May 30, 2023

2023 Land Rover Defender 130: Stretched for family holidays

Land Rover's revived Defender family continues to expand beyond the standard two- and four-door models with the debut of the eight-seat long-wheelbase 130.

The 2023 Defender 130, distinguished by its third-row seating, is 13.38 inches longer than the four-door Defender 110 and caters to families who take a lot of gear on holiday. Maximum storage capacity is 89.9 cubic feet, and the roof rack is standard.

The eight seats are arranged with two upfront, then two rows with three seats in each. The middle row slides forward and tilts to enable access to the third row. The second- and third-row seats are also raised slightly to improve passengers' visibility.

Two 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbo Ingenium engines are available — the standard P300 rated at 296 hp and the P400 rated at 395 hp. Both come standard with a mild-hybrid system and are bolted to eight-speed automatic transmissions supplied by Germany's ZF. All-wheel drive is also standard.

Land Rover will expand the Defender 130 lineup for 2024 with an Outbound trim that features an optional 493-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine.

The Outbound, powered by JLR's 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine, is a luxurious five-seat version of the long-wheelbase Defender that offers 88.85 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row of seats, a cargo area designed to hold camping gear, wetsuits and other off-road excursion items.

We've rounded up some reviews of the Defender 130.

"From an aesthetic standpoint, the 130's exterior looks a bit... extruded. It's got a big butt. Still, it's nowhere near as inelegant as the taffied ass of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which appears to be attempting to shoplift a kitchen stove in its back pocket. Still, the extra visual weight imbalances the truck's historic shortly overhung rear proportions. It also impacts departure angle, if you care, decreasing the decline 30 percent, from 40 degrees to 28.5. The elimination of the long horizontal clerestory windows punched into the rearmost portion of the roof on the 90 and 110, another heritage callback, de-accentuates the visual heft back there.

"But what the 130 gains on the interior is impressive. While a cramped, two-person third row has been available as an option on the 110, the 130's additional length allows the inclusion of a 60/40-split folding third row with places for three passengers. I'm five feet eleven inches tall, and with the front seat set for my ideal position, I fit comfortably in both rear rows. Granted, the cushion in the wayback is a bit low but far from forcing any knee licking. It was suitable for a jaunt. For young kids, it would be downright commodious.

"With standard seat heaters, USB-C ports, elevated stadium positioning, and an overhead glass roof with a manual shade, this bench is anything but sepulchral. A separate aft-end climate zone system is optional and worthwhile if it will be regularly occupied. The 130 gains 3.0 cubic feet of additional cargo space with the third seat up — enough to swallow a weekend's worth of bags for two — and 9.0 more with it down over the three-row 110. All this inner space costs about an additional $8,000 beyond the 110's chit."

— Brett Berk, Road & Track

"We've praised the current Defender's design, which manages the not-so-easy feat of looking wholly modern and yet unmistakably kin to the off-road icon that first appeared in the 1940s. That sentiment applies both to the Defender 90 and the 110, but the 130's extra length — it is 13.3 inches longer than the 110, 30.5 inches longer than the 90 — throws off its proportions. (For some of us, it calls to mind the Jeep Grand Wagoneer L.) With the long rear overhang, one can almost imagine that opening the side-hinged cargo door and plopping a particularly heavy item onto the rear load floor could result in the Land Rover popping a wheelie.

"Of course, that would never happen, in part because the Defender itself is so heavy. At 5,931 pounds, our Defender 130 is 158 pounds heavier than the last Defender 110 to cross our scales.

"The 130's engine offerings are trimmed from the bottom and the top, which means there's no turbo four and no V-8. Motivating this Land Rover's mass, therefore, is one of two 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines: the 296-hp P300 and the 395-hp P400. In most cases, it'll be the P400, which is in all but the lowest trim level. ...

"We didn't have an opportunity to drive the Defender 130 in its natural environment — climbing the mountains of Nepal, say, or traversing the jungles of Borneo. Those who do travel in extremis will want to be mindful of their extra-long steed's commensurately shallower departure angle — 28.5 degrees versus 40.0 degrees for the 110 — lest the larger Rover drag its bodacious booty on a rock. Otherwise, though, the 130 should be as capable as its siblings off-road. That is to say, very, as we discovered piloting a Defender 110 through the muck on Michigan's Drummond Island. The standard all-wheel-drive system includes a two-speed transfer case, and the center differential is lockable. A locking rear differential is available as part of the $1,500 Off-Road package. Ground clearance is 11.4 inches, and like its siblings the 130 can ford 35.4 inches of water.

"The Defender 130 gets air springs, along with Land Rover's Adaptive Dynamics, as standard. The sophisticated suspension keeps the ride from getting bouncy, and it effectively isolates passengers from broken pavement. The steering is pleasantly weighted and precise for such a serious off-roader, but when cornering, the Defender 130 feels every inch of its size and will have you slowing considerably for curves. At the track, the 130 recorded a modest 0.71 g of lateral grip."

— Joe Lorio, Car and Driver

"First, something to know about the latest Defender 130: Unlike old-school Defenders (which more closely resemble farm implements than passenger vehicles), the nomenclature does not reflect its wheelbase. The new Defender 90's axle-to-axle distance, for example, is in fact 101.9 inches, while the 110 variant sports a 119-inch wheelbase. Despite its differing numerics, the Defender 130 has a wheelbase that's identical to the 110's, though it does claim 13.5 inches more rear overhang. The extension is a welcome addition for those hoping to haul stuff, as the new model more than triples the cargo volume behind the rear row. However, off-roading cognoscenti will note that its departure angle of 28.5 degrees pales in comparison to the Defender 110's 40-degree figure."

The softness of sand dunes meant "the tails of our trucks would be in no danger of scraping or bottoming out on steep slopes. We can't speak to the 130's all-terrain abilities over hard rocks and less forgiving surfaces, but for our purposes, the extra length proves to be of near-zero consequence; the real challenge is not to get stuck in the sea of fine silt."Like any proper desert trek, the excursion was handled with the logistical aplomb you would expect from the automaker responsible for everything from the legendary de facto Olympics of 4×4'ing, the do-or-die Camel Trophy, to posh leather-lined Range Rovers. That means a team of experienced overland competitors, technicians, and planners, along with the requisite medics and support crew. ...

"Like any adventure where one is exploring both their personal limits and that of their machine, piloting the new Defender 130 through sand dunes proves to be a delicate dance between prudence and risk. While the vehicle's electronics make it easy to approach these low friction surfaces, the street-ready tires can be the difference between successfully ascending that seemingly impossible rise, or digging in and getting stuck. Regardless of the occasional rescue, the Defender 130 retains its historically proven ability to surmount exceptional challenges, in this case maintaining a comfortably pleasant experience for those of us foolhardy enough to take on this otherworldly testing ground. Think excellent insulation, comfy heated and ventilated seats, and a 10-speaker, 400-watt Meridian sound system, whose delicacy belies the truck's go-anywhere ethos."

— Basem Wasef, Robb Report

"The original Defender was notorious for being ... let's say simplistically rugged (or, alternatively, primitive and uncomfortable). Despite being a lifestyle vehicle and family truckster since the 1980s, the Defender was never really the posh runabout that the more expensive, more luxurious Range Rover was — it certainly couldn't hold a candle to vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class or many other newer, more modern luxury SUVs. That all changed with the introduction of the latest, fully modern Defender, which is now every bit the luxury SUV every other Land Rover is — but with a slightly bigger splash of off-road readiness than most of those vehicles, which are more on-road-oriented."This becomes evident on the inside. The interior can be optioned up to the nines with fine leather, wood and top-notch metal trim, all in a number of different color combinations. But it also includes some rugged trim, tons of storage cubbies and optional rubberized floor trim for easier mud cleanup. The interior looks fantastic, and it works far better than previous Defenders thanks to some smart thinking about its controls. Some knobs do double duty, but they manage to maintain easy functionality. The touchscreen is an excellent example of how to do a luxury multimedia system right. It has plenty of functions and lots of features, but it's easy to use, quick to work, and nothing is buried layers deep in menus. Thankfully, Land Rover has also kept hard buttons, as well, rather than going entirely touch-sensitive as some other luxury brands have done under the guise of style. (It's really due to cost-cutting; they ain't fooling anybody). ...

"In everyday driving, the Defender 130 feels decently peppy. My test vehicle's higher-output mild-hybrid engine easily launched the SUV in every situation. Smoothness, however, is not its best trait; the powertrain felt like it was experiencing some arguments between the electric hybrid components and the transmission itself. There were plenty of times when a press of the gas pedal was met with a half-second delay, as if the system were deciding just how much of the acceleration should come from the engine and how much should come from the mild-hybrid system. It led to some jerkiness and hesitation in some situations, and it happened enough that I eventually got used to it and adapted my driving style, but it was never pleasant. The trick is you simply can't pussyfoot with the accelerator pedal; just give it the beans whenever you want to move. ...

The feature that will lead people to consider the Defender 130 is its standard third row. It has three seat belts, ostensibly to accommodate three passengers in the wayback space, but that may be ambitious thinking — the Defender's interior width is, frankly, narrow for two people in the first and second rows. Legroom is also tight in the third row, but given the second row slides fore and aft, the first two rows can theoretically be adjusted to give everyone a little bit of room. But if it's true eight-person comfort you're seeking, this isn't going to cut it; you'll need a bigger boat."

— Aaron Bragman, Visibility"The 130 retains its composed demeanor off the highway, too, on winding two-lanes, rocky farm tracks, and cobbled medieval streets, helped by steering that allows you to place it accurately on narrow roads and in heavy traffic. It's a calm and congenial way to travel, the high seating position and excellent all-round visibility allowing you to enjoy the views, and the vastly improved Pivi Pro infotainment system ensuring you stay on the right road as the excellent Meridian audio equipment pumps out your favorite tunes."The 130's longer bodywork and third-row seating increases its overall weight by about 8 percent compared with the two-row Defender 110. That adds about half a second to the 0-60-mph acceleration time, though at about 6.5 seconds, the Defender 130 could hardly be described as sluggish. In P400 specification, JLR's versatile 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six makes 395 hp at 5,500 to 6,500 rpm, but more important, its 406 lb-ft of peak torque is present from 2,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm, so it feels reasonably responsive in all driving conditions."A big, heavy, square-shouldered off-roader will hardly be the most fuel-efficient freeway cruiser. The 130 averaged an indicated 16.2 mpg over 1,358 miles, returning a worst of 14.6 mpg and a best of 18.5. However, given it was running heavily loaded for most of those miles and on the lightly trafficked French auto routes, we'd pack 80 miles into a single hour's cruising; the fuel consumption was better than expected."

— Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend

"The third row is comfortable for adults. However, since the wheelbase is unchanged, entering and exiting the Defender 130's third row is challenging because there isn't much clearance space between the rear wheel arches and the second-row seat.

"Unfortunately, the Defender 130 doesn't supply much more cargo room than the Defender 110. That's because the third-row seat folds in half, taking up plenty of the additional volume behind the second-row seat. Furthermore, the folded third-row seat results in a stepped load floor, making it harder to slide bulky cargo into the 130. ...

"Driving a Defender is fun. You sit up high with a commanding view of the road ahead, you can see the entire hood and front corners of the SUV, and visibility is excellent in every direction except through the rearview mirror. The rear seat head restraints and the spare tire hanging on the tailgate block the view, so you'll want the available ClearSight camera-based digital rearview mirror.

"You expect a Defender to drive like a truck based on its looks and mission. Instead, this Land Rover is smooth, quick, and silent. The adaptive air suspension is nothing short of revelatory, quelling ride harshness and nearly eliminating unwanted body motions. The P400 powertrain supplies a robust 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, resulting in a Land Rover-estimated 6.3-second acceleration run to 60 mph. And for a towering vehicle shaped like a brick, it is hushed at highway speeds.

"However, don't let the Defender's refinement fool you into thinking the SUV is just about looking like it can travel where few other vehicles dare tread. It is legit, even if the 130's departure angle isn't as generous as the 90 and 110 (28.5 degrees vs. 40 degrees).

"I drove the Defender down a local trail that I reserve for testing only the most capable off-roaders and went further into the mountains than ever. Only a stretch of mud and water left over from Southern California's torrential winter rains gave cause for pause, and I elected to reverse out to a turn-around spot and head back. Thanks to the 130's standard high-definition surround-view cameras and parking sensors, that was easier than expected."

— Christian Wardlaw, J.D. Power

"The added length does call for care off-road. As you might expect, the added length brings with it a change in off-road agility. Approach angle is 37.5 degrees, departure angle 28.5 degrees and breakover angle 27.8 degrees. That compares with the 90 and 110's approach angle of 30 degrees, departure angle 37.6 degrees (90) 37.7 degrees (110), and breakover angle of 24.2 degrees (90) and 22 degrees (110). Opt for the air suspension and you can wade through 35.4 inches of water. But choosing the standard suspension is no penalty; it can still tackle 33.4 inches of tide.

"Few vehicles can equal the Land Rover Defender 130 for pure skill when it comes to navigating undeveloped territory, crossing streams, climbing over rock beds, descending steep hillsides, or plowing through mud bogs. But, baby got back, so while cornering off-road, you must be aware of its entire length while navigating around a sizable jagged rock or topping a hill. The handling appears to be perfectly balanced for such delicate off-road maneuvers.

"Even with its additional weight that the extra length adds, performance feels the same as it does with any other Defender. But its behavior is unaltered. It still has the wheel articulation required for intense rock crawling, yet it provides a comfortable ride on the road without using excessive side-to-side showmanship thanks to standard air springs and an adaptive suspension that insulates riders from uncivilized road surfaces. When dealing with serious off-road work, the steering is ideally weighted and precise, but there's no hiding its size.

"And it's quiet — unlike some of your passengers."

— Larry Printz, The Detroit Bureau

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