Rich in heritage, Land Rover has debuted its latest, and longest SUV with lots of fanfare to entice buyers looking for off-road chops combined with luxurious features. The new Defender 130 is a takeoff from the 110 model, adding 13 inches in length, accommodating third row seating for eight or oodles of cargo.
First impressions are lasting with this nearly 18-foot chariot that will challenge most standard size garages, something to consider in northern climates.
Land Rover has been around for decades with a storied past. Years back it was United Kingdom’s response to American Jeeps. Ownership has been a hodgepodge of sorts splitting between British manufacturing and Jaguar Land Rover. Both were purchased from Ford in 2008 and later bought by Tata Motors of India, now titled under Jaguar Land Rover Limited.
The exterior of the 130 is monstrous, challenging Escalade and Suburban for bragging rights. It wasn’t always that way though. Earlier Defender versions introduced in 1984 included two and four-door off-road cars, pickup trucks and the stretched Land Rover 127, the forerunner of the new Defender.
The rear end of the Defender mimics a large derriere with a centered full size spare tire flanked by vertical taillights. A liftgate opens toward the curb – a bit cumbersome while loading streetside.
The new generation Defender drops with tradition replacing body on frame chassis with unibody construction for a smoother ride on pavement. Air springs and independent suspension have also replaced coil springs and solid axles, to the displeasure of some.
The Defender is available in four trim levels – S, SE, X-Dynamic SE and X with a First Edition variant – our tester for a week. This is not an inexpensive SUV. Prices range from the mid $50s to $110 plus, with ours stickered at $92,725.
Engine choices include a pair of six-cylinder mild hybrids, the smaller producing 296 horsepower while its colleague develops 395 ponies. Each is mated with an eight-speed automatic-transmission and both have standard all-wheel drive.
Our tester, fitted with the latter powerplant reached 60 miles per hour from a dead stop in 6.2 seconds, respectable for a vehicle weighing in at 5,773 pounds. The Defender can tow up to 8,200 pounds.
For off-roading, the Defender is top of the hill up against Jeep, Bronco and most others. It has advanced systems including configurable terrain response, height adjustable air suspension, locking differentials, special deep-water mode, adaptive dynamics and hill descent control.
While extreme off-roading has always been a Land Rover trait, the new Defender adds posh interior treatment befitting of a high-end SUV. We were impressed with its hushed cabin at highway speeds, triple panoramic roof, center console refrigerator, premium leather seating and available 11.4-inch infotainment screen.
A second 12-inch digital screen displays engine vitals or other driver configurable views.
To maintain its utilitarian appeal, door panels are laden with exposed rivets and a full-length shelf across the dashboard is ideal for electronics storage and other gadgets.
For military or high-end security use, Alpine’s armored Defender is bulletproof and protected from hand grenades, M80 ball rounds and penetrating armor. Just sayin’.
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition
Engine: 3.0-liter mild hybrid six-cylinder, 395 horsepower
EPA rated mileage: 17 city, 21 highway, 19 combined
Assembled: Assembly of the Defender 130 First Edition in Nitra, Slovakia. U.S. /Canadian parts content – 1 percent; major source of foreign parts, United Kingdom – 31 percent, Germany – 19 percent; country of origin, engine – United Kingdom, transmission – Germany
Crash test rating: Crashworthiness testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was not completed as of this writing.
Warranty: 4 year/50,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty, no complimentary scheduled maintenance.
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