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Driven: 2023 Land Rover Defender 130. Image by Land Rover.

Driven: 2023 Land Rover Defender 130
Will the oversized Defender prove the most versatile, or is it an unnecessary addition to the line-up?


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Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE 8-seater
Price: £86,785 (as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 300hp
Torque: 650Nm
Emissions: 234g/km
Economy/Range: 31.6mpg
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 119mph
Boot space: 290/1,015/1,876 litres


From the front, the Defender 130 looks exactly like any other Defender you care to mention. The front-end design is identical, the dimensions are much the same and the image is unchanged. But as soon as you move sideways even slightly, the extra length instantly makes itself known. The car is more than a foot longer than the 110, and though the extra length is well integrated into the design, it's certainly noticeable. It looks good, though, and if anything it gives the Defender even more presence.


For the most part, the Defender 130's cabin is identical to that of any other Defender, at least from the driver's point of view. Sure, there's a bit more bodywork in the door mirrors and the view through the rear-view mirror is obstructed by more head restraints, but otherwise it's the same dashboard and forward cabin as the '90' and '110' models.

That means you get the same skeletal, robust and utilitarian dashboard design as before, with grab handles everywhere and useful shelves. The only real feature, though, is the massive touchscreen and the bank of buttons beneath it, most of which control the temperature and off-road settings. There's a high-mounted gear lever, too.

Quality is generally good, but not in a typically premium way. The Defender is an expensive car, yet it's designed to be solid and robust, rather than tactile. While the seats are very good, the plastics feel a bit van-like, which allows them to be mopped down, but doesn't exactly feel luxurious. Nevertheless, it's a much more forgiving place to be than the old Defenders, which were an ergonomic nightmare.

It's also more high-tech, with a big touchscreen and a digital instrument display. Neither is perfect, but they're both very serviceable and do the job with minimum fuss, although some of the touchscreen displays and icons can get a little confusing at times.


If you haven’t already guessed, practicality is kind of the be-all and end-all for the 130. It’s built to seat up to eight, and those extra seats fold into the boot floor. Or at least they’re supposed to. Instead, they sit on the boot floor, leaving an irritating step that makes loading the 130 harder than it should be, particularly if you’re trying to stick something large in the boot. At least there’s plenty of room for those seats, and adults can sit in there quite comfortably – even if they’re tall. Sure, the central seat is probably only good for short trips, but it’ll do. If you have four kids, the 130 will be great.

That’s partly because of the boot space available. When the vehicle is this long, it’s easy to find luggage space, and Land Rover has turned up with 290 litres – roughly what you get from a Ford Fiesta – behind the back three seats. Fold them down and you get an even more promising 1,015 litres, and that expands to 1,876 litres in the two-seat configuration. In short, the space is more or less van-like.


UK customers get a choice of engines, with the sole diesel joined by three different petrol engines. The diesel is the pick of the bunch, really, with its 3.0-litre motor returning more than 30mpg while still producing 300hp. That doesn’t sound all that enticing, but 30mpg in what is, essentially, a 2.5-tonne brick on wheels is pretty good going. As is a 0-62mph time of less than eight seconds.

Admittedly, the Defender rarely feels that fast – it’s a bit sluggish to get going and the engine can be a little gruff – but that kind of suits the car in a strange sort of way. And once you’re on the move, it’ll prove remarkably refined and more than punchy enough. Just be aware that the slow movement of the fuel gauge has nothing to do with your efficient driving and everything to do with the fact the fuel tank is enormous – something you’ll realise all too quickly when you come to fill up.

Ride & Handling

Unsurprisingly, the Defender 130 is not a driver's car. Yes, like the 90 and the 110 it's far happier on the road than the old Defenders were, but it still drives like a truck, rather than a car. Let's call it a vehicle, shall we? Sporty it isn't, with vague, light steering and a predictably large dose of body roll in corners, but it's more composed than some. It's just very clear that it's a heavy, off-road-orientated vehicle.

That means it's pretty spectacular off-road, conquering most landscapes with ease, although the increased length means it's more likely to catch its tail on bumps in the terrain than a 110 would be. And because it's quite a heavy car, it doesn't feel as comfortable as the 110, even if neither model offers majestic comfort. Given the 130's lumbering style, though, we were hoping it might offer a slightly less lumpy ride.


The Defender isn’t cheap in any form – even the 2.0-litre, three-door ‘90’ model costs almost £60,000 – but this 130 version is particularly costly. Prices start from just over £73,000, and this X-Dynamic HSE model comes in at £80,000 before options. And that isn’t even especially expensive, because you can easily spend six figures by opting for one of the more powerful engines. Not that you really need to, because even the cheapest 130 comes with leather upholstery, a Meridian sound system and 20-inch alloys, as well as heated seats and satellite navigation. It hardly wants for equipment.


If you're desperate for the extra space, the Defender 130 will do pretty much everything a 110 would manage, albeit with a bit more carrying capacity. But unless you really do need the extra space, the 110 will be marginally more capable off-road, as well as offering more on-road performance and proving slightly cheaper to buy.

James Fossdyke - 21 Aug 2023    - Land Rover road tests
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2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.2023 Land Rover Defender 130 D300 MHEV X-Dynamic HSE. Image by Land Rover.


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