Hermès of coach-built auto industry
"The Defender is an automotive icon unlike any other!"
"Most luxurious Defender ever is revamped by ARES Design."
"ARES Design built 53 completely bespoke Defenders."
When we speak about the Defender, we’re talking about a long, nostalgic and rich history. Originally, it was known as "Land Rover". As you all might know, the Defender stopped production back in 2016. Land Rover celebrated its 70th birthday and still the legacy lives within us. The Defender has been known by many as the world’s strongest 4×4; especially during the wars.
Back in the day, it was known as a "Go anywhere vehicle" and was initially considered as a commercial and agricultural vehicle. Many celebrities drove the famous Land Rover and among them was Winston Churchill who used to bigheadedly stand next to his custom-built Series I Land Rover. That’s without forgetting to mention Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh and it was also featured in the famous James Bond movie, Spectre.
Land Rover showed the DC100 concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011 and received many criticisms for its look. Since Land Rover didn’t launch a complete new model, some surgical operations were needed to make the Defender fit in with current trends.
Here we are in Modena, the motoring valley of the Italian supercar manufacturers. Yes, we’re in Modena, but not to visit the Ferrari Museum or the Maserati factory. We are here with ARES Design.
ARES Design was founded in 2014 by Dany Bahar, ex-Ferrari manager and CEO of Lotus. ARES Design’s main goal is to deliver a new level of design, development, manufacture and sales of coach-built and unique cars in the heart of Italy and through an expanding global network of studios. The brand-new 18,000 square-meter ARES Design facility in Modena, Italy was officially opened in January 2018. Founder and CEO, Dany Bahar, with his long-term Dubai-based business partner, Waleed Al Ghafari, quickly spotted the opportunity to move the coach-building business to another level of service by developing the world’s first ‘concept-to-creation’ coach-building facility.
The ARES Design facility can produce up to 300 bespoke cars a year, taking personalization into a new league in line with global demand for luxury and bespoke automobiles. This significant increase in volume potential for personalized cars results from bringing coach-building processes in-house and under one roof, from design to rapid prototyping to 3D printing, paint shop and leather works. It is a unique combination of luxury car brand resources with artisan principles and skills.
The launch venues in Dubai, Beverly Hills and Munich have proven successful in the two years since opening, working hand-in-hand with clients on over 100 projects. However, Dubai has already outgrown its location and the business will soon confirm a brand new and even higher-profile studio.
By 2020, ARES hopes to have a network of around 10 studios such as the UK, France, China, Russia and Singapore, as well as other potential openings in the established UAE, German and U.S. regions.
Bespoke projects include a Bentley Mulsanne Coupe, a one-off reimagined De Tomasso Pantera, and an obscenely ‘roided’ Mercedes G-Class remix, called the X-Raid.
ARES Design Land Rover Defender
ARES Design Company let us drive its own version of the Defender from its similarly luxurious, bright-white headquarters in Modena, Italy. Limited to 53 units, this most extreme embodiment of the 70-year-old workhorse has been developed with Coventry-based Land Rover specialist, JE Motor Works. Under the bonnet lies a modified Range Rover 4.7-liter V8 delivering 282 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque. That’s the one we drove. Another version will be available too which is powered by a 4.7-liter supercharged V8 and delivers 475 horsepower and 650 Nm of torque. Both engines breathe from the twin side-exit exhausts.
What are my first impressions? Simply, ‘WOW’ and I’m pretty sure if you have ever driven a Defender, you will know it is not easy to drive.
I can say it is a monster. Said to be inspired by the Land Rover that was featured in the Bond movie, the Spectre, the ARES Defender sits high on a raised suspension and 18-inch wheels with 305/70R18 Cooper Discoverer tires.
Carbon fiber add-ons are almost everywhere from the exterior to the interior of the Defender. Front grille, wide wheel arches, and bonnet. Side-protection bars and heavy-duty bumpers, with a Warn winch on the front.
Is it quick? Well keep in mind that this car weighs almost two tons, and we all know that the Defender is not particularly aerodynamic. But yes, it is quick! Not like a supercar, but talented enough to face off any obstacle effortlessly! The normally aspirated version of the ARES Design Defender is not as potent at 282 horsepower and is not as fast as the supercharged one, but is wonderfully ‘torquey’ for what it is made for.
The driver’s door opens effortlessly to divulge a stylish interior of dark Italian leather and carbon fiber. The alloy step was a must, due to the extra 100mm of ride height, and once you’re in, the door closes the first time without the typical bounce off. The ignition key is located down on the left of the steering column, and leg and shoulder room is still limited (as it’s always been on the Defender). The seats are bespoke Recaros, trimmed in leather. On the floor I noticed an aluminum plate, because thick floor mats would still feel unsuitable in a Defender I think. The cool addition was a top-spec infotainment system with sat-nav and Bluetooth.
When pushing the gas pedal with the exhaust symphony button on, the exhaust blares. OMG, that’s what I call a wild beast sound! What differs on this Defender from the original one is that the body roll and shakes are significantly reduced; this is because of the suspension, which now uses JE Motor Works bespoke springs with heavy-duty Fox dampers and revised anti-roll bars. The brakes are by AP Racing, the fronts being hefty 362x32mm discs and six-pot calipers.
The addition of copious amounts of soundproofing and high-quality leather and carbon fiber trim has made the Defender a more civilized one, which surely turned heads during our drive on Modena’s roads. All in all, the Defender does everything exceptionally well. ARES Land Rover is the finest specimen of the bespoke Defender off-roader on the market today. Prices start from EUR 215,000 for the naturally aspirated engine and EUR 245,000 for the supercharged engine. Delivery should take a maximum of two weeks.
4 / 5 stars
one word: bespoke
Base car model: 2014
4.7L, V8, 282 hp, 440 Nm
6-speed auto, 4WD with three lockable differentials
Base car model: 2014
4.7L, V8 supercharged, 475 hp, 650 Nm