What's the Story?
I’m already at 60mph. It’s taken me just over five seconds and the Defender I’m driving wants to keep pushing. But this is no ordinary Defender, and the V8 under the bonnet certainly makes you aware of that. The hedge-lined B-roads of Warwickshire throw the engine’s aggressive roar right back in your face. This isn’t normal. No Defender should handle as well, or accelerate as quickly, as this one does.
The best thing about it, though, is how it looks. It looks normal. There are no big body kits and no shiny exhausts to suggest that this Land Rover is any different from the other 90 station wagons on the road. Okay, so it has 18-inch wheels, and it’s actually been lowered by nearly an inch, but not that you’d notice. In essence, it’s just another Defender – or so the Porsche 911 that was following me must have thought. A six-mile road of long straights, sweeping bends and picturesque countryside is every sports car owner’s dream, so to be held up by a Defender must be the height of frustration. A clear road opens up in front of us, so I drop the 90’s Discovery 3 six-speed manual gearbox into third and let the 4.4 Jaguar V8 loose, consigning the Porsche to a blip in my rear-view mirror. Bet its jockey wasn’t expecting that from a Defender. That’s what makes this Land Rover so brilliant: it’s just so unexpected. Defender looks, Jaguar performance.
Our Favourite Bit
Power is transferred to the diffs using a internally modified puma transfer box. The high range gearing is custom made giving 1:1 ratio, instead of the original 1.221:1, allowing for higher road speeds from the six-speed ZF gearbox. The low range of the standard Defender transfer box remains unchanged, to retain optimum off-road ability.
As with all high-powered, fast-moving vehicles, handling is high on the list of priorities. With the Defender’s body lowered by 20mm using JE Engineering’s own design of coil springs and uprated Koni shocks, body roll is significantly reduced, aided also by the engine’s lower position and improved centre of gravity. Equipped with JE’s custom-designed anti-roll bars both front and rear, the Defender is much stiffer through corners, too. The suspension modifications have meant that the road handling is much improved but it remains very capable off road. So despite being lower than a standard Defender, it doesn’t suffer when it gets off the tarmac. If anything, the V8 power has made it even better, as I found out when I took it to a local quarry for testing.
And the Verdict from LRO?
In mud, the engine’s power pulls it through most sticky situations, and when it comes to hill climbs… well, it’s just as well that the brakes are good, otherwise you’d be taking off on the brow of a hill every time. It would be unlikely to handle as well in extreme off-roading, but you’d be as likely to take this on a challenge event as you would a new Range Rover.
I recently saw a sticker on the back of a Land Rover that read: ‘You can go fast. I can go anywhere.’ If you owned this Defender, you’d have to get a sticker that read: ‘I can go fast. I can go anywhere. In fact, I can go anywhere fast.’
This feature appeared in the July 2011 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.