I’m up to 80 mph on this loose surface before slamming on the brakes, standard Range Rover Sport Brembo discs and calipers, incidentally, and the car somehow digs in, slows down and then arcs sideways in something approaching a Scandinavian flick. It takes stupid provocation to get full opposite lock, too, the standard line is full power and a straight wheel to drag the car back on to the next straight in a drift more graceful than we have any right to achieve after just a few minutes behind the wheel. Drew takes over for a short time and is faster, smoother, more aggressive, just about everything, but this is still an outrageously fun car and so well balanced it almost defies belief.
That engine sits 11 inches further back than in the stock car, and lower, which helps the handling, but reduces the foot well space. It gets warm in there, too, with the engine next to your legs. It’s just the start of the packaging changes, too, as the whole car is about four inches wider; radiators and anything vulnerable has been shifted back from the perimeter.
That’s a rally touch that saves the car from limping into retirement in the event of a crash. Only two of Bowler’s cars have ever been written off. One was simply thrown at the desert scenery and the other hit a bridge at high speed. You can even launch it off a sand dune, land on the nose and, nine times out of ten, drive away. Fast.
So the field we’re playing on over the road from Drew Bowler’s rural base is child’s play for this car. But it’s not the sole ambition, not by a long shot.
You see, Bowler’s customers tend to be exceptionally wealthy Arabs, Russians, and the kind of folks that have a Lamborghini or Ferrari parked in the garage. They complained their supercars were fragile, pointless and borderline unusable. That’s where the EXR is pitched and Bowler is working on a luxury interior spec that sits 2.4 inches lower, on an Ohlins suspension, as well as this stripped-out dune jumper.
Even in on-road spec potholes, curbs or gentle off-roading doesn’t trouble this car. It will literally go any place, any time, and it will do it exceptionally fast. The EXR took the fastest time in the Supercars’ section at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier in the year and in the real world is a match for almost anything in the hands of an average driver.
So eventually we bid farewell to the field and head out on to the road. For everyday use, you’d want the roadgoing suspension, or possibly a second car with opposing specs, depending on how rich you are.
Aside from the noise at the rear, though, the EXR feels brilliant on the road. It even feels rear drive thanks to a 60/40 torque split that is managed through the center diff with over lock and separate front and rear diffs to manage the power side to side. The finished road car will, of course, have the Range Rover Sport’s electronic diff that can cope with more or less everything you could feasibly throw at it.
Bowler knows he needs to raise the top speed of 140 mph to topple the Porsche Cayenne Turbos and BMW X6s of this world. He will, and the car is sure to top out somewhere north of 170 mph when he’s done, even if he has to squeeze another 50 hp from the AJ-V8 Gen III engine. Land Rover is more than willing to help in that quest and has happily provided ECU information.
It’s easy to see why; this is the hard-core off-road racing Range Rover Sport that they simply can never build. It is the ultimate Range Rover, the go-anywhere supercar and a proven legend that can withstand the hottest, most barren, most destructive terrain on Earth. It’s the real-world Tonka toy, and all it could take is a Facebook campaign and a hunger strike to bring it to a high street near you.
Bowler Nemesis EXR
Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
5.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, supercharged
Fully independent wishbones, coilover dampers
Six-piston calipers, 380mm rotors (f), four-piston calipers, 365mm rotors (r)
Length/width/height (in.) 188.3/78.1/72.0
Peak Power: 500 hp @ 4200 rpm
Peak Torque: 462 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.9 sec.
Top Speed: 140 mph