Driven: Prindiville Land Rover Defender

£52,000 for a Land Rover Defender. There, it's said. Get over it. Crazy? By most rational measures, but when compared to Germany's own Merc G-Wagen alternative it's positively cheap. Cars shouldn't be rational either, and certainly not here on Pistonheads. The Defender too? Hardly a conventional Pistonheads car? Or is it - after all here's a vehicle that's singularly designed to be brilliant at what it does.

Now does corners, as well as mud
Now does corners, as well as mud
And that's shake, rattle and roll. Literally. Great if you want the iconic box's goat-like off-road ability, but if you're after a slice of Defender with more road use in mind there's no denying it's hugely compromised package. There are other modern, comfortable Land Rovers around that do road so much better. But you want, no, need a Land Rover Defender in your life. Sometimes it's just like that.

Ultimate PH tow car
Step up the Alive Concept Prindiville Limited Edition Land Rover Defender. A Pistonheads Land Rover. Indeed, this car actually conceived for, and shown at the Pistonheads show on Alive Tuning's stand as a more civilised tow car for your track car. We've been in it, and it's the best Defender we've ever driven.

Makes a G-Wagen look a bit soft and fluffy
Makes a G-Wagen look a bit soft and fluffy
That's not necessarily a high bar to cross though, as for all its charm the standard Defender is hilariously out of date. Driving one is like wrestling a multigym while being shaken, with one arm in a sling - and getting wet when it rains. Performance has typically been in the realms of cement mixer. Ride and handling? Forget it. For all its tugboat ability too it's never been manoeuvrable, the turning circle hopelessly bad.

The Limited Edition Defender does nothing to change that hopeless turning circle but there's a reversing camera on it to make it that bit easier. The smaller Momo steering wheel makes turning the wheel that bit less uncomfortable too, this being one Defender you'll not need to drape a wax-jacketed sleeve out of the window to make room for the necessary arm-twisting.

Default Defender driver's grimace is gone
Default Defender driver's grimace is gone
Up to date, up to a point
Everywhere you look there are changes. Inside it's fully re-trimmed, with leather Recaro seats and enhanced audio. Smart LED lights front and rear, a new grille, vents and black everywhere define the look outside, but most obvious is the change to the Defender's stance thanks to a 50mm drop. Gone are the high-sidewalled off-road enabled tyres, in come some five-spoke 18-inch alloys wrapped in some road-biased Michelins. It sits significantly lower, while extensive revisions to the suspension and brakes promise something approaching decent road performance.

That's relative mind, the Special Edition Defender wouldn't see which way a similarly priced Range Rover Sport TDV6 went, but it'd be fun trying to keep up. Not least as the custom sports springs, Bilstein B6 gas dampers, SuperPro polyurethane bush kit with castor correction and a steering damper that means turning the steering wheel results in the Defender actually responding. Cornering no longer the turn-hope-bounce-roll-heave-add-more-lock-and-hope that is the usual experience in Land Rover's icon. The brakes too, six-pot calipers with larger discs up front, stop it. Relatively speaking of course it's still a bit behind anything that was conceived this millennium, but the Special Edition Defender makes both corners and stopping a far less fraught experience.

OK, so it's not G63 fast but it is very cool
OK, so it's not G63 fast but it is very cool
Working suspension and everything
The suspension also removes the Defender's tendency to shake its occupants into submission, the ride still not what you'd call exemplary, but erring more towards comfort and control than ever before. Greater refinement helps a good deal here too, the 2.4-litre rattle and clatter (now a 2.2-litre rattle and clatter on MY12 Defenders) damped somewhat by plentiful sound dampening, the vibrations it creates lessened in intensity by new engine mounts. Inside too, every nut and bolt has been tightened with washers added where necessary to quell the squeak-fest that is the usual hard plastic on metal Defender din.

All those chassis revisions would go to waste if the old 2.4-litre's output hadn't been revised to suit. Utilising Alive Tuning's Stage 4 Conversion the ECU gets a remap, there's a new intercooler and turbocharger, a sports exhaust system and high flow air filter. The result is 190hp@3,250rpm, not exactly the stuff of horsepower dreams, but enough to get the Defender to 110mph if you dare and to 62mph in 10 seconds. It's not the outright performance though that makes the difference, it's the 338lb ft of torque that makes it so much easier to drive. It arrives at 2,470rpm and lessening the need to stir the clunky gearstick so much to keep the Defender rolling. It remains a physical driving experience, but a more enjoyable one that's now rewarded with decent progress for your efforts.

If not exactly plush it's a bit less squeaky
If not exactly plush it's a bit less squeaky
All that and it's infinitely cooler than the Range Rover Sport you could have instead, even more so as here in van-like 90 hardtop guise. Rational isn't fun, and when it comes big-money silly performance 4x4s this Special Edition Defender is on the relatively sane end of the scale - as AMG's six-figure, twin turbo offerings demonstrate.





2,401cc 4-cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive, low range transfer 'box
Power (hp): 190@3,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 338@2,470rpm
0-62mph: 10 sec
Top speed: 110mph
Weight: N/A
CO2: N/A
Price: £52,000

Photos: Max Earey

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Comments (126) Join the discussion on the forum

  • hman 15 May 2012

    Nice try but a G-wagen it aint.

    Recaro leather seats, a momo wheel, polyurethane bushes and two JL subs in the boot - its a bit 1990's astra GTE isnt it.

  • Caulkhead 15 May 2012

    Doesn't seem much improvement for £52k to me.

    You could buy a new Defender, drop an LS7 and autobox in, upgrade the suspension and brakes and still have change for a fish supper on the way home for that money.

  • FoundOnRoadside 15 May 2012

    340lb-ft? Land-Rover Gearbag and diffs? That'll work well for about 10000 miles.

  • petergrimsdale 15 May 2012

    This may not be it but its high time LR came up with a wilfully politically incorrect Defender variant to see off the tedious G Wagen AMG.
    And that name would have to go.

  • JohnoVR6 15 May 2012

    Not overly familiar with them but, from what I've seen of them at motorshows, the Twisted Performance Defenders look a much better bet than this.

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