The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is yet another version of the now well-established Defender family. If the lineup began with standard 90 and 110 versions, it quickly evolved towards niche variants such as the ultimately badass Defender V8. This latest edition, however, leans more towards rationality as it was stretched to haul more people and gear. Curious to see if it still manages to preserve the traditional Defender attributes, I took it out for a drive during a frigid cold week.
The obvious distinction between the 130 and the other Land Rover Defenders is its size. It’s a full 30.5 inches longer than the two-door 90 and stretches 13.3 inches over the already big 110. With a super long rear overhang, this extra large adventure-ready machine clearly sends the message that it can haul considerably more humans and cargo.It also positions itself as Land Rover’s second full-size three-row SUV alternative next to the almighty Range Rover, but with less emphasis on ultimate luxury and comfort as stays true to the Defender’s go anywhere promise. Furthermore, with the addition of the 130, the Defender can now compete with to the true full-size SUV segment where heavyweights such the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator reside.Except, this one rides on the same unibody structure as its siblings, a more refined approach than its body on frame competition. In this form, the Defender is also the heaviest of the lineup, weighing in at a whopping 5,931 pounds, a full 158 more than the 110. This added weight helps it tow up to 8,200 pounds, a 484-lb increase over a 90 and a 110.Unlike other versions that offer a turbocharged four-cylinder or V8 option, the 130 comes with only one powertrain configuration that’s called the P400. It’s a 3.0-liter inline six that’s paired with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Total combined output is rated at 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The 130 channels this power to all four wheels via an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission. Of course, being a Defender means the 130 comes standard with a slew of off-road ready technology that allows it to gracefully carve its way through a muddy trail.Pricing is, you guessed it, very high. A base SE kicks off at $93,000, while the top of the line Defender X costs $113,000. Mine was a First Edition ($100,850) with a few options added on, which stickered at $112,385.
Long And Soft
The Defender 110 was already a fantastic handler, so I was expecting nothing less from this stretched version. Indeed, its unibody setup not only makes it smoother than its truck-based rivals, but gives this big boy a sharper edge on twisty roads. Of course, don’t expect to carve canyons with a 130 as excessive body roll and overall weight are constantly felt. But the general ride is compliant, buttoned down and surprisingly sporty.Always smooth and well insulated from outdoor elements, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 does feel softer than its siblings due to retuned suspension damping. The extra weight forced Land Rover engineers to give it a bit more bounce so it can better compose with uneven tarmac without being usettled. The end result is a considerably more wobbly SUV than the other two, one that immediately commands to you chill the fuck out when you attempt to drive it with vigor.The inline six, on the other, never disappoints even if it has more girth to haul around. Impeccable transmission mapping, with quick reactions and smooth transitions add to the velvety smooth experience, while the engine itself pulls strong all the time, capable even of revving high up towards the redline with very little vibration. It’s just one of those do anything engines that take in the hits without showing real signs of weakness.It’s really inside that you’ll appreciate a 130 for what it’s worth. The extra length gives it a sense of added purpose and luxury that the other two simply can’t match. It’s massive, but also immensely practical in there, while being considerably more humble than the ultra posh Range Rover.Leg, head and elbow clearance in the second row is up there with mainstream mall-finders, but accessing the third row will be more of a squeeze due to this thing’s narrow door openings. But once seated in place, the amount of room is surprisingly plenty back there, even for tall adults. Heated rear seats are also a welcoming feature.What I find particularly appealing about the 130 is that it simply gives you more of the Defender 110’s already charming utilitarian look and feel. This cabin is loaded with neat storage areas, hooks, handles and rugged materials that seem to have been designed to last forever.Yet, it’s also very modern and minimalistic in there, with clean digital readouts and a tablet-like infotainment system that looks the part thanks to its fresh graphics.It’s not the easiest system to operate though due to a cluttered feel and at times slow reacting menus, but it works for today’s connectivity realities. I do love the pistol grip gear lever and the large physical multifunction buttons that clean up the center stack.Cargo space is obviously where this thing trumps the entire Defender lineup. You’ll get up to 2,155 liters of total space when all seatbacks will be folded flat. This puts the Defender 130 in a similar ballpark as a Range Rover (2,364 liters), trumping a Mercedes-Benz GLE (2,011 liters) along the way, while remaining a tad smaller than a BMW X7 (2,559 liters). That’s also nowhere near what the American carmakers offer in this price bracket.With the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130, wealthy families now have one more posh full-size SUV to choose from. The Defender rides much smoother than the body on frame juggernauts sold by America. It also comes through as a more capable off-roader than anything European in this class. Plus, it comes with the Defender’s charming good looks with the bonus of extra cabin room. Indeed, it does look like a bus, but it’s arguably the coolest bus your kids will ever get to ride in.
Review of the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 P400 by William Clavey
Full-size luxury SUVs
- Smooth ride
- Punchy engine
- All the Defender charm and capability in a full-size package
- Not cheap
- Tight third row access
- American rivals offer more cargo space
7.8 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Land Rover Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]