If luxury off-roading is what you are looking for, there are a few nameplates to bear in mind – the Lexus GX 460, the Merdeces-Benz G-Class, and the Land Rover Defender are some of the best. While these are very capable trucks, there have been new offerings that are better for the task if you are looking to adventure with more than five people, or simply to bring on the most cargo for the trip. There is the new Jeep Wagoneer, the refreshed Lexus LX 600, and Land Rover has followed suit by offering the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition.
The Defender is a great looking SUV with the right balance of retro-inspired and modern design cues. However, some of those styling points were lost when its length was stretched to over 5.5 metres long, throwing off its proportions with its excessive rear overhang. Overall, the Defender 130 is still an attractive vehicle, and we particularly liked the sophisticated Sedona Red paintjob, which is one of the three colours available for the First Edition along with Fuji White and Carpathian Grey and they are each paired with its own dedicated palette inside.
Interior design also features a great mix of modern luxury and ruggedness. The higher touch areas such as the grab handles are coated in durable rubber finish that is grippy and easy to clean, while other areas are covered with premium materials like leather and cast metal. This type of industrial design would normally look out of place in a premium car, but the Defender had meshed function and form together nicely for a modern layout that we believe can withstand the test of time better than a lot of its peers.
The 11.4-inch Pivi-Pro touchscreen is located front and centre of the centre console and houses the standard infotainment operating system. Screen resolution is excellent with a host of gadgets to maximize the driver’s engagement on and off-road. For the commute, the standard Meridian sound system is excellent in piping in great quality music with plenty of USB charging ports to keep those devices running. We enjoyed the intuitive user interface, particularly how easy it is to switch between the native operating system and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay through one touch.
Off the pavement, the Defender impresses with its slick Terrain Response system that adjusts the Defender to the right settings based on the various surfaces you are about to trek on. You can save the guess work when it comes time to set up various attributes such as suspension, throttle response, stability control, four-wheel drive settings, and differential and just let the system handle it. Despite the lengthier body, the Defender 130 is a very capable off-roader with ability to handle up to 37.5 degrees of angle of approach, 28.5 degrees angle of departure, and ford up to 900 millimetres of water.
Moreover, the Defender come with a host of cameras to give you not only a clear view of the vehicle’s surrounding, but even shows you what lies beneath as if you can see through the floor. This trick camera system proved itself to be very helpful in helping us through some tight spaces and rocky terrain, and we made use of its rear camera mirror to show us the trailing vehicles without the visual obstruction by the large spare tire on the rear door.
The Land Rover Defender 130 comes with Land Rover’s P400 engine which is a supercharged three-litre six-cylinder engine that outputs 395 horsepower and a whopping 550 lb-ft. of torque at about 2,000 RPM. This gives the Defender 130 a surprising amount of accelerating prowess – zero to 100 km/h is accomplished in just 6.6 seconds which is quite respectable for its size and it made driving around town much more enjoyable than we had expected.
Despite its swift sprint time, you will not forget that the Defender 130 is a 5,500-pound beast that makes a regular Range Rover look like a subcompact when parked beside it. Its size, length in particular, is particularly evident once you start turning the wheel. You can clearly feel its weight shift when the roads get winding and good news is that its limit is quite clearly communicated and the air suspension system articulates well to maintain balance. Towing capacity is rated at 6,613 pounds which is about 1,100-pound less than the Defender 110 model.
We observed a fuel consumption average of 12.8L/100km over our week of mixed commute, which is respectable as it was only slightly thirstier than the stubby Defender 90 with the same engine that we previously tested. The Defender 130 recommends premium fuel for the 90-litre tank which is to be expected any time we see a supercharger under the hood.
So far, we have established there is lots to like about the Defender 130 – design, power, capabilities – but it is the interior space that impresses most. With plenty of head and legroom in all three rows, passengers will have no issues finding a comfortable seating position. With a 2+3+3 seating arrangement, the Defender 130 can fit up to eight on board but it also meant that entering the rearmost requires climbing over the middle row which can get cumbersome if the intention is to haul more than five often. Cargo space is acceptable with all the seats up at 389 litres, and opens up to 1,232 litres with the back row folded, beating the smaller Defender 110 by 316 litres.
Pricing of the Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition starts at $100,850, which includes optional features such as Matrix LED headlamps, heated second and third row seating, four-zone climate control, Meridian sound system, Driver Assist Pack, and privacy glass. Our tester was further equipped with the Cold Climate, Off-Road, and the Advanced Off-Road Capability packages that brought our as-tested total to $103,610.
While the Land Rover Defender 130 may not be the first name that comes to mind when it comes to a luxury vehicle, it has proven itself to be every bit as competitive in this niche segment of a premium off-road truck. Thanks to its unique combination of on-road manners, off-road capability and interior comfort, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition is a solid option for those shopping for a luxury hauler that can fit eight and tow, especially for those who want a looker that can stand out among the crowd.
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