Land Rover has formalised a brand partnership with Bowler Motorsport, makers of extreme off-road vehicles.
Under the new cosy arrangement between Bowler and Land Rover we will now see Bowler’s cars branded with a ‘Powered by Land Rover’ badge, access for Bowler to Land Rover components (particularly powertrains and chassis) and technology sharing between the two companies.
We did wonder if this new ‘Brand Partnership’ was a precursor to Land Rover either taking a piece of Bowler or even adding it to its portfolio of companies. After all, adding a ‘Bowler’ badge to performance versions of the new generation of Range Rovers does have a certain logic.
That train of thought came about after the torrid time Bowler has had over the CPP / Antonov debacle. CPP – which gobbled up Bowler just over a year ago – went bust in January after Vladimir Antonov, its main investor, was arrested over banking ‘irregularities’. That left Bowler between a rock and a hard place.
But it seems Drew Bowler managed to raise private finance to buy back Bowler, which has now morphed in to Bowler MotorSport, and is moving the company strongly forward with the Bowler EXR and EXR S and this new brand partnership with Land Rover.
The even closer relationship with Land Rover – even if it’s not an investment by Land Rover in Bowler – is great for Bowler, but it has benefits for Land Rover too.
The public branding of Bowler’s extreme cars with Land Rover badging will do no harm as a performance halo for Land Rover’s performance models, in particular the Range Rover Sport which underpins – in a modified form – the Bowler EXR S, and the feedback from Bowler will certainly help develop Range Rover’s performance models.
But Land Rover has made it clear to us this morning that they have no plans to take a stake in Bowler and nor do they intend hijacking the Bowler badge to add extra kudos to the next generation Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
But perhaps the Bowler EXR S, which debuts at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this month (£155k + tax) points us in the direction of the sort of performance we can expect from the next generation Range Rover Sport?
Despite using a modified form of the current Range Rover Sport chassis (itself a modified form of the Discovery’s underpinning – which weigh almost as much as a small planet) Bowler has managed to get the EXR S in at just 1800kg and delivered a 0-60mph time of just 4.2 seconds from a 550bhp version of the Land Rover 5.0 litre V8 S/C.
If the new Range Rover Sport – which we expect to use a cut-down version of the 2013 Range Rover platform – can offer similar levels of performance thanks to its new, lighter platform, then the new Range Rover Sport will become the king of the performance SUVs.
And if that new, lighter Range Rover Sport platform ends up underpinning the next generation Bowler EXR, just think how quick that will be.