Bowler Nemesis CAR (2007) review

Published:05 October 2007

Bowler Nemesis CAR (2007) review
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What’s this? It looks like a Range Rover Sport on steroids!

Well, essentially it is. However, there’s much more to the Bowler Nemesis than its humble Range Rover DNA. Let me explain. British off-road specialist Bowler was founded 25 years ago when Drew Bowler, a blacksmith by trade, decided to mate a Land Rover body with a Range Rover chassis. This mutant combination produced a stunningly capable off-road device that had the high suspension travel characteristics of the Defender mixed in with the technologically advanced underpinnings of its Range Rover brother. Originally designed for personal use, it wasn’t long before orders were coming in for similar, roll-cage equipped, race-prepped cars to compete in the growing series of off-road motorsports around the UK. As demand increased, Bowler developed its conversion to be sold in kit form branded Tomcat. Customers with a standard pre-1994 Range Rover could then purchase the kit which would include everything needed to transform it into a competition-spec racer.

So this is a kit car?

Hold on, I’ve not got to that yet. After the success of the kit car Tomcat, Bowler turned its attention back to ready-built turn-key racers. The £80,000 Wildcat 100 was the result. Again based around the Defender shell, however this time with a much lighter and stronger tubular spaceframe chassis, the Wildcat 100 was designed to compete on the worldwide off-road stage. But rather than a stereotypical mud-slinger, the Wildcat was destined for drier terrain…the desert. African and European desert rallies in particular with an eye to competing in the gruelling 5000-mile Paris-Dakar. The brutish Range Rover Sport-based Nemesis is a direct descendant of the desert storming Wildcat, and is the car in which Bowler is hoping to achieve a cupboard-full of silverware in 2008's transcontinental race. History lesson over, how does it drive? Click 'Next' to find out.

Tell me more!

Well, the Nemesis is built in much the same way as its Wildcat predecessor, but this time using Range Rover Sport items as a base. Around 40 percent of the Nemesis is scavenged from the Land Rover parts bin. All the visual cues – lights, grille, handles, mirrors and windscreen are retained, as is the majority of the drivetrain, albeit beefed up with Bowler’s own mix of uprated parts. Painted in Bowler’s trademark lurid paint-scheme and graphics, the Twintex and carbonfibre bodyshell is light and strong and sits over a new tubular spaceframe chassis. Where the Wildcat’s body panels were sculpted ‘in-house’ by hand, the Nemesis panels have been designed on a more up-to-date CAD system. However, Bowler’s bodywork specialists have tried to retain the same aggressive and organic styling themes as applied to the Wildcat.

What’s the engine spec of this mutant Range Rover?

Taking the Sport’s 4.2-litre, supercharged V8 as a base, Bowler has converted the fuel system from petrol to E85 bio-ethanol. Along with a remapped engine management system, the plant-derived 85 percent bioethanol, 15 percent petrol mix, increases power from 385bhp to a staggering 510bhp. This mammoth power figure is complemented by an equally insane torque figure of 414lb ft at 3900rpm. Result? Enough grunt to send the Nemesis over practically any terrain or incline at totally ridiculous speeds. Perfect for Paris-Dakar, then.

What does it feel like to drive?

With nearly 300lb ft of torque arriving at just 1500rpm, the Nemesis is off the mark like a scolded cat. The tsunami of power is then transferred to the huge 275/60 18-inch Kumho off-road tyres through a six-speed manual gearbox strengthened with Ricardo internals. The acceleration on any surface is little short of astonishing. Keep your foot in, and the 60/40 torque-splitting centre differential serves up a dollop of power oversteer - and it's so controllable, that you can’t help but grin through the fear. Looking at the on-paper figures really doesn’t do the Nemesis justice though. A 4.6sec 0-60mph time and a top speed of 140mph are blindingly quick for an off-roader, but in reality they only tell half the story. The most amazing thing about the Bowler is that these figures are achievable, not just on a sticky tarmac drag strip, but on loose gravel, mud, and the sand-covered dune roads of Mauritania. You won't be slowed down by many fuel stops, either. Thank the 400-litre long-range fuel tank.

So what's so special about the suspension?

Visually the Nemesis rides much higher than a standard Range Sport. This is due to the use of custom uprated springs and the trick Donerre three-way adjustable dampers. This rally-spec suspension features hydraulic bump stops and fast rebound technology - essential for keeping the tyres in contact with the ground over the high-speed rough terrain of desert racing. A set of bespoke Bowler anti-roll bars help eliminate body-roll while allowing a softer damper setting to cope with deep ruts and heavy bumps. Deep ruts and giant bumps that jut out of our quarry location are traversed with ease - the long-travel suspension soaking up all but the worst of the impacts with little in-cabin trauma. The only painful part is the deafening aural assault from the roaring V8.

Verdict

Currently, the Nemesis is designed as a racing off-roader, designed to compete in the desert rallies of Africa and to take on the best of the Paris-Dakar. At £120,000, that’s actually quite a bargain for the performance and durability that you get for your money, especially when you consider manufacturer 'Works' rivals can cost upwards of £500k. But the most exciting part is that Bowler plans to build a roadgoing version of the Nemesis - a car that will take the super-off-roader market into the stratosphere. Prices are yet to be released, but if the race version is anything to go by the road car will be a stormer.

Specs

Price when new: £80,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4197cc supercharged V8, 510bhp @ n/a, 417lb ft @ 3900rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-60mph, 140mph, n/a mpg, n/a g/km
Weight / material: 1850kg/Twintex with carbonfibre bodyshell and tubular chassis
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4433/2000/1730

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