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US brand, Bollinger, is releasing a rugged electric 4x4, but is it the car Land Rover should be producing?

The launch of the new Land Rover Defender set the automotive world ablaze. Replacing an icon was always going to be a thankless task. But aside from aesthetics, modern safety and emissions standards, and something that can't be quantified – soul, has Bollinger stolen Land Rover's thunder with its all-electric B1 and B2?

Detroit start-up, Bollinger, has made a strong statement with its B1 and B2 trucks. They are unashamedly rugged – the B1 'stationwagon' version not bothering with airs or graces despite its people-carrying abilities. The B2 is even more utilitarian, with space for plenty of people as well as many, many large things in the flatbed.

Bollinger is marketing the B1 as “the world's most capable sports utility truck” and the B2 similarly, except it being a pick-up rather than a sports utility. It's clearly not playing about.

Here's the rub; for Land Rover enthusiasts and purists, when the new Discovery was launched many quite simply just weren't happy. This despite the millions of pounds of investment in time and hours in R&D to get everything right, as well as creating a car that would meet modern demands and expectations.

Too design heavy. Too much reliance on digital equipment and drive systems. Not enough space for a slobbering Doberman or the ability to wipe the seats down with a well-soiled broom. More to the point, as it stands, no electric or even a proper hybrid option. Until the PHEV Defender comes out in 2021, which is incidentally when Bollinger is hoping to have the B1 and B2 on sale in Europe, a mild hybrid is as electric as it gets.

Now compare that to Bollinger. Glance at either the B1 or B2 on paper and, without reference points to the cars' gargantuan size, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're looking at a modified original Defender. The likeness is uncanny – something Bollinger can get away with after Jaguar Land Rover lost an attempt to trademark the shape of its old Defender 4x4 after a long-running battle with tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS Automotive.

 The ruling found in favour of his new Defender-style off-road vehicle called the Grenadier, which will maintain the Defender’s iconic boxy design with a host of improvements to bring it into the 21st century. But that's a whole other story on its own...

Bollinger's Land Rover-esque design is more than just skin deep. It has used aluminium throughout, like the original Defender, so it’s more corrosion resistant and weight is kept down. Doors and windows are removable and what interior there is will almost certainly be okay with a pressure washer rather than a valet. The company has also designed the B1 and B2 as body-on-chassis so should anyone want to, they could simply buy in the chassis – complete with powertrain – and put their own cab on top.

Speaking of the powertrain, whilst Land Rover is using four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel units, with a 48V mild hybrid option, Bollinger has gone big with its electric drive. Dual motors (one front, one rear) serve up 614bhp and 668lb-ft of torque – at least double that of the Defender. Performance is rapid, with 60 taking 4.5 seconds and the top speed being 100mph. It even has a high and low range gearbox, offering up a whopping 52 degree approach angle capability, a 3.75 ton towing capacity and 2.5 ton payload.

Range isn't the best at 200 miles, despite the massive 120kW battery, but as a tool, the Bollinger will be hard to beat. And in almost every major metric of said utility, it trumps the new Defender – doing so because of its electric powertrain rather than despite it.

So the question as to whether Bollinger has made the car that Land Rover should have done is most definitely a valid one.

Discover EV's take

In the latest edition of Land Rover Monthly, Land Rover Design Director Gerry Mcovern addresses the impact of an EV powertrain for the next Range Rover – a car which is destined to move into a new realm of luxury.

“There are two basic approaches. There's one that says if it's an all-electric vehicle it gives you the ability to free up your proportions. So you could have a more cab-forward approach. And then the question is, is that right for Land Rover?

“Or do you just forget about what the proportion system is and design the car round its relevance to the consumer and optimising it in terms of what it's capable of doing, on/off-road abilities, storage, versatility and all those things?”

The key phrases here are “is it right for Land Rover” and “relevance to the consumer”. The bottom line for Land Rover is this; with new Defender it couldn't just remake a car that is fundamentally out of date. It couldn't create a pastiche to satisfy fans of the original – there's no money in it. Land Rover is a lifestyle brand, make absolutely no mistake about that, and whilst the new Defender is at least as capable as any rival off-road, it has to tick the lifestyle box by going up-market.

Our main issue here, and why we think that Land Rover could have gone a bit more Bollinger, is in the powertrain department. The brand was creating something new, so we find ourselves wondering why it didn't go the whole-hog and launch with an EV option. The answer is down to powertrain development cycles – when asked Land Rover said “they'd have a lot more to say early next year about electrification”. Alongside this there's consumer readiness, but to us it's an opportunity missed for Land Rover, and one snatched up with gusto by Bollinger.

Interestingly when questioned INEOS Automotive on the same subject it said: “We are developing Grenadier with world-class BMW petrol and diesel-powered engines but have started a feasibility study into the potential for hydrogen fuel cell technology. With powertrain technology developing at such a fast pace, it’s too early to rule anything in or out.” If you’re interested in the development of this vehicle keep an eye out on its website.

Range isn't the best at 200 miles, despite the massive 120kW battery, and with an estimated starting price of £97,000 for both the B1 and B2, the US trucks are around £40,000 more expensive than the Brit. But as a tool, the Bollinger will be hard to beat and in almost every major metric of said utility, it trumps the new Defender – doing so because of its electric powertrain rather than despite it. 

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