Wednesday 27th June 2012


If PistonHeads did off-roaders they'd look something like the Bowler EXR-S, as Chris Harris demonstrates

The 'test' track wasn't wide, it was fast and run-off consisted of what my A-level Geography teacher rather dubiously refereed to as 'Oak-Ash climax vegetation'. But then I was only driving a slightly pokey SUV, right?

It's a Land Rover Jim, just not as we know it
It's a Land Rover Jim, just not as we know it
You will know Bowler as the maker of a product that looked like a Land Rover Defender which became the ultimate privateer's tool on Rally Raid events like the Dakar. It was called the Wildcat, but Bowler no longer makes that vehicle, shifting its focus to a new design with body styling in the mould of the current Range Rover Sport. It is called the EXR. In the correct hands, it is capable of a top-10 finish on the current Dakar.

Of late Bowler's loyal customers have shown an interest in a road version of the EXR, and this is the development machine for that project. It is called the EXR-S. Where the rally car (can you call it a car?) uses the normally aspirated 5.0-litre Jag V8 running weeny FIA restrictors for around 300hp, the road car has the supercharged version, no breathing limitations and a little ECU tweak. It has 558hp, 520lb ft and, minus its interior trim, weighs 1,700kg.

Test track was on the tight side
Test track was on the tight side
Running gravel suspension above its 21-inch street-spec Pirellis, it is one of the more alarming things I've driven this year. The performance is outrageous - the prow lifts, the rear squats and the front scuttle reverberates to sound of ingested air. It's like one vast, protracted gurgle.

The chassis balance it pretty neutral on this car, but then it's not really set up for asphalt. As you'll see - back away in the quick stuff and it'll move around as much as you want to scare yourself.

So what is it for? It's for the casual diamond mine owner who finds a G63 a bit shabby off-road at speed.

Not your typical Yummy Mummy RR Sport...
Not your typical Yummy Mummy RR Sport...
It's also semi-official now, which I think is a great move for both parties. Land Rover needs something brain-out silly to keep it interesting, Bowler needs the legitimacy and the technical assistance.

Having driven the EXR competition version, I now need to do a Rally Raid.

Enjoy the vid.



Author: Chris Harris
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