What's the story?
A Land Rover on a kart circuit? Surely some mistake… Actually, no.
Stepping up for scrutiny is Nene Overland’s RS Edition Defender Icon.
Lowered by 40mm, running on 20in wheels with a 45-profile tyres (with 22in wheels an option), and with styling inspired by high-performance sports cars, it means business.
It’s cold and starting to spot with rain as I take the 90 to the ribbon of tarmac at Lincolnshire’s PFi kart circuit.
After a couple of familiarization runs I build more speed, take a deep breath and go for it. The tuned 2.2 TDCi’s growl deepens as the variable-vane turbo spools up and the Defender 90 rumbles down the straight before I flick into the esses at almost full speed. Proof that the 90 is going well comes from the instant screech of rubber on tarmac as I turn in.
Then it’s onwards, uphill, into an ever tightening left-hander. Fortunately, the low-profile tyres and seriously sorted suspension are on your side, and all four wheels stay planted – the 90 barely deviates from line as you try to push the laws of physics.
Our favourite bit?
Of course, hooning around a track is a long way from the Land Rover’s traditional role, and a day’s test will never show you every flaw, but the RS seems a well sorted package.
Taking a Defender and trying to turn it into something different can be a dangerous game. All too often tacking modern features on to a decades-old design just doesn’t work and the finished product jars. Ironically, taking design inspiration from the past has had the effect of bringing the ageing shape nicely up to date.
And the verdict from LRO writer Jerry Thurston?
I’m a fan of the interior – it’s spot on in my eyes, especially the sexy holes to stop you from getting too hot and sticky against the leather, but the red is not for me. It’s a love-it or hate-it vehicle, but that’s so much better than beige and anonymous.
Model: 2013 Defender 90 station wagon
Engine: 190bhp 2.2-litre TDCi 4cyl
Transmission: Six-speed manual, two-speed transfer box
Brakes: 380/340mm vented discs, six-pot calipers
Suspension: Lowered 40mm, adjustable dampers, front and rear anti-roll bars