The Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the Land Rover Defender are both serious off-roaders, and they’ve both been in continuous production for decades, but the major similarities between the two stop there. While the G has gradually moved up towards the very top of the Mercedes lineup thanks to potent engines and a posh interior, the Defender has remained a function-over-form workhorse that’s usually seen towing something excruciatingly heavy or covered in mud.
A British company named JE MotorWorks elevates the Defender to G status. Simply put, the firm literally replaces every rotating part of the off-roader in order to create a super Defender that’s appropriately christened Zulu².
The most important changes are found under the hood. While the stock Defender gets by with a 130-horsepower 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, the Zulu² benefits from a Jaguar-sourced 4.7-liter V8 engine that uses a beefy supercharger to develop 475 hp and 479 pound-feet of torque. The eight-cylinder sends power to all four wheels via a JE-designed six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually and, surprisingly, a bone-stock Defender four-wheel drive system.
The extra power is kept in check by an all-new sports suspension that includes Fox Racing shock absorbers, lowered springs and sway bars on both ends, and by upgraded brakes sourced from AP Racing.
The Land Rover Defender is a common sight at race events across Europe because it is often used to tow cars. Thanks to JE’s modifications, the Zulu² is the first Defender that’s truly capable of driving beyond the parking lot and onto the track for a few hot laps.
Outside, the Zulu² stands out from the Defender with tasteful modifications such as a machined aluminum grille, bigger intakes that help feed air into the V8, LED lights and fender vents on both sides. It rides on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped by high-performance tires.
The cockpit has been spruced up with additional sound-proofing material, a three-spoke steering wheel, leather upholstery on the seats, the door panels and the dashboard, as well as full carpeting. It can be further customized with optional extras such as carbon fiber trim and Recaro bucket seats.
Buyers can choose whether they want a short- or a long-wheelbase version of the super Defender, and they can even order a soft-top conversion at an extra cost.
JE MotorWorks will build just 25 examples of the Zulu², and each one will be identified by a numbered plaque on the dash. Pricing information has not been published yet, but a hand-built, Jaguar-powered Defender will likely not be cheap. Then again, neither is an AMG-tuned G-Class.