Land Rover Defender Classic Models Go Electric, but at a Shocking Price

From Car and Driver Twisted, a U.K.-based specialist in Land Rover modification, has turned its

From Car and Driver

  • Twisted, a U.K.-based specialist in Land Rover modification, has turned its hand to electrifying the long-serving Land Rover Defender—not the new one, but any of the previous-generation models.
  • The Twisted conversion is available in the U.S., where there’ll be a special limited edition called the California.
  • The North American Specification Defenders will be available in three bright colors and at the top end, cost more than $200,000.

Being an early adopter of new technology tends to come at a high price, and that’s also true when it gets retrofitted into an old vehicle. While many will see the appeal of an EV version of the classic Land Rover Defender—the one that was last officially sold in the States in 1997—few will be able to contemplate one with a base price of $185,000. For those who can, it’s a rare opportunity to drive a classic with an up-to-the-minute zero-emissions powertrain.

The struggle of large automakers to create EVs shows just how tough it is to create electric cars, with those challenges magnified when it comes to packaging powertrains into existing models. Twisted is an established Land Rover tuner based in the U.K. and with an offshoot in Virginia. Business has been brisk in Britain; Twisted spent the equivalent of $10 million buying 240 of the final Defenders for conversion.

Photo credit: Twisted

On this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. arm of Twisted has already offered a 6.2-liter GM V-8 in the classic Land Rover. Now it’s heading in the opposite direction with a zero-emissions EV version that has been developed in conjunction with Dutch company Plower. The Twisted NAS-E uses a transplanted electric powertrain and will be offered with both 214-hp and 320-hp outputs.

Photo credit: Twisted

The installation uses a single motor that drives through the Land Rover’s existing four-wheel-drive system. There is no longer a conventional transmission, which would be superfluous given the motor’s ability to produce its peak torque from low down, Twisted claims 280 lb-ft of torque for the less powerful version and 339 lb-ft for the brawnier one. But the converted Land Rovers will retain selectable high- and low-range gearing, to help maximize control during low-speed off-roading.

Twisted says the battery has a capacity of 60.0 kWh but has released no further details about it. A picture of the underside of the car suggests there are actually two packs, mounted on the outside of the chassis rails on each side. Twisted claims up to 200 miles of range, but doesn’t say under which testing protocol the estimate has been arrived at, if any. (As we’ve pointed out before, European figures are normally considerably higher than EPA numbers.) Nor do we have any information on the charging speed the car will support, although images show both a charging port in place of the previous gas filler and an instrument pack with a battery percentage meter in place of the original rev counter.

Photo credit: Twisted

Twisted is planning to first offer conversion of original North American specification Defenders, starting with the short-wheelbase softtop version that will be offered with a choice of three colors: Malibu Yellow, Yosemite Green, or Tahoe Blue. The regular version will have leather seats with a three-person bench up front and four side-mounted tip-ups in the back, plus a touchscreen interface for the EV system, upgraded brakes, air conditioning, and a full roll cage. The NAS-E Plus will add the more powerful drivetrain, bull bars, windshield rail spotlights, and a body stripe decal, with its base price increasing to $210,000.

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