Kahn Land Rover Defender driven

22 March, 2013 | by Ollie Marriage

I’m not quite sure what to make of these modded Defenders.

Range Rover Sports I can understand – the car leans that way in the first place, so aftermarket tweaking is merely caricaturisation. But a dressed-up Defender? Surely that’s like trying to cram a mangy gundog into a chichi shoulder bag? It might fit, but it won’t be a happy union for any of those involved.

So why is it that I have a soft spot for this car? I think it’s because no matter how much you do to a Defender, whether you give it a Towie-tan or a camo-and-winches makeover, its character remains unaffected. It’s always noisy, always harsh, always utilitarian, always a semi-shambles to drive.

This Kahn (we’ve driven Overfinch and Twisted versions before) is no exception. The 2.2-litre diesel is rowdy, and the automatic gearbox is hilariously indecisive at high speeds, constantly flicking and jerking between ratios. In any other car, this would be unacceptable, but here it’s a key part of its charm. In fact the gearbox might be the single best upgrade – it makes the Defender so much easier to live with.

The live axle chassis bucks around, the discomfort exaggerated here by a super-firm racing bucket seat (standard for all passengers too). The upside is that the Kahn has the best driving position of any Defender I’ve ever driven. I could do without the three-spoke chrome steering wheel, though. It’s from a speedboat, and not bad to hold, but trying to remember when it’s pointing straight is a trial.

However, the quality of the fit and finish is first-rate. It really is. We’re not just talking about the quilted leather and Harris Tweed seats here, but every insert, panel or stitch. And there are a lot of them. Including rear-passenger knee protectors. Steering wheel aside, the Harris Tweed ‘n’ Defender mix works pretty well, adding luxury without seeming overly precious.

It wears its body mods well, too. There have been few mechanical upgrades bar the wheels, tyres and exhaust, but the extra side cladding over the arches gives the LR a tougher stance, and the wheels and grille sit comfortably on the slabby panels. It shouts oligarch security entourage or perhaps rural agri-rock star. We didn’t mind being seen in it at all, but if it were ours, we might change the numberplate.

Ollie Marriage

The numbers
2198cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 90kW, 360Nm, 266g/km CO2, 0-100kph in 13.0secs, 90mph, 1887kg

The verdict
Rugged, costly and tweedy. And actually quite convincing. Like a Mercedes G-Wagen, but more British.

     

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