News 10, Albany, NY, offered a stark prediction for November 11, 2022. “Soaker tonight… the remnants of Hurricane Nicole… large area of heavy rain will move through tonight, with another round arriving the next morning.”
Meteorologist Steve Caporizzo nailed that forecast. Summer-like monsoon downpours pummeled upstate New York, but Jaguar Land Rover had picked that Destination Defender weekend to show off the 2023 Defender 130 – and what’s rain and mud but mother’s milk for Defender owners?
Cocooned in a 2023 Defender 130 First Edition, I could care less – or have given greater thanks. Not long after the media convoy left JLR’s headquarters in Mahwah, NJ, we encountered the predicted heavy downpours and gale-force winds. Some cars and trucks pulled over into the breakdown lanes or waited under overpasses until the worst of the storm subsided. My 130’s windshield wiper arms, which resembled shovel handles, pushed the deluge aside with the force of a snowplow. To this Series IIA owner, this astonishing capability reminded me why I did not regret leaving my “Defender” (as JLR now labels all Land Rovers built between 1948–1992) at home in Maine.
The windshield wiper arms on my Series IIA resemble chopsticks. The individual Lucas motors have one speed – glacially slow – and the wiper blades look like Barbie’s own squeegees. Given the weather, I would’ve joined many others in the far-right lane of the New York Thruway; during clear patches, I would’ve been lucky to reach 65 mph.
With its all-wheel drive and electronic drivetrain suspension controls, the Defender 130 continued its calm and unruffled drive northward at highway speeds that I should not mention here. That’s thanks to the P400 MHEV 3.0L Ingenium 6-cylinder, with its 395 hp/406 lb-ft output and turbo and electric supercharger. At a curb weight of 5,570 lbs (535 lbs greater than the 110), it still reaches 0–60 in 6.3 seconds. I left the 130 in Sport Mode on the 8-speed ZF transmission, which increases responsiveness. The Terrain Response, working through the air suspension and AWD systems, incorporates a twin-speed transfer box. When assigned to towing duty, it will pull up to 8,200 lbs.
Much of the test drive took place on the southern end of the New York Thruway, a toll road that runs between New York City and Buffalo. I’m unfamiliar with the westbound Albany–Buffalo section but, based on the road-surface imperfections on this north-south end, it appears that the road construction company let their interns practice their engineering on this highway. I would urge them to try, try again. In the Defender 130, however, the potholes are seen, not heard or felt. On the back roads of the Catskills, the 130 proved surprisingly nimble.
Canadian journalist Max Landi had a 9-hour drive from Toronto to New York in his Defender 130. He said, “As I put approximately 1,700kms on my press Defender 130, I was delighted with the genuinely excellent three-row SUV, with lots of character and personality.”
Our only off-road testing came after torrential rains had saturated the grassy fields of the Oz Equestrian Center, exposing the soft clay beneath the grass. Just walking became a challenge. The sipes of the all-weather tires filled with mud quickly; the slightest incline baffled the AWD algorithms and demanded various forms of recovery.
Our Defender 130 First Editions came in the all-too-familiar palette of Fuji White or Carpathian Gray, but in my case, with a lovely biscuit-colored interior. Happily, the interior retained all the brilliant features and proportions that you’ve come to expect in the Defender 663 models. One lucky mate garnered a stunning Sedona Red exterior that should be the default color for a 130.
The first Defender 130 came out of Land Rover’s Special Vehicles Operations which, in 1985, took a 110 chassis and added length to create a crew cab and a rear bed. [Born as the Land Rover 127, it became the Defender 130 with the 1992 name change -ed.] The extended body answered the market demand for a capable, durable, 4-wheel drive pickup that could carry enough personnel and equipment for remote, off-the-grid jobs. Most of the 130s wound up being purchased by electric companies, construction firms, logging and landscaping companies, farmers, and estate workers. Today, the market for this Defender 130 bypasses transporting workers and their gear and lands squarely with executives and their finery.
Land Rover followed a familiar path (such as with the Discovery I – II) – adding length behind the rear axle. At 119 inches, the 130 wheelbase remains the same as the 110’s, and the overall length of the 130 grows to 211.7 from the 110’s 197.5 inches. The turning circle (42.12 ft) approach angle (31.2 degrees), ramp breakover angle (27.8 degrees) remain the same but the departure angle decreases from 40 to 28.5 degrees. [As of publication, there is no coil spring option for the 130 -ed.]
No sooner did the Defender L663 arrive in 2019 than many North American dealers clamored for a three-row model. Andy Vine, Land Rover Louisville and then head of the Land Rover National Dealer Council, predicted, “The shot in the arm [for this new model] will be the 130, which will come much later, but the extra length will provide even greater carrying capacity.” [see Holiday 2019 issue -ed.]
Derek Butts, General Manager, Land Rover Bedford (NH), confirmed that prediction: “Customers wanted a third-row vehicle. The 130 has been quite helpful in moving people away from other brands and into Land Rovers. I’ve taken Chevrolet Suburbans in trade as a result.”
Despite its length, clever interior packaging enables it to come in over a foot shorter than the US-designed competition. Derek noted that during a recent long drive, “Everyone said they were very comfortable; yet to me, it still felt like a Defender.”
Jim Pappas, Land Rover Parsippany (NJ), said, “I was surprised that the wheelbase remained at 110 inches as I wasn’t overly thrilled at the exterior proportions, but it has grown on me. The 130 does have more of a ‘real’ rear seat than the third-row seat of a 110. You can easily exit the rear seat of a 130.”
Felicia Hudgins, Land Rover Tampa, owns a Defender 110. “Our market area is big on needing a family car. The 130 feels super comfortable with eight people aboard, and it doesn’t drive much differently than my 110. However, I wish the third-row seat would fold completely flat as it does on my 110.”
Tom Joyce, Land Rover Scarborough (ME), reported that several enthusiast customers commented that the silhouette of the 130 reminds them of their much-loved LR4s. Another appeal of the additional length lies in the fact you can order a 130 without the third-row seat, increasing the storage volume from the 110’s 26.2 cu ft to 43.5 cu ft. Fold down the second-row seat and it grows to 80.9 cu ft.
The Defender 130 fills an important niche for Land Rover. We have a First Edition and Dynamic X pack; how about a Utility Pack? To the rear-seat delete, let’s add the 90’s rubberized flooring, removable and washable carpeting, rugged and durable seat fabrics, and the off-road-oriented features of the Adventure or Explorer Packs. Oh, and proper tires too, please.