2023 Land Rover Defender 130: Long and Strong

When Land Rover introduced the Defender 110 in 2020, it marked the beginning of a series of significant developments. Since then, the Defender has earned accolades, including the 2021 MotorTrend SUV of the Year award, and has expanded to include the two-door 90 model, an optional V-8 engine, and now, the extended three-row 130 variant. Interestingly, Land Rover has chosen to omit the “Land Rover” name from this vehicle, instead referring to it as the Defender 130, with “Land Rover” serving as a trust mark to signify its off-road capabilities, similar to Jeep’s “Trail Rated” badge. This long and spacious three-row version retains all the remarkable qualities that make the Defender 90 and 110 popular, with the added benefit of increased passenger and cargo space.

Why It Matters

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 had not yet undergone comprehensive testing at the time of our review, and we hadn’t spent much time with it in the United States. Nevertheless, Land Rover kindly delivered a fully loaded eight-passenger First Edition model to our Michigan location for evaluation.

Our test vehicle, a First Edition model, offered a comprehensive package of optional features at a slightly reduced price compared to selecting those options individually. With a base price of $86,175, the final price came to $92,075 after adding the $1,850 Towing Pack, $500 Cold Weather Pack (which includes a heated windshield, heated washer jets, a heated steering wheel, and headlamp washers), $300 60/40-split second-row seats with a center armrest, and an additional $200 for a 22-inch spare wheel and tire. The $2,000 set of 22-inch wheels on our test vehicle, while disappointingly plain, were necessary to match the final $1,050 spent on the Carpathian Gray paint.

In terms of competitors, the Defender 130 faces a relatively small field. Few three-row luxury SUVs are capable of tackling the same off-road challenges in its price range. Potential buyers might also consider two-row options like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, or less capable three-row models such as the Lexus LX and Cadillac Escalade.

Pros: What We Like

The First Edition model offers an attractive option with numerous optional features bundled at a slightly lower price. One of the most impressive aspects of the Defender is its ability to offer a smooth ride despite its considerable size, height, and weight, especially when equipped with large wheels. This remarkable ride quality is a testament to Land Rover’s expertise in suspension tuning, honed on challenging British back roads.

Even after three years on the market, the Defender’s interior remains fresh and inviting. It provides a comfortable and spacious environment with excellent visibility to the front and sides. The cabin exudes luxury while using durable, practical materials that can withstand harsh conditions. The third-row seats are easily accessible, and molded “steps” assist passengers in reaching their seats. In our test vehicle, even the rear seats featured amenities like USB-C ports and heated outboard seats.

The Defender 130 exhibits well-controlled body motions during cornering, despite being a characteristic of Land Rover vehicles. This dignified and harmonious luxury SUV is remarkably composed, even on rough roads. The mild hybrid turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, delivering 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, provides plenty of power, propelling the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. The steering is a standout feature, offering a balanced feel and precise tracking, even on uneven surfaces.

Cons: What We Don’t Like

The styling of the Defender 130 remains a subject of debate among MotorTrend editors. With the same wheelbase as the Defender 110, some find it to have an awkward, elongated appearance.

The vehicle occasionally exhibits a delayed response when accelerating from a standstill. This could be due to transmission programming decisions aimed at minimizing stress on the all-wheel-drive system. While the ZF-sourced 8HP transmission is generally excellent, the Defender 130’s extra weight and length, about 450 pounds heavier and 2 feet longer than the 110, are noticeable, particularly during city driving.

Inside the cabin, the wireless phone charging pad’s placement can be inconvenient. It occupies a prominent space where personal items like wallets are typically stored, making it less practical. Apple CarPlay connectivity was occasionally unreliable, disconnecting even when connected via USB cable. Although the First Edition model boasts a refrigerator in the center armrest, the limited storage space and unconventional use case for this feature make it somewhat superfluous.

The Verdict

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is a unique, practical, highly capable, and enjoyable three-row SUV. It is well-suited to a wide range of driving conditions, making it an ideal choice for those who seek adventure and luxury in a single vehicle.

Specifications (as tested):

  • Base Price: $86,175
  • Price as Tested: $92,075
  • Vehicle Layout: Front-engine, 4WD, 8-pass, 4-door SUV
  • Engine: 3.0L turbo direct-injected DOHC 24-valve I-6 plus permanent-magnet elec
  • Power (SAE NET): 395 hp @ 5,500 (gas) + NA (elec), 395 hp (comb)
  • Torque (SAE NET): 406 lb-ft @ 2,000 (gas) + NA (elec), 406 lb-ft (comb)
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb Weight (F/R Dist): 5,938 lb (46/54%)
  • Wheelbase: 119.0 in
  • Length x Width x Height: 211.7 x 79.1 x 77.6 in
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.2 sec
  • Quarter Mile: 14.5 sec @ 97.5 mph
  • Braking, 60-0 MPH: 115 ft
  • Lateral Acceleration: 0.69 g (avg)
  • MT Figure Eight: 29.9 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
  • EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ: 17/21/19 mpg
  • EPA Range, Comb: 452 miles
  • On Sale: Now