Matt Prior
22 June 2013

What is it?

It’s a Land Rover Defender with a petrol V8 in it. Goody. Not from the factory, mind: it has been 20 years since a petrol V8 comprised part of Land Rover’s regular Defender line-up; 15 since one last officially appeared, in a 50th anniversary limited-edition. This, then, is Twisted Performance’s version of a V8 Defender, to be built in quantities of around a dozen a year. 

Twisted, the fairly prolific modifier of Defenders (more than 100 new-builds a year, 150 upgrades through the workshop, and a lot more mail order besides) has found there’s natural demand from countries where they don’t much go for diesels. So here we are: at Twisted’s HQ in Thirsk, Yorskshire, about to sample a 520bhp V8 engine in what is – unmistakably – a Defender.

Our drive is of a development car. And Charlie Fawcett, Twisted’s MD, is preparing me for precisely that: there are squeaks and rattles, he says. The engine is highly tuned and might stall at idle, he says. It has a manual gearbox rather than the automatic it’ll later receive and its action isn’t particularly refined, he says. It’s a prototype, you see. But let’s have a drive, shall we? Yes, let’s.

What is it like?

It’s unmistakably a Defender, but the changes run deep. Body and chassis structures aside, in fact, not much has been left alone at all. There’s a GM LS-series V8 - more on which in a moment - mated to a five-speed manual for now, still driving all four wheels but without the low-ratio transfer box and with... well, a list is easier: new differentials, drive shafts, prop shafts, drive flanges and CV joints, bushes and fuel tank. There are new springs and adjustable dampers, different anti-roll bars and upgraded brakes.

Inside, you get what you see. Leather trimming everywhere, all completed in-house, including unique coverings for some truly exceptional Recaro seats. And sound proofing. Lots of sound proofing. This is luxurious like no Defender I’ve ever sat in. And that, coupled with the mechanical upgrades, is why Twisted will charge £140,000 for one.

Fawcett’s concerns about squeaks, rattles and refinement seem pretty unfounded too. Attempting to remove every squeak in a Defender must be like trying to manually tag every ant in a colony, but by gum, this is a proper job. There are still noises – wind, road, the odd interior niggle, but this is a Defender, after all. 

It even rides: Twisted fits variable rate springs – softer in the very first part of travel, stiffer thereafter - which take the edge from high-frequency road inputs. Despite bigger wheels (18s rather than 16s), there’s compliance in the tyres, too: this car has road-biased Toyo Proxes S/Ts, but they still have 60 profile sidewalls on 285-section width.

That all goes to allowing this Defender to make better use of that engine. The “small block” has long been a default aftermarket choice, and it’s easy to see why. They come crated and made for applications like this: no complicated ECU lockdowns, just a compact and light (this is a 6162cc car, remember), revvy yet flexible motor. And Twisted’s customers have made no suggestion that they want a Jaguar Land Rover-sourced engine.

Despite this version being a 480bhp motor from the Chevrolet Performance range, whose manifolds lift it to 520bhp, it’s still refined when you want it to be, yet revs when you don’t. Here, second stretches to 70mph, yet it’ll pull at 30mph in fifth. That extensive range makes it great for overtakes without gearchanges, which is just as well. The shift is fine; just long. 

So you choose a gear, use the exceptional visibility to line-up a pass or a stretch of road, and enjoy what this Twisted Defender offers: six seconds to 60mph kind of performance, fine body control (for a Defender), well weighted - if a little slow - steering (a faster rack is an option), and quite keen roadholding. 

A softer front anti-roll bar and stiffer rear one allow the front to settle on an outside wheel, the Defender threatens to understeer a touch, and the stiffer rear might tighten the line on the way out of a corner, but you’ll have probably backed out of it by then. I know I had. After all, you can’t change, fundamentally, what this car is. It’s fast, it’s luxurious, it’s expensive and rare (a dozen or so V8s a year), but it’s still a Defender. But that’s exactly the point.

Should I buy one?

You might well, or you might look at the price and think otherwise. But when you study the component list, add up the numbers, then factor in somebody developing it and putting it all together by hand and imagine yourself being the person who does it, I reckon most of us would want well nigh on £150,000 to make it worth our while.

Even Mercedes AMG, whose economies of scale are rather larger, want over £120,000 for a G63 AMG, arguably this car’s closest rival. 

Is either one better than the other? You could make arguments each way. Besides, at this end of the market, we’re not talking about exclusively rational, objective decisions. All we know is that, in our extensive dream garage, something like this Defender would be well up our shortlist.

Land Rover Defender Twisted Performance V8

Price £140,000; 0-60mph 6.0sec (est); Top speed 130mph (est); Economy 15mpg (est); CO2 na; Kerbweight 2200kg (est); Engine V8, 6162cc, petrol; Power 520bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 485lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
32

You might want to change that

1 year 18 weeks ago

You might want to change that 130mpg estimate. I know it's sort of a Land Rover, but you don't have to lie about it that much.

Land Rover V8 Defender

1 year 18 weeks ago

I well remember a friend had the 110 county Defender V8 about 25 years ago although it only had the 3.5 litre V8 producing 90 hp it only returned about 14 mpg yet he drove over 35k miles per annum. Oh the joys of a company fuel card in those far off days, he could not have a Range Rover as his boss had one and it would not do to upset the company car park pecking order.

maxecat

How much?!

1 year 18 weeks ago

Go to J E Engineering instead. Firstly they won't rip you off with their Zulu and secondly they're actually known for engineering rather than chips andupholstering. £140,000 my arse.


Unrealised potential.

1 year 18 weeks ago

Amazes me that Land Rover aren't doing this themselves as Mercedes are doing with their G Wagen. there is obviously a market for these kinds of cars, and the Defenders Pedegree wipes the floor with the Mercedes.

I cant help but feel that Land Rover do not understand and therefore will never meet the full potential of this USP by rising above the limitations of developing such a model. 

Yes its a pain to build and has limitations, but look to Porsche with the 911 to see how the Defender could be developed to define Land Rover, a brand somewhat lost under the shadow of its Range Rover daughter.

Land Rover should be like a Storm watch, visably and actually strong, modern, but classicly modern. 

The Defender is apparently like a jigsaw to build, therefore it should be easier to redesign the substructure, if necessary a bit at a time, to make it easier to build and to meet any safety/eviro legislation.

The Defender should evolve, I know it bucks the trend in an era of clean sheet design and new products every 4 years.

Take BMW with the Mini and Vw with the beetle, both style led cars with litte relationship to the their forebears and a diminising premium over their market competitors.

How much extra credibility would these cars have if the originals, extensively updated were still in production, even in limited production at a premium price?

Porsche on the other hand has contiually refined the 911, it remains an icon and in a league of its own.

Range Rover has done much the same, though the latest RR has pushed the boundaries in terms of styling.

This is what needs to happen with Defender.

Its an icon, people will always pay the extra premium for it.

 

 

 

Utterly...

1 year 18 weeks ago

Utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly utterly...

POINTLESS.

 

Buying this tells everybody that you've no style, not sense, no class.

 

The V8 County had that in spades.

Of course the customers don't

1 year 18 weeks ago

Of course the customers don't want a JLR sourced engine. They want a car that can reach their destination under its own power and not on the back of an AA lorry.

GermanPower wrote: Of course

1 year 18 weeks ago

GermanPower wrote:

Of course the customers don't want a JLR sourced engine. They want a car that can reach their destination under its own power and not on the back of an AA lorry.

 

Maybe they should also ask if they can fit a VW DSG gearbox and see how far that will get them!

Hmmm ...

1 year 18 weeks ago

Nice ... But I hope that Twisted has already got its eye on a replacement to tinker around with when the Defender (as we know and love it) gets killed off in 2015 by the European Commission's tree-huggers ...

peterover wrote:Amazes me

1 year 18 weeks ago

peterover wrote:

Amazes me that Land Rover aren't doing this themselves as Mercedes are doing with their G Wagen. there is obviously a market for these kinds of cars, and the Defenders Pedegree wipes the floor with the Mercedes.

I cant help but feel that Land Rover do not understand and therefore will never meet the full potential of this USP by rising above the limitations of developing such a model. 

Yes its a pain to build and has limitations, but look to Porsche with the 911 to see how the Defender could be developed to define Land Rover, a brand somewhat lost under the shadow of its Range Rover daughter.

Land Rover should be like a Storm watch, visably and actually strong, modern, but classicly modern. 

The Defender is apparently like a jigsaw to build, therefore it should be easier to redesign the substructure, if necessary a bit at a time, to make it easier to build and to meet any safety/eviro legislation.

The Defender should evolve, I know it bucks the trend in an era of clean sheet design and new products every 4 years.

Take BMW with the Mini and Vw with the beetle, both style led cars with litte relationship to the their forebears and a diminising premium over their market competitors.

How much extra credibility would these cars have if the originals, extensively updated were still in production, even in limited production at a premium price?

Porsche on the other hand has contiually refined the 911, it remains an icon and in a league of its own.

Range Rover has done much the same, though the latest RR has pushed the boundaries in terms of styling.

This is what needs to happen with Defender.

Its an icon, people will always pay the extra premium for it.

Not sure I agree with your comment wipe the floor with a G-Wagen. As far as I am aware the stadard non lowered/ perfromance version have as much off road ability as the Defender. The vehicle after all is now used by more of the worlds armies than the Defender( I believe the Aussie army have just ordered a new batch of G-wagens). I Live in Middle East and often go out into the desert dune buggying, we often see LR product stuck in the sand, never Land cruisers or G-wagens! Although these are mostly not Defenders..LR produtc focus is moving from core heritage of off-raod supremecy to on road focus. Which is a shame because they make some fantastic products these days, let hope they do not lose sight of as you say the heritage.

In relation to this particular vehicle , the Mercedes is built in house by AMG with a fanatstic engine and to be honest it looks a little better than the Twisted defender, in fact this one looks like a home conversion rather than he G-wagens factory premium quality. Would love autocar to do a actual full test of the G-class Vs the Defender. I am sure it would be close call in terms of ability off road and on road, just that the G-wagen would probably win on overall interior quility by miles and refienment also( if there is such a thing on these aging chassis).. but would love to see this comparison happen, wish Top Gear would do test on there show!

G Wagen

1 year 18 weeks ago

The thing about this car is precisely that it is NOT a g-Wagen. That would be enough for me to buy it.

It is clearly not pointless either as it it capable of transporting humans from point A to point B. what you mean, Symanski, is that you don't like it. A Land Rover Defender with a huge V8 : what's not to like?

 


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Our Verdict

The Land Rover Defender is an institution and unbeatable off road, if crude on it

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