Land Rover Defender 130 review

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Land Rover's Defender 130 offers a unique option for well-heeled large families. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The Defender 130 super-sizes Land Rover's offering when it comes to the brand's most iconic model. In one of these, eight people can be taken, well, almost anywhere. At last, really huge families have an alternative to a large van-based MPV.

Background

Symmetry has returned to the Land Rover Defender line-up. This iconic 4x4 was traditionally offered in three body styles in its original form - 90, 110 and 130. It is again - with the addition of the lengthier Defender 130 model we look at here, the first SUV in Europe capable of carrying more than seven occupants.

That gives this car a useful advantage over its two obvious segment rivals, both seven-seaters, the Mercedes GLS and the BMW X7. And it's all been achieved, says Land Rover, without any real compromise to this model's traditional off-road ability. Uber-large very well-heeled families should form an orderly queue.

Driving Experience

Land Rover says that this Defender 130 model's off-road ability is uncompromised. That's not quite true. This eight-seat variant's departure angle of 28.5-degrees is quite a bit different to the 40-degree reading of a Defender 110, but you'd still go further off the beaten track in one of these than you could in any obvious rival. On the road in a Defender 130 of course, you won't notice any difference at all compared to a Defender 110. Well not until you come to reverse into a tight-ish parking space anyway.

Engine-wise, the range is fundamentally built around three MHEV mild hybrid 3.0-litre straight six cylinder powerplants mated to 8-speed auto transmission. The diesel offering is the D300, which as the numerals suggest offers 300PS and has 650Nm of torque. The two petrol offerings are the P300 with 300PS and 470Nm of torque; and the P400, with 400PS and 550Nm of torque.

Under the skin, as with every Defender, the architecture is fundamentally the same as that which features on the current Discovery. But this 4x4 rides on reinforced suspension with greater travel and there's more ground clearance too. Air suspension is standard on the Defender 130. And as of course you'd expect, there's permanent 4WD, along with a Terrain Response system allowing you to set the car up for various driving conditions - or you can simply select an automatic setting and let the Defender handle everything for you. Plus it'll wade through water up to 900mm deep. Try doing that in a Merc GLS or a BMW X7.

Design and Build

With the original Defender 130, extra body length was added between the wheels. Here though, an extra 340mm of length has been added behind the rear axle, creating a not-insubstantial total body length of 5,358mm; smaller parking spaces will no longer cut it. This approach means that the 130 variant is identical to the usual Defender 110 ahead of the C-pillar. Behind that though, a huge amount of extra space has been freed up - enough to take three adults in the third row, rather than the two you can fit in with the optional third row seating available for the 110 model. That 110 variant's optional extra middle front row seat isn't available here, which would have meant potential space for nine, but room for eight - two at the front, three in the middle and three at the very rear - is unique enough in this segment.

There's the option of deleting third row seating for 130 customers, but we can't really see why you'd do that unless you really were completely focused on luggage space. That's substantial, even if you have all available seats fitted. With the second and third rows folded, there's an enormous 2,516-litres of load space, 953-litres more than can be offered by the 110 model in the same configuration. Only big van-based MPVs can match that. Even better news is that the sliding/folding middle row makes access to the very back easy and the boxy shape means that fully grown adults can be accommodated there for reasonable distances. Up-front, there are the usual classy Defender driving controls and high-set seating position. And the middle row bench of course, slides back and forth.

Market and Model

Prices for the Defender 130 start from around £74,000, but for the diesel most will probably want, you'll need to think in terms of paying from around £80,000 upwards. There are three primary trim levels in the mainstream range - 'HSE', 'X-Dynamic' and 'X'. Think in terms of needing to find a premium of around £10,000 over an equivalent Defender 110.

Standard equipment across the 130 range includes keyless entry. And the brand's 'Cabin Air Purification Plus' package, which combines 'nanoe X' technology for allergen reduction and pathogen removal, to help significantly reduce odours and viruses. In addition, CO2 Management and PM2.5 Cabin Air Filtration improve the cabin environment by monitoring interior and exterior air and adjusting accordingly, ensuring occupants experience the best available air quality.

Also standard is a large 11.4-inch Pivi Pro centre-dash touchscreen, allowing enhanced control over the vehicle's core functions via a crisp and intuitive display. The curved glass interface provides fast, state-of-the-art functionality and is responsive as soon as the vehicle is started, with a simple menu structure and software 'over-the-air' capability so it's always up to date.

Most of the same options feature on this lengthened body style as with an ordinary 90 or 110 version, but the Defender 130 has its own colour palette, with an extra 'Sedona Red' option for those who want to stand out. The exterior can be embellished with an optional 'Extended Bright Pack' which provides a distinct exterior design with Ceres Silver Satin finish around all lower body cladding and front and rear skid plates in Noble Chrome.

Cost of Ownership

There's isn't much of an efficiency downside in choosing a Defender 130 over a Defender 110. The Defender 130 D300 diesel manages 31.6mpg on the combined cycle and up to 235g/km of CO2. The equivalent 110 D300 manages 32.0mpg and 232g/km. You'll gather from this that the MHEV mild hybrid tech doesn't help you very much in terms of running cost efficiency. And it doesn't help you much with the Defender 130 P300 and P400 petrol models either. These both manage no better than 24.5mpg on the combined cycle and 261g/km of CO2. What's really needed is the Plug-In Hybrid powertrain you can get combined with petrol power on the Defender 110, but as yet, there's no sign of this being offered with this lengthened model.

Like all Defenders before it, this one will enjoy healthy residual values, buoyed by a strong rural market, easy parts availability and a vibrant owners' community. Insurance is reasonable although VED tax will sting a little. That only leaves the warranty, an unremarkable three year unlimited mileage deal. Also included is European cover and a promise to get you on your way as soon as possible in your own car or in a loan vehicle if the required repair will take longer than four hours.

Summary

We've long said that there's nothing quite like a Land Rover Defender. And there's certainly nothing quite like a Defender 130. We're disappointed the brand didn't take the opportunity to be even more unique and offer seating for nine here, but for most target customers, this eight-seater will be special enough. With a very big family, having eight pews (rather than the seven seats that rivals provide) may well make all the difference for trips out with friends or the inclusion of granny on the weekend garden centre jaunt.

And those passengers won't be rather squashed inside army-style, as they were with the original Defender 130; there's real luxury here this time around. And real luxury six-figure prices to go with it. If, somehow, that fails to put you off from the rather pleasant prospect of owning one of these, then a rather unique ownership experience awaits.

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