Sunday, December 3, 2023
Reviews 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 Review: The Luxury Bus

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 Review: The Luxury Bus

  • The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 retails from $69,475 in the United States and from $97,750 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included.

  • Space for everyone, undeniable off-road capabilities, cushy ride.

  • Irritating throttle response, grabby brakes, not a fuel miser.

This year, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 was added to the iconic nameplate’s lineup, as the longest of three configurations and capable of hauling up to eight passengers. The family also includes the three-door Defender 90 and the five-door Defender 110.

In addition, Jaguar Land Rover recently decided to shake up its divisions all while renaming itself simply JLR. The Land Rover portfolio has been split up into three sub-brands, Range Rover, Defender and Discovery. This may not sound like significant changes, at least for now, but we’ll see in a few years as JLR will start introducing a few fully electric models.

Until then, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 arrived on the North American market with two powertrains in the United States and one in Canada. Available only on the U.S. base S trim level, the P300 is a supercharged 3.0L inline-six with 296 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, managed by an eight-speed automatic that feeds all four wheels. The S variant and all other U.S. trims, in addition to all Canadian-spec units, are equipped with the mild hybrid P400 supercharged 3.0L inline-six that generates 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet.

No matter the engine choice in the U.S., city/highway/combined fuel economy ratings are set at 17/21/19 mpg, while in Canada, the ratings are 13.8/11.2/12.4 L/100 km. Premium fuel is required for both engines. During our test of a First Edition variant with the P400, we recorded an average of 18 mpg or 12.9 L/100 km.

That’s not great, but it’s actually not that bad. Here’s a little comparison with some other big luxury utility vehicles:

ModelEngineCity/highway/combined ratings (mpg)City/highway/combined ratings (L/100 km)
BMW X7 xDrive40iTurbo 3.0L I621/25/2211.3/9.5/10.5
BMW X7 M60i xDriveTwin-Turbo 4.0L V816/21/1814.3/11.1/12.9
GMC Yukon 4WD5.3L V815/20/1715.8/11.8/14.0
GMC Yukon 4WD6.2L V814/18/1616.6/13.1/15.0
GMC Yukon 4WDTurbo-diesel 3.0L I620/26/2211.7/9.0/10.5
Land Rover Defender 130Supercharged 3.0L I617/21/1913.8/11.2/12.4
Lexus LX 600Twin-Turbo 3.4L V617/22/1914.2/10.8/12.7
Lincoln NavigatorTwin-Turbo 3.5L V616/22/1815.2/10.8/13.2
Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATICTwin-Turbo 3.0L V618/23/2012.7/10.1/11.6
Mercedes-Benz GLS 580Twin-Turbo 4.0L V816/21/1814.9/11.2/13.2
WagoneerTwin-Turbo 3.0L I616/23/1914.5/10.1/12.5
Wagoneer5.7L V815/20/1715.6/11.7/13.8


We should point out that the Defender 130 will offer a supercharged 5.0L V8 for the 2024 model year as well. Called the P500, it develops 493 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. While the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models are available with plug-in hybrid powertrains, it doesn’t look as though they’re in the plans for the Defender at the moment, which likely wasn’t designed to be plugged in.

Otherwise, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is a resolutely versatile SUV, which can tow up to 6,614 pounds or 3,000 kilograms, while its capable four-wheel drive system, its ground clearance of 8.5 to 11.5 inches (218 to 290 millimetres) in addition to its good approach and departure angles make it an interesting accomplice for our off-road escapades. It’s a Land Rover after all.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition

With its available three-row bench, the Defender 130 can accommodate up to eight passengers, one more than in the Defender 110 with its 5+2 seating layout. However, third-row occupants will be much more comfortable, with additional legroom and highly high-perched seat cushions. Two adults can ride back there for a while without a complaint, and access is relatively easy as well.

Cargo space is also generous, with 15.3 cubic feet or 433 litres behind the third row, up to 35.8 cubic feet or 1,048 litres behind the second, and up to 76.1 cubic feet or 2,155 litres behind the first. However, some aforementioned full-size SUVs are roomier, including the GMC Yukon, the Lincoln Navigator and the Wagoneer, especially in their longer-wheelbase configurations. Also, the folded rear seats do not form a flat load floor in the Defender 130.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition

We also like the cabin’s rugged-looking design, which blends retro and modern as a throwback to the vehicle’s heritage without including all of today’s technological features customers want and need. Storage spaces abound, climate controls are bunched up in a cluster that’s fairly easy to use, even if some functionalities require a two-step process instead of one, such as setting fan speed, for example.

As for the infotainment system, the 11.4-inch touchscreen contributes to its ease of use, with well laid-out menus and quick response to finger poking. A little time is required to figure out where everything is, but after a week behind the wheel, we can master the system.

On the road, we don’t have the impression that we’re driving a bus, as body motions are well under control and the air suspension effortlessly soaks up imperfections. Extensive family road trips are a cinch aboard the Defender 130. On the other hand, the throttle response delay is irritating, a problem affecting more and more new vehicles on the market, while the grabby brakes are tough to modulate while we’re coming to a stop, making city driving somewhat less refined. With an overall length of 211.7 inches or 5,358 millimetres including the tailgate-mounted spare tire, the Defender 130 isn’t the easiest vehicle to park at the shopping mall, but at least we benefit from a 360-degree camera system.

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 in base S trim retails from $69,475 in the United States and from $97,750 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included. Our First Edition tester starts at $86,175 (USA) or $106,720 (Canada). A slew of customization options are available, allowing each buyer to obtain a distinct vehicle, but the price climbs rapidly with these add-ons.

The First Edition we drove is only available for the 2023 model year, boasting standard eight-passenger seating, a choice of two paint colours, three interior color schemes and three wood finishes. A good list of features, too, including 14-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, an icebox in the centre console up front, heated second-row seats and much more. The other trim levels are available with more paint colour choices, but we’d like a greater selection of interior finishes, especially in a vehicle of this price.

Very capable off road for those interested in getting it dirty, solid and spacious, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is well-prepared for everything Mother Nature can throw at it while safely and comfortably transporting the family. It’s not an overly fuel-efficient SUV, but there are worse offenders in its category.

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