 4cyls, 2200cc, turbodiesel; Power 168bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 316lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual