Rally cars modified for the road are some of the most exciting cars ever made, like the Lancia Stratos , Audi Quattro and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution all of which have followed that sideways gravel path to glory on the road.
The Bowler EXR S is one of these very special vehicles. A road-biased handling package, safety features, and a finished interior are the key additions that separate it from the pure Motorsport EXR .
The spec sheet for the road-going EXR S variant is to die for. Researching the details of its construction, it’s as though the Derbyshire-based Bowler team simply doesn’t compromise. Every bolt and brace is simply the best and strongest possible, period. Better ingredients. Better pizza. Or something to that effect.
Click past the jump for the full review, details on ordering a Bowler, and high-resolution images of the exquisite interior and rolling roll-cage chassis.
The exterior of the EXR S is all racecar, sans the sponsor stickers. Bowler leverages the extensive Range Rover parts bin for the car’s key exterior features. The result is a slinky, Range Stormer -stomping animal.
The nose and tail share the Range Rover Sport’s blocky graphics, including the bi-xenon self-leveling lights, grille shape and overall square-jaw looks.
The off-the-shelf components bookend a mad body profile with giant man-eating fenders and extensive cooling ductwork. The swage line stays horizontal through the A-pillar, before arcing upward around the rear wheel arch. The Bilstein and Eibach double wishbone suspension is visible front and rear and leaves no doubt about the promised 11.2-inches of wheel travel.
The interior of the EXR S makes big progress over the inhospitable rally trucks. The Bowler seats two passengers in body-hugging racing seats and provides three-point seat belts for ease of use. Six-point harnesses and rally intercoms are optional.
Visible structural metal is painted the same color as the body and includes substantial thick-plate reinforcements across the entire floor, firewall and transmission tunnel area. The standard roll cage is FIA-approved and constructed from hydroformed steel about twice the normal roll-bar thickness. The twin A-pillar tubes are evidence of the EXR S’s rigidity and strength. For those that like to push the envelope a little more, an even more extreme cage is optional. After all, not all jumps have smooth landings – airbags are not included for exactly this reason.
A dashboard from Land Rover’s Defender blends nicely with bespoke aluminum plates and carbon-fiber elements to create a polished appearance. The EXR S includes a number of comfort and safety features as standard:
- Six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, low-range gear and electronic parking brake
- Keyless ignition with remote central locking
- Dual climate control, heated mirrors and heated front/rear screens
- Twin 12V sockets, map and courtesy lamps
- Lightweight Pioneer head unit (Bluetooth, iPhone-compatible) with six-speaker Pioneer stereo
The carbon door cards reinforce the sense of racing authenticity, as do the polycarbonate side windows with sliding hatches. The rear cargo area is huge (est. 30-cubic-feet) but not flat.
The Bowler EXR S is powered by a supercharged and remapped 5.0-liter V-8 from the RRS that produces 550 horsepower and an estimated 700 pound-feet of torque. The twin air intake system is finished in chrome and adds real purpose to the near-OEM-quality engine compartment. A Bowler-branded induction cover fills some of the void between the deeply mounted engine and the front end.
The snorting V-8 is shoved well back from the front axle for a low, front mid-mounted position and ideal weight distribution. The EXR S keeps the racecar’s locking center and rear differentials but tweaks the torque split from 60:40 to 50:50.
All of this power and technology delivers a 0-to-60 mph sprint of 4.2-seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph.
The EXR S is very light compared with its Range rover cousin, as its curb weight is 3,815 pounds, compared to the 2012 Range Rover Sport’s 5,800-pound curb weight.
2013 Bowler EXR S - Manufacturer’s Performance Claims
|Peak power||550 horsepower|
|Peak torque||700 pound-feet est|
|Top Speed||155-mph, limited|
Suspension and Brakes
Giant six-piston Brembo brakes clamp the 14.2-inch front discs, while four-piston Brembos bring up the rear. The standard suspension features progressive Eibach springs over Bowler-specific Bilstein dampers, but the optional Donerre competition dampers with remote reservoirs are visible in the rolling chassis images.
Darling of Top Gear and Fifth Gear, the Bowler promises all drivers a giant childlike grin and some lifetime memories. The smile is not instant, as the Bowler is a true exotic and as such is pretty frightening at first. The idea of driving something so fast across open terrain only amplifies the fear.
Once acclimated to the giant power and relatively squishy suspension, the nerves fade. The EXR S is described by Bowler as having a more “reactive” type of handling to fit its intended purpose. This means the car is always in a semi-defensive position and tries to be ready for unexpected blows, which helps inspire confidence. Drivers rapidly learn that car’s progressive suspension is soft at the top of its travel but firm underneath.
The Bowler fairy tale gets more complicated at this part. The Bowler EXR S is priced at $236,000 in its home UK market, where it is also road-legal and emissions compliant. The EXR S is available for custom orders across the globe, where Bowler sells the car on a recreational vehicle basis.
“I’d be delighted to sell a Bowler in the U.S. - either an EXR for competition use, or an EXR S for off highway recreational use.” - Jon Chester, Bowler Brand Director
This means the car is legal to drive on any private land or roads, like off-road parks and the thousands of OHV (off highway vehicle) trails across the U.S.
The lack of U.S. federal highways blessing shouldn’t put off potential customers. Many collectors know that former racecars or non-imported exotics are totally street-able, with a little help. Generally, license-plate issuers (State DMVs) have far fewer requirements once you already own the vehicle.
All Bowlers have exceptional resale value due to limited supply.
The primary competition for this car is the Local Motors Rally Fighter, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG, and the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.
The Rally Fighter shares the spirit of the Bowler and is also special-order-only. A skilled expert mechanic will be able to handle routine maintenance for both vehicles, although spare parts will be an eye-watering experience. The Rally Fighter also seats two and is powered by a racing small-block V-8. It is less proven mechanically as well as at high speed.
Gallery Local Motors Rally Fighter
The Porsche Cayenne Turbo gets close to the 0-to-60-mph time of the EXR S and trumps it with a 160-plus top speed. As a volume production car, it can be purchased from a dealer lot, seats five and offers passive safety features like airbags and a warranty.
Gallery Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
The G63 and Bowler have similar pricing and rip-snorting V-8 engines. The AMG quad side-exhaust wins for show quality over the twin side exhausts from the Bowler. The G63 provides more comfort and five big seats but is much more vulnerable off-road.
Gallery Mercedes G63 AMG
The Raptor can do something the G63 and Cayenne wouldn’t dare: follow the EXR S through some challenging terrain. The Raptor includes a similarly giant wheel-and-tire package, long-travel Fox Racing suspension and a 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 411 horsepower. It also seats five and is easier and much cheaper to buy than the EXR S. The Raptor’s sluggish 0-to-60-mph time means that he might be able to follow the EXR S – but only as a support vehicle.
If you’re feeling really squirrely, you can pay an extra $17,995 for the Shelby Raptor package and push the Raptor to 575 horsepower.
The EXR S never gets bogged down in the mud, and potential buyers shouldn’t either.
For those demanding the best in every aspect of their pampered lives, the Bowler will fit right in. Despite the cushy ride, few passengers and no drivers will forget this is an extreme and highly specialized machine.
The buyers for this SUV could simply make a track out of the back forty acres of their rural ranch. Soon they might need another to keep the EXR S humble when doing laps.
- Huge power and acceleration
- Robust racing mechanicals
- Unbeatable off-road
- Only two seats
- Special-order status
- Polycarbonate windows don’t roll down