I need to begin this review with an almost sacrilegious confession. My family’s Land Rover Defender was the car I learned to drive in. Slow and noisy, it felt like a constant physical battle. At the time, I hated it.
Since then, I have developed a much greater appreciation for the classic Defender, warts and all. It remains like little else on (or off) the road, and I appreciate why it has such a dedicated following.
Thirsk-based Twisted Automotive understands this enthusiasm, and has spent two decades striving to improve the classic Defender without eroding its charm. This includes the option of a (London ULEZ-compliant) 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, typically found under the bonnet of a Ford Mustang.
Don’t spare the horses
With 308hp and 350lb ft of torque, the new motor has a dramatic and hilarious effect on the Defender’s performance. Its twin-scroll turbocharger spools up quickly with a determined whistle, and shoves the TVS forward relentlessly. For anyone familiar with a standard Defender, the pace takes some adjusting to.
A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted, with the traditionally lengthy Defender gear shift and accompanying heavy clutch. Twisted is currently developing an automatic gearbox, but there is a real pleasure in the physical nature of using the manual.
As with the heavy steering, this is where Twisted has kept the quirks of the original Defender intact. Compared with a modern SUV, the TVS demands real effort and concentration to drive.
Ready for adventure
Twisted fits its own upgraded suspension kit to the T110. There are also huge six-calliper brakes at the front, with four-calliper stoppers at the rear. Like everything else, the brakes demand a physical effort, but they stop the Land Rover with ease.
Such performance has not impacted upon the Defender’s off-road ability. Chunky BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber will work whatever the conditions, and the low-ratio transmission and differential lock are still fitted.
This particular Twisted T110 is currently for sale, with a starting price of £155,000 plus VAT (£186,000). A lot of money for a classic Defender, you might think, but the spec sheet for is as extensive as you would expect for a demonstrator model.
V8 or fully electric
Everything inside this particular car is trimmed in Nappa leather, including the high-backed Recaro sports seats. There is extensive sound deadening and a touchscreen multimedia system with a reversing camera, plus Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility. Oh, and this Defender comes with a lockable gun safe that also has space for champagne flutes.
Twisted can offer a TVS engine conversion for an existing Land Rover more cheaply. Prices to add the 2.3-litre Ford engine to your own vehicle start at £46,500. Provided you can resist the temptation to dive further into the extensive range of tailored Twisted upgrades, that is.
Alternatively, there is also the potential to slot Twisted’s flagship TV8 General Motors-sourced 6.2-litre V8 engine under the bonnet, or go for a full electric conversion. For those with a smaller budget, Twisted is currently working on a range of modified Suzuki Jimnys, too.
For most, the idea of spending close to £190,000 on an old Land Rover is impossible to justify. A new Mercedes-AMG G63 costs around the same, and delivers even more ferocious performance.
That misses the point of what Twisted is doing, though. The company prides itself on being ‘anti-ordinary’, catering to those who don’t want to follow the obvious route and are committed to the classic Defender.
With the Defender TVS, Twisted has managed to retain the spirit and character of the original, but with a more-than-healthy dose of extra performance. There’s certainly no more hate from me here.
John Redfern writes for Motoring Research
ENGINE: 2.3 turbo petrol
TORQUE: 350lb ft
GEARBOX: Six-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A