According to legend, a BMW exec was walking the factory floor of his newly acquired Rover Group empire (the two companies amalgamated in 1996). He looked at the BMW M52, 2793 cc, straight-six, 24-valve engine. Then he looked at the flagship Defender Land Rover and had an epiphany.
"What about we put this engine inside of that truck?"
Boom. A legend was born. Between 1997 and 2001, a line of Defender 90s and 110s were released with a petrol engine normally found in the BMW 328i, 528i, 728i, and the Z3. Power and torque output for this engine was 143 kW (192 hp) at 5300 rpm and 280 N⋅m (207 lb⋅ft) at 3950 rpm. Only 1395 ever made.
So when I saw this beauty on sale in South Africa, I had to hit the buy button. No question. Little did I realise how much bother I'd have getting her home.
First there were police checks. Then a need for export certificates. So much paperwork was piling up that after almost a year negotiating across the water, I thought I'd have to give up on the dream.
"I don't think it's going to happen," I said to my editor at Land Rover Monthly. Well, didn't he pick up the phone and speak to a friend who ships vehicles in that part of the world. This friend was able to take my 110 into his stock, transport it with a fleet of other vehicles, and take care of all the export paperwork en route.
I was beside myself when it finally arrived. The 2.8i straight six was released after production of the V8 Defender ended. There was demand for a petrol-driven alternative to the diesel engine. And I can tell you, it was a great move on the part of BMW. The truck's a joy to drive. Quiet, smooth, excellent torque with those 6 cylinders. And it's easily the fastest Land Rover ever made.
When I saw these BMW plates, I couldn't resist!