Manhart Land Rover Defender is a Stealthy 500-HP SUV

– not actual vehicle –

Manhart Performance, the tuning house based in Wuppertal, Germany is known for building and optimizing some of the best vehicles on the market. Over the years, they have moved from tuning BMW M vehicles to refining vehicles from multiple manufacturers including Land Rover. To optimize performance, Manhart uses in-house developed carbon fiber parts and custom exhaust systems.

Over the 67 years since its launch, the Land Rover Defender has become one of the most definitive and capable off-roaders in the market. More than two million Defenders have been shipped so far. Unfortunately, Land Rover pulled the plug on the Defender back in 2016, and after a brief hiatus, the latest generation (built from the ground up) was launched in 2019. In this case, Manhart has revealed that only 10 Defender DP 500s will ever be made.

Since its launch in 2019, the Defender has got various updates over the years and is now available in three versions. Defender 90 variant gets a smaller 3-door design, while the bigger 110 model gets five doors and plenty of cabin space. Finally, the new Defender 130 slated for 2023 is an extended version of the same to fit a third row of seats (providing seating for upto 8 people). Land Rover is also launching the 30th anniversary model for 2023 (limited to 500 units) with unique design elements.

The 2023 Defender range now starts at $54,000 for the base S model and goes up to $113,000 for the Carpathian model. And Manhart hasn’t revealed the prices for the Defender DP 500 yet. As a focused off-roader, LR offers a wide range of equipment as options including a height-adjustable air suspension setup, locking differential, and even special modes for deep water wading. But it also drives exceptionally well on the tarmac with decent driving dynamics and ride quality.

Manhart already launched their first Defender DP 500 last year and the latest one builds off it with some extra tweaks. Instead of tuning the range-topping 518 hp supercharged V-8, Manhart has built the DP500 on top of the Defender 110 P400 model. This standard variant comes with a smaller 3.0L six-cylinder powertrain producing 395 hp in stock form. With all the modifications from Manhart, the DP 500 now makes 505 hp and 523 lb-ft of torque. While the standard Defender is known for its stellar off-road capabilities, the DP 500 is focused on the tarmac which is evident from the massive 24-inch wheels and ultra low-profile tires.

Along with the engine remap, which now produces similar power figures as the supercharged V-8 in the lineup, the DP 500 also adds a custom stainless exhaust system with either carbon or ceramic coated tailpipes. This will give the Defender a distinct soundtrack to go along with the performance. The tarmac-focused approach also reduces the ground clearance by 1.2 inches by modifying and optimizing the air suspension and coupling rods. However, Manhart hasn’t revealed any upgrades to the braking system to handle the extra power.

Going with the same theme, the DP 500 also gets several exterior modifications. The most obvious among them are wide fender add-ons, new bumper intakes, and a distinct gloss black color scheme throughout. Silver stripes are also included to break the monotony. The Manhart forged line rims measure 24×10 inches and get a light gray finish. You also get 295/30ZR24 ultra-low profile tires. Also available are smaller 22-inch wheels on request. As expected, these massive wheels limit the Defender’s off-road capabilities. 

On the inside, the Defender DP 500 gets high-quality leather/Alcantara upholstery with customizable accents. Customers can also opt for ErgoMed front seats developed by Recaro with features like heating and ventilation. These seats also get integrated airbags. You can also find design elements like exposed rivets to structural magnesium beams amping up the overall appeal of the cabin. Coming to the dash, it has a minimalist design approach with most of the functions moved to the central touchscreen display. Fortunately, you get some physical controls near the gear lever and access to switchgear is easy. Land Rover also offers a bigger 11.4-inch display running the Pivi Pro interface. Features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and more are included as standard. 10-speaker and 14-speaker sound systems from Meridian are also available as options to blast your tunes. 

The latest generation Defender is based on the D7x platform which is part of the JLT premium lightweight architecture, specially tailored for this vehicle. To keep its occupants safe, it comes equipped with all the latest driver assistance technologies including automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and a lot more. Also, the Advanced terrain management system continues to impress us, offering dedicated modes for almost all surfaces and scenarios. It is capable of sampling the surroundings 500 times a second and thus the vehicle continuously adapts for better control and performance, even on tarmac.