Twisted Defender

The British expert’s bespoke upgrades give the Land Rover Defender a boost

Want a car that’s equal parts tradition and bling? Then the Twisted is for you. It can be extensively personalised, but still has the Defender’s character at heart. You’ll need to upgrade to the five-cylinder engine to get close to the Mercedes’ performance, yet the Defender 110’s long-wheelbase body means it’s a lot more practical than the cramped G-Class.

Plenty of companies modify or restyle Land Rover and Range Rover products, but Twisted works exclusively on the Defender. Having started by developing performance upgrades for competition, the company, based in Thirsk, N Yorks, has moved into custom cars.

Its Editions collection offers four different basic themes, although each customer can add bespoke elements to their model. The French Edition we tested has a mean urban look that compares well with the Mercedes G-Class.

However, don’t think this is just a standard Defender with a bodykit. The Twisted process starts by deciding whether you want to use a three-door Defender 90 or five-door Defender 110 as a base. You can use a new one or supply your own used example for transformation.

Either way, Twisted starts by stripping the car back to the bare chassis and treating the metal with an anti-corrosion coating. It adds stainless-steel bolts and soundproofing, too, as well as upgrading brakes and suspension.

Twisted also makes the aged cabin more luxurious without altering the Defender’s classic layout. This means you still have to put up with a very cramped driving position that leaves your elbow wedged against the door. But as each car spends up to three weeks being trimmed with first-class leather, you can’t deny the sense of quality.

Audio and trim upgrades can be added at this time, but the Momo racing wheel and Recaro seats in our car were more hot hatch than Land Rover, and didn’t really suit the driving experience. Twisted doesn’t set out to transform the feel of the Defender, so anyone accustomed to modern SUVs will need to get used to the ladder-frame chassis and heavy worm-and-roller steering, which result in vague handling and a bumpy ride.

However, depending on the specification chosen, Twisted modifies the brakes, springs and dampers, which improves both stopping power and body control. Our test car had the standard 360Nm 2.2-litre Land Rover diesel engine, but Twisted offers upgrades that increase torque by either 65Nm or 100Nm.

Alternatively, you can get a 500Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder Ford diesel for an extra £18,000. This takes performance closer to the G350’s, but it would also bring the price of our £74,000 test car in line with the option-packed £95,000 Mercedes. However, we’d also recommend swapping the Defender’s agricultural manual gearbox for the optional four-speed ZF automatic transmission, which will add another £6,000 to the final bill.

So buying a Twisted Defender clearly isn’t cheap, but it’s a customised, hand-built vehicle after all. The company delivered 74 models in 2012, and no two were identical.

You don’t lose any of the standard Defender charm with a Twisted, but you’re still getting bespoke and distinctively styled transport.

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