• Auto123 reviews the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130.
The Land Rover Defender is large not just in terms of size. It has been a favourite among off-roaders for generations, it has served duty on the farm and the battlefield and everything in between and it remains one of the most well-known automotive brands the world has ever seen. So much so, that a recent re-vamping of Land Rover’s lineup has seen the Defender become a brand unto itself.
And that brand is growing – literally. If the 90 and 110 models aren’t big enough for you, there’s now the three-row, 7- or 8-passenger Defender 130. It gets the same 3,022 mm wheelbase as the 110, but is 340 mm longer overall. It’s Defender to the nth degree.
Design of the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 – 7.5/10
While the basic two-box shape of the Defender has always been a calling card, it doesn’t mean that everyone will find it attractive in the traditional sense. It’s not really more utilitarian but it does have a few details that do well to take the edge off a bit, keeping it traditionally shaped but also modern. The headlight lenses are the most telling detail of the Defender’s upbringing, but that DRL ring within the lens is a cool nod to classic Landies.
The silver bash plate at the base of the front fascia is also a nice touch; it stood out well against my tester’s purple paintjob. A finish that doesn’t really do it for me. It’s classy enough, but it’s so dark that it’s almost apologetically saying “I know that technically I’m a red of sorts, but I’m dark enough that I almost look brownish in certain lights, and purple-ish in others.” It’s too non-committal, especially when you consider the brighter, more traditional colours available such as Pangea Green and Eiger Grey.
I’d also go with the optional white roof – no question about it.
Like other models the 130 gets the great exterior spare tire as standard, and you can fit the 130 with all manner of kit such as the “fanny pack” locking exterior storage bin or a ladder. Indeed, this could make quite the overlanding rig.
Interior of the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 – 8.5/10
Like other Defender models, the interior is a good mix of luxury and the rough and tumble. You have the high-grade leather seating and surfaces and then you cast your gaze across the cabin and spot the exposed fasteners on the dash, doors and centre console, the somewhat chunky electronic shift lever protruding from just below the dash, the grab handles and the storage shelf that spans the width of the dash from the passenger side to the steering wheel. Actually, it almost passes “through” the steering wheel in that there’s a tiny shelf to the left of the wheel that proved a perfect fit for my phone.
In keeping with the exterior shape, the dash and seating position are upright, paying respects to the farmers that needed the best view out possible as they worked the fields in the days of the Series I and Series II models. Even with all the extra gear those old trucks never had, the view out of the 130 is very good all-round, and the added glass from the longer body means the solid panels around the c-pillar don’t affect your view out as much as it does on the smaller models.
The big add with the 130 over the 90 and 110 is a third row of seating. It’s well-equipped with a sunroof all its own, cup holders, USB ports and enough space that adults can spend time back there without feeling like they’re doing time. It’ll mostly be kept for the kids, of course, but it’s nice to know that adults can use it thanks to 805 mm of legroom and 990 mm of headroom.
While the second-row seatbacks fold forward and the seat can slide, it will not tilt, making for slightly more challenging third row access. And when the third row is folded, you’re left with an uneven load floor behind them. The 130 does, however, still get the barn-door-style tailgate, easier to open for shorter folks.
Technology in the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 – 8.5/10
There’s very little “old school” here. The 11.4-inch display is a crisp, concave affair with a responsive touchscreen and an interface that’s world’s ahead of what Land Rover used to offer. It’s much easier to navigate and it’s of high-quality with the way the display is constructed, the glass that’s used and so on.
CarPlay and Android Auto apps both come wireless as standard, but unusually for me, I mostly used the native interface because it’s that good, providing the usual infotainment aspects but also drive aspects such as your steering angle indicator, wading depth indicator and so on.
One really nice option is to effectively make the Defender’s hood transparent through trick camera use, making it easier to place the big truck because you can see what’s going on directly beneath you. There’s even a wade sensing feature that provides a real-time image of how far the water is climbing up the truck and will warn you as you get close to the max 35.4-inch wading depth.
Also on hand is a digital rear-view mirror, great for a rearward view unobstructed by any foreheads in the two back rows or a high cargo load. The only time I found myself switching to a traditional mirror was on a particularly rainy night, as the image gets too grainy and distracting at that point.
Driving the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 – 8/10
Power comes for a single engine choice – a 3.0L turbocharged inline-6 with a 48V mild hybrid system, all combining to make 295 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque (guess they just couldn’t crack 300 and 350, hey?). Which is fine but the 130 does lose a couple of marks for not offering any other engine choices in Canada, even though Land Rover does have a selection of V8s and diesels to choose from in other markets. The V8 would be nice - and one will be coming in 2024 - but I think the diesel is the one we truly miss. A family vehicle like this will definitely be used for towing and for that, you want the diesel.
That said, it’s not like the Defender feels slow, even in the larger 130 form (which weighs about 300 kg more than a similarly equipped 110). While that I6 and 8-speed automatic transmission don’t exactly combine to leap off the line from a stop, it’s all tuned well enough to make in-gear acceleration smooth and responsive for when you need a little extra oomph for a highway pass. It also dawdles nicely 'round town at pedestrian speeds, the 48V system helping to keep everything smooth, quiet and comfortable.
In those off-road environments for which the Defender is destined, even in XL three-row 130 form, this Defender has you covered with standard four-corner air suspension as well as 16.9 inches of wheel articulation that allow for sturdy scrambling over loose, rutted terrain. Even the muddy beaten paths with deep tire grooves we traversed one day during our test week were little match for the 130. Its suspension and axles took the lumps and the blocky Goodyear Wrangler rubber clawed their way forth, rarely losing a step. So yeah; overlanding rig indeed.
Some of your questions about the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130
What’s are some of the off-road features of the 2023 Defender 130?
Features on-hand include a wading sensor, two-speed transfer case, optional rear-diff lock, self-adjusting air suspension and five-mode terrain select system.
Do the first two rows have the same space in the 130 that they do in the 110?
Yes – the first two rows have the same amount of leg and headroom as the 110.
The final word
One thing to consider. If you’re not overlanding and don’t need all that extra room for your gear, how badly do you need all that extra space the 130 gives you? Sure; a five- or six-person family will be happy with it, but considering how rough and tumble so much of the rest of the package is, I’d be more comfortable with a softer three-row luxobarge such as the Mercedes GLS or Audi Q7, both of which can be had for similar money.
Indeed, while the 130 doesn’t suffer the styling bugaboos of the Wagoneer L and it still gets plenty of on-board niceties, the 110 is perfectly capable of shuffling folks around the odd times most people driving a vehicle like this need it.
The 130 is a proper Defender in all ways. I just think it may be moving in too many directions.
- Ultra capable in all conditions
- Slick tech interface
- Usable third row, but…
- …tough to access third row
- Single engine choice…for now
Pricing for the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130
- - 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 SE - $93,000
- - 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 X-Dynamic SE - $96,200
- - 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition - $100,850
- - 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 X - $113,550
Competitors for the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130
- - Audi Q7
- - BMW X7
- - Jeep Grand Wagoneer L
- - Lexus LX 600
- - Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class