Land Rover has added to the lineup of new generation Defenders with the introduction of their biggest family member yet, the Defender 130. Oliver Keohane spent a week with the D300 First Edition model, taking the mammoth eight-seater on a camping trip.
Land Rover Defender 130 Fast Facts
- Price: R1 736 000
- Engine: 3,0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed ZF automatic
- Power: 221 kW
- Torque: 650 N.m
- Driven wheels: Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD)
- Fuel consumption: 8,2 L/100 km
- Top speed: 192 km
- Rivals: Lexus LX 600, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, BMW X7, Land Rover Range Rover
What are we driving?
A Boeing A380… Jokes aside, we are driving the new Defender 130 from Land Rover; an evolution of the iconic off-roader, now with added versatility, numerous technological advancements (at least since we last saw the 130 produced), a range of interior and exterior options, and last but not least…Eight seats and on overhang reminiscent of a ship’s stern.
Where “90, 110 and 130” used to refer to the size of the wheelbase on the old Defenders, the new 130 actually shares its 119-inch wheelbase with the smaller 110. However, it remains the biggest of the siblings by a significant stretch. The old Defender 130’s wheelbase was 127 inches, though it was about 200 mm shorter than its modern successor.
While we got behind the wheel of the Defender 130 First Edition (the second-highest spec level), Land Rover has released two other trim levels in South Africa with both diesel and petrol engines; The Defender 130 X-Dynamic HSE and the top-specced Defender 130 X.
Land Rover has also recently announced the Defender 130 Outbound for 2024, a 5,0-litre supercharged V8 monster.
Why is the Land Rover Defender 130 significant?
The Defender 130 represents the latest iteration of Land Rover’s iconic off-road lineage, and I suppose its significance lies in helping pay full-scale homage the entire range of Defender ancestors while re-imagining the future of the iconic name. Where the new 90s and 110s have been around for a few years, the introduction of the new 130 completes the next generation family.
Incorporating a host of advanced technologies, among which is a Mild-Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) system integrated into the petrol models, the Defender 130 looks to the future of luxury, off-road capable SUVs, while keeping a thread (albeit a thin one) back to the utility pickup that gave it life. As a faithful supporter of old Defenders, I would have loved to see the new 130 retain a load bay, but you do get an optional five-seater so, take what you can get I suppose.
What’s new on the Land Rover Defender 130?
Most of what’s new on the new Defender 130 is what was new on all the Defenders released after 2020. Everything, when you compare it to the Defender that was discontinued in 2016.
The Defender 130 comes with new exterior detailing thanks to the Extended Bright Pack, as well as interior detailing such as Noble Chrome, Ceres Silver, and Atlas finishes.
New material finishes like Natural Light Oak engineered wood veneer were a standout feature in the new model though, alluding to the rugged customer that one envisions in the old Defenders, but done in a classy enough way to suit the luxurious needs of a contemporary buyer. Seating options include Light Oyster Perforated Windsor Leather and Vintage Tan Perforated Windsor Leather.
The 11,4-inch Pivi Pro touchscreen is Land Rover’s biggest display and honestly one of the nicest infotainment systems I have used. It’s slick in both functioning and appearance, designed with a customisable three-panel layout and integrated with the global location platform “what3words” which encodes geographic coordinates into three fixed dictionary words to enable the most precise navigation possible. Very helpful in remote locations.
Land Rover’s Cabin Air Purification Plus with advanced nanoe X technology adds to the luxurious allure of the new 130, reducing allergens and removing pathogens, while giving you a nice visual display of what’s happening with the air quality in your car.
The Defender 130’s interior is largely the same as the 90 and 110, however an optional panoramic sunroof (standard in the First Edition) is available, as well as Four-Zone Climate Control. So the kids can control their own aircon…
The storage capacity in the Defender 130 increases significantly when you take the back row of seats out of the equation. With eight people seated in the car, luggage capacity is claimed to be 389 litres, while with the back seats folded down that storage space scales up to 1 329 litres.
For those interested in the more serious off-road side of things, the new 130 utilises Land Rover’s Terrain Response system and comes with a low-range transfer case. It also has a wading depth of 900 mm, a ground clearance of 290 mm, a break-over angle of 27,8 degrees and an approach of 37,5 degrees. The big overhang does mean that its departure angle of 28,5 degrees is 9,5 degrees lower than the Defender 110. Our first edition rode on 20-inch alloys, fitted with a nice set of All-Terrain tyres.
What does the Land Rover Defender 130 cost?
Pricing varies between models, with the current range looking like this:
- Defender 130 D300 X-Dynamic HSE – R1 749 968
- Defender 130 D300 First Edition – R1 754 368
- Defender 130 D300 X – R1 920 468
- Defender 130 P400 X-Dynamic HSE – R1 794 352
- Defender 130 P400 First Edition – R1 798 752
- Defender 130 P400 X – R1 969 952
What is the Land Rover Defender 130 like to drive?
Wonderful, especially on the open road and long stretches of trail. Anything with eight seats and a bum the size of the new 130 is going to prove difficult around the tiny corners and steep hills of inner Cape Town, it doesn’t matter how refined your drivetrain is. I thought the Defender managed well with city life, but showed its true value when we took it up the N7 and R44, through Porterville and into Beaverlac.
Tested was the D300 First Edition, motivated by a 3,0-litre single-turbo inline-six, paired to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and powering Land Rover’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD) system. The gear transitions were almost unnoticeable, both at lower and higher ranges and despite weighing 2 625 kilograms without passenger and luggage, the 130 was comfortable at high speeds and overtaking, confident in corners and provided a classy and comfortable on-road experience, with nothing really to complain about.
Off-Road? While there was no serious rock crawling done, there is that stretch of gravel up to the mountain pass, and then the tricky dirt road down to Beaverlac’s camping spot. The Terrain Response system kicked in immediately and we flew over the dirt track. When it came time to descend that rocky stretch to the camping area, I engaged the Hill Descent Control but turned it off quite quickly because it worked too well and it really wasn’t necessary to drive down that slowly.
The Electronic Air Suspension does a lot to make dirt roads and rocky patches not feel too different to tar, but you can feel it working on the road too as the Defender glided over all the different terrain it was confronted with over the week. One can raise and lower the suspension manually as well. Helping your short friend climb into the back row?
What are the Land Rover Defender 130’s rivals?
The Defender 130 is a pretty niche car, especially the eight-seater version. You don’t get many vehicles of nearly five and a half meters cruising around in South Africa with leather seats, Four-Zone Climate Control and all those other luxury finishes… But you do get some!
If you look at the characteristics of the Defender 130, and the market it intends to serve; the affluent, family-oriented adventurer, if you will, then Land Rover’s rivals in this segment would be the familiar opulence of the Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X7 and Rover Range Rover SV Autobiography. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Lexus LX 600, while less common in South Africa offer equally viable competition, with Jeep’s flagship SUV sharing the most similar off-roading history and genetics to the Defender of all the vehicles listed.
The Defender 130 stands as a testament to Land Rover’s commitment to evolving while respecting its iconic lineage, retaining a semblance of classic ruggedness, married mainly to modern technology and luxury. While it is nothing like its double-cab predecessor which was adored for its massive load bay, and customisable frame, the Defender 130 looks to redefine the famous nameplate, moving into the luxury off-roading market.
The Defender 130 will not be an off-roader’s first choice, but why would a vehicle of it’s dimensions ever be? What it does is offer families a vehicle that is luxurious to live with, but more than at home on the road while being safe over rocks, sand and dirt.
It was cool to drive such a unique vehicle, though it felt criminal that the most people I had in it at once were three (including myself). When one assesses the relevance of Land Rover’s latest addition it must be with the knowledge that it was never meant to be driven into the dirt by just one or two people, but serve a very specific family clientele. And it seems to me that it would service them quite well.