In July this year, we were proud to deliver a vehicle to Jeremy Clarkson. We were aware he wasn’t a huge fan of the Defender, but were determined to change that. With the help of 7-year-old Molly Fawcett, we managed to do what we set out to:
Keep your powder, gin and 12-bore dry
The Clarkson Review: Twisted Land Rover Defender
I’ve never been a fan of the Land Rover Defender and cannot understand the dewy-eyed sentimentality of fully grown beardy men who shed beery tears when it finally went out of production in 2016.
It may have been very clever and important when Land Rover copied the Willys Jeep back in the 1840s. But by the time Queen Victoria died, it was already starting to look cramped and stupid. Even the army eventually gave up on it, but still, at real ale festivals and murderer conventions in the heathery bits of Britain, people with muddy fingernails wailed and gnashed their teeth when the life support system was finally turned o.
It was, to me, the red phone box of cars. It worked only because it had always been around. But the truth is that it’s better to make a call from an iPhone than from inside a draughty red box that smells of a tramp’s underpants. And it’s better, if you work in the countryside, to drive a pick-up than a badly made, slow, evilhandling Defender.
Well, anyway, I came to work last week and outside the oce was exactly the sort of thing that would cause a member of Camra to walk into a door. It was, or rather it had once been, a Defender 110, but someone had fitted fat tyres with the complexion of the Singing Detective, massive wheels, flared arches, a light bar with the power of a collapsing sun and, to judge by the twin exhausts, some kind of weird millionhorsepower engine as well. Further investigation revealed this to be so, as, under the bonnet, instead of a wheezing boiler that ran on an unholy mixture of cider and coal, there was the unmistakeable bulk of an LS3 V8 from a Chevrolet Corvette. Not a bad engine, actually, but it had no place in what I thought was Richard Hammond’s latest idiotic purchase. It was even called a Twisted, only with the “s” written backwards.And that’s so him.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be my car for the week. And to make matters worse, the brochure was accompanied by a letter from the daughter of the man who owns Twisted. “Dear Jeremy,” it said.”This is my favourite Twisted Defender. I hope you like it too. Please look after it for my Daddy. Love from Molly, age seven and three-quarters.”
“Harrumph,” I said to myself belligerently.”I shall not be swayed by this emotional blackmail.”Well spelt and written though it may be. Especially as I’d just noticed the price of this particular top-spec version: more than £150,000. “Hmmm,” I thought, with my Doncaster hat on.”This may have been made in North Yorkshire, but with that kind of price tag I can’t imagine they’ll sell many there.”
The next day I had to go to my cottage in the country and, as I set o, the weather was overcast and gloomy, but there was no sign of what lay on the other side of the Chilterns. We all occasionally say, “I’ve never seen rain like it”, but I really and truly had not. I’ve witnessed the monsoon in India, thunderstorms in Vietnam and the relentless downpours of southern Chile, but none of them got close to the bombardment in Oxfordshire that night. It was like driving along under a fire plane.
And there’s no other way of saying this: I could not imagine a better car in those conditions than the Twisted. It just punched its way through the lakes that had formed in every dip and the rivers on every slope. Yes, its roofmounted lights caused a whiteout every time we went through really deep water, and the spray plumed out as if a nuclear sub had just exploded beneath the surface, but the tyres, and the way this thing was set up: it made even the most manly Mercedes G-wagen look like a market-stall toy.
There’s more. It’s often the case that people who are capable of fitting front and rear air lockers, Alcon brakes and uprated suspension to what’s basically the Hay Wain are absolutely hopeless at doing interiors. Often they ask their wives to help, and while they may be just about capable of turning up a pair of trousers, they can’t trim a dashboard.
Well, someone at Twisted can, because apart from the inherent lack of shoulder room, it was a beautiful place to sit. They’d even managed to find an aftermarket sat nav and control system that was sensible and not full of features no one needs.
The next day the rain had gone and I had a closer look at the welltrimmed monster that had head-butted its way to the hills. And in the boot there was a big and nicely made chest for sloe gin, King’s Ginger liqueur and all the aiming juice that the nation’s pheasant-slayers need. There were even slots for your guns. Although those aren’t included in the price.
What is included is a turn of speed that beggars belief. The soundtrack tells you that there’s a bit of poke under your right foot, but your head is saying that you’re in a Land Rover 110 and it’d need to be a lot to move such a cumbersome old tank around at anything more than a trot.
Your head is wrong, because when you mash the throttle into the firewall, the automatic gearbox drops a cog or two, the nose rises and, with a bellow that could stun a cow at 400 yards, it takes owith acceleration that makes you burst out laughing. It is not just fast, this thing. It is hilariously fast.
And you don’t have to slow down that much for the bends. Obviously, with those knobbly Cooper tyres, it doesn’t have the grip levels of, say, Bambi, but, thanks to its reworked suspension and Recaro seats that hold you in place, you can make some serious progress. The only really annoying thing was the way people in Defenders going the other way gave me a little wave as I tore by. “We have nothing in common,” I wanted to shout.
Except now we do. I shoot, and I’m well aware that it’s important to have the right car when you’re on one of those days that are full of businessmen with big watches and tweed that even Rupert the Bear would describe as “garish”. A simple Range Rover, in these circumstances, is not enough.
So I’d love to turn up in this monstrous Twisted, knowing that it would get deeper into the woods and then get me home faster than anything anyone else had. So, Molly, all is well. Even though it started out in life as a Land Rover, which I hate as much as I bet you hate some of your teachers, I did like your dad’s car. And if I hadn’t just bought one of the aforementioned Range Rovers, I’d be sorely tempted by it. Especially the drinks cabinet ?
Head to head Twisted 110 Utility LS3 V8 (16-plate) v Mercedes-AMG G 63 (G-wagen, new model) Price £156,000 XX £143,305 Power 430bhp 577bhp 0-62mph 6.5sec 4.5sec Top speed 125mph 137mph The Clarksometer Twisted 11 Utility LS V Engine 6162cc, V8, petrol Power 430bhp @ 5900rpm Torque 424 Ib ft @ 4600rpm Acceleration 0-62mph: 6.5sec Top speed 125mph Fuel / CO2 18mpg / 282g/km Weight 2,500kg Price £156,000 (inc VAT) Release date Order now (16-plate but unused) Jeremy’s rating 4/5 stars