2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S – Bottom Line Review

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: Exceptional Commonwealth rugged expeditionary carriage warrants Royal Household recognition. M.S.R.P. in Fuji White = $74k

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: The recognitions bestowed by the United Kingdom’s Windsor regents currently number in excess of eight hundred. Their regal awards have been granted to a variety of tradespersons or industries, which serve or supply the Royal Households, ranging from dry cleaners and “fish mongers” to major global technological conglomerates. The right of grantees to hold the recognition initially is limited to five years and it cannot denote theirs is exclusive. Grantees merely have the right over that duration to display the Royal Arms as accompanied by the Legend, which sets forth the details of the Royal recognition, the entity name, the goods or services it provides and the location of the home office.

British overland coach maker Land Rover first earned a Royal Warrant in 1951 from Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth II. Now part of the Jaguar Land Rover Group subsidiary of the Tata Group Indian industrial conglomerate, the most recent Royal Warrant issued to the Coventry, England company reads as follows.*

By Appointment to:

HM The Queen

Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles

JLR is unique in the global automotive industry. They are designers of peerless models, with an unrivalled understanding of the future luxury needs of its clients, an emotionally rich brand equity, a spirit of Britishness with unrivalled access to leading global players in technology and sustainability within the wider Tata Group. The company has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Motors, in which Tata Sons is the largest shareholder, since 2008. JLR is proud to hold two Royal Warrants, celebrating over 70 years since the grant of its first in 1951.
(*Since the current warrants were issued prior to HRM Charles III ascendance to the throne, there is also a Royal Warrant issued to JLR by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales, Charles.)

TO THE FAR REACHES OF A SHRINKING BRITANNIA: Land Rover’s roots were in a mid 20th century period of global upheaval. Expeditions in the non Anglo reaches of Great Britain’s Commonwealth, whether by desert ungulates (camels) or forest sub-ungulates (elephants), were no longer considered expeditious. The Second World War brought rapid “hot spot” response and reconnaissance by mechanization.

GROUP OVERLAND, ROYAL WARRANTED: By 1948, British luxury car maker, Rover, emulated the Willys Jeepster with its own rural light utility vehicle the Land Rover Series I. The ensuing collapse of the non Anglo Commonwealth did not inhibit the continued popularity of the LR Series I through III for military, humanitarian and even recreational use in those regions. In the U.S., the Red Coats were expelled some two centuries theretofore. Instead, an American admiration of the LR Series II was born from 1960’s documentary and feature films set in Africa, such as “Born Free.” Ultimately folded into the luxury Jaguar Land Rover luxury brand, the three row Royal Warrant expeditionary utility vehicle continues to be exported to these Yankee shores as the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S 4×4 .

* * * * * * * * * * * *

WHAT: 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S 4×4 three row, large, off-road sport utility vehicle. The L663 is the second retro successor to the original 1948 Land Rover Series I, then Series II and III,  preceded by the mid 1980s – 2016 Land Rover 110 (also 3-door 90 and LWB 130). The new Defender is built on an aluminum intensive JLR D7x unibody platform.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: the lesser of the new Ingenium gas I-6 48V mild hybrid powerplants boasts ample torque + acceptable fuel economy
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S P300
Curb weight (pounds)5692 lbs.
Powertrain – petrol3.0L turbocharged 24V DOHC gas I-6, 48V mild hybrid starter generator motor
Drivetrain / Final drive ratioZF 8 Speed, torque converter automatic planetary transmission, on-demand viscous clutch differential all-wheel drive / 3.84:1
Drivetrain to WheelsFull time electronic viscous clutch locking 2-speed transfer case four wheel drive; Open front, E-limited slip rear differentials; LR Terrain Response x 7 modes
Horsepower petrol / Torque (pound- feet)296 hp / 347 lb-ft @ 1500 r.p.m.
Fuel Economy – miles per gallon combined EPA / Range (max.)18 m.p.g. (observed), 624 miles (24 gallons)
Performance0-60 m.p.h.: 7.5 seconds; Top speed: 119 m.p.h.
Manufacturer Provided Specifications @2024 Roadblazing.com

Optional Power P400*: intercooled turbocharged + supercharged 3.0L V-6 + 48V mild hybrid + idle Start/ Stop = 395 hp / 406 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm + ZFTM 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE(S): As a descendant the prototype expeditionary colonial transport, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S is imbued with the kind of nostalgia that will garner recognition in the Serenghetti.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: up to 28 degrees off-road break-over

Heritage Defender cues: Spillover light contrast roof(without side lites); Protruding center front grille; Slab-sided and vertical swingout tailgate w/ full spare tire; Single lens round headlamps; Tall wheel arches; Wrap around D-pillars form butresses with gloss black finish descending to bumper cover, hosting stacked taillamps.

Flanking hood and fender dark louvers; Imposing winged perforated aluminum front center aluminum bash plate; Full lower body dark plastic cladding;

Body colored A-Pillar and wide C-Pillar; Gloss black B+D pillars, blending with post 1st Row dark tint privacy glass for floating roof effect; Slim greenhouse; Gloss black sail panel mount wing mirrors blend with bottom windscreen banding; Body color telephone receiver style, protruding door & swing gate handles; Protruding lower rear center aluminum bash plate w/ registration plate bowl;

  • A la Land Rover Discovery: Thin upper grille spanned by single lateral satin finish upper grille bar anchored by white on green “LAND ROVER” oval emblem on left side
  • A la Range Rover Sport: Rising rear lower quarter panel; LAND ROVER” with electricity symbol badges: Upper grille bar, left side + C-Pillar + Swing gate, lower right corner
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: contemporary blocky look

WHY: All aboard for exploratory road & trail travel in the current or former Commonwealth.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2022

WHERE: Land Rover new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Nitra, Slovakia

WHERE TO: Eight can take the steep grade road to Banff or the dusty trail at Ayers Rock.

  • Standard full-time all-wheel drive:
    • Progammable off-road settings
    • Two-speed electronic viscous clutch controlled transfer case
    • Open front, E-locking center and rear differentials(opt. Active rear differential +brake torque vectoring)
    • Nominal / maximum front to rear torque split = 48:52% / 0:100%
    • Adaptive air spring suspension
    • Pivi ProTM surround off-road cameras
    • Land Rover Terrain Response 2R configurable management modes x 7:
      • Rock crawl / Sand / Mud & Ruts / Wade/ Grass, Gravel & Snow / Comfort / Eco
      • All Terrain Progress Control
    • ABS Hill descent control
    • -1 Differential locking only available via media display
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: off road driving w/ surround + terrain camera
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S P300
Ground clearance (inches)8.6″ – 11.4″
Approach / Departure / Breakover angles (degrees)30.0o / 24.5o / 22.0o (Off-Road: 37.5o / 28.5o / 27.8o)
Water fording (inches)35.4″
Suspension F/RF: Strut + lower A arm / R: 4-link; F+R sway bars, Air Springs
Tires / Wheels255/65-H Goodyear Wrangler all terrain adventure / 19″ alloys / full spare tire
Brakes F/RF: 4-Piston fixed calipers 14.3″ vented Disc/ R: 1-piston floating calipers, 13.8″ vented Disc; ABS; EBD; Pre-braking, Hill Start control
Off road driving assistanceLR Terrain Response x 7 modes = Rock crawl / Sand / Mud & Ruts / Wade/ Grass, Gravel & Snow / Comfort / Eco; Descent speed control
Manufacturer Provided Specifications @2024 Roadblazing.com

HOW ROADWORTHY: Import luxury dictates smoothness under acceleration. The P300 forced induction modular gas straight-six bellows silken power. Mild hybrid electrification applied to the ZF slushbox delivers torque with some snap. Stirred sufficiently, the Ingenium engine announces its regal authority with a tinge of exhaust burble.

Air coil springs are standard to the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S, imbuing the independent front and rear with most terrain jarring free, suppleness and ample articulation. The tippy trait from a tall center of gravity and long wheelbase, exacerbated by wind buffeting, inhibits rapid lane transitions. Smaller than expected steering wheel is matched by an eager rack ratio, but corresponding transmittals are buffered. Four wheel disc binders impress in size but feel a bit parched for bite under particularly long pedal trip.

-1 Wind noise needs improved attenuation.

HOW FAR: 19 combined miles per gallon. 624 miles highway range on 91 octane unleaded fuel.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 8 Occupant seating = full-size 2+3+3 SUV style; Rows 2 + 3 bench seating + manual lever seatback recline; Row 3 = Sufficient knee & head room for 2 x 5’11” adults on short trips

  • +1 Smaller than a commercial passenger van
  • -1 Not the smallest turning radius
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: seating for eight occupants
2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S P300
Wheelbase (inches)119.0″
Length x Width x Height (inches)211″ x 79.1″(mirr. fold) x 77.6″
Headroom Row 1, 2, 3 (inches)40.6″/ 40.4″/ 39.0″
Legroom Row 1, 2, 3 (inches)39.1″/ 38.4″/ 31.7″
Cargo Capacity (nom. – max. cubic feet)13.7 cu.ft. – 43.5 cu.ft. – 80.9 cu.ft.
Towing (pounds)8200 lbs.
Roof capacity (pounds)Static: 661 lbs. / Dynamic: 360 lbs.
Manufacturer Provided Specifications @2024 Roadblazing.com

HOW USEFUL: Right side swing out tailgate; 2nd Row 50:50; 3rd Row 40:20:40 split reclining, sliding, folding bench seating; Manual strap 2nd + 3rd Row seatback fold releases; +1 Cooled Row 1 center console bin;  +1 Long 1st & 2nd Row door pockets; +1 Sliding covered lower center stack mobile handset tray & connection / power ports; +1 3rd Row wall storage and outboard floor cargo management. -1 Modest front center armrest & cargo bay sub-floor storage.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: low cargo load floor.

HOW SAFE: STANDARD: IIHS = Not Yet Tested; 8 airbags; Rear camera w/ predictive grid; Blind Spot, rear cross traffic Warning; Post collision S.O.S. alert; Roll Mitigation; Pedestrian & cyclist detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning + Keep Assist; Full adaptive cruise control; Rain sensing windshield wipers; Automatic High Beam headlamps.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: 12.3″ multi pane Interactive Driver Display instrumentation + 11.4″ Pivi Pro landscape infotainment

ALSO INCLUDED (AS STANDARD): 360° Park Assist warning; 360° Surround + Trail View Camera w/ rear backup camera washer; Traffic Sign detection; 2nd & 3rd Row occupant detection.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: How fitting that a Royal Warrant holding coach builder upfits an expeditionary bus cabin for mall crawling duties. Exposed hex bolt fasteners, mirroring the exterior, textured rubberized gripped grab surfaces including first row passenger center console grab handles, and dash shelving for compasses and maps convey a mission to where few dare. Nonetheless, the execution inside the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S boasts a level of finish and refinement not even a Toyota Land Cruiser 250 can conceive.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: driver’s entry

Grained leather seats – heated Row 1; Wide berth, sport bolstered front bucket seats; 12-way power front seats, w/ 3-setting memory; Heated, tilt + telescoping leather steering wheel + spoke integrated haptic + toggle redundant controls; Rotary dial automatic 4-zone climate control + 2nd Row controls at Row 1 center console aft; Canted center stack toggle transmission position lever; Canted center stack drive mode + climate controls; Overhead console retracting sunglasses bin; Power folding side mirrors; Dual pane panoramic moonroof, power open + tilt Row 1.

-1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; Short 2nd + 3rd Row seat cushions

Cool Gizmo(s): 12.3″ inch Interactive Driver Display variable configuration instrument cluster + navigation map mirroring.

Details Done Right: Leather seating; Tandem stitched leatherette dash top & door panel tucked seams; Textured pliable foam hand grips; Knurled metal climate dials & steering wheel thumb barrels; Metal audio speaker grilles; Dense pile carpets; Exposed brushed silver finish TorxTM panel fasteners

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: floating center console with driver + pax rubber grips

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Foam rubberized dashboard cover texture resembles playground mats; Coarse grain below waist-height, pillar, aft cabin wall plastic cabin trim; Smooth steering wheel spoke controls lack tactile distinctiveness; Non-fluid door and secondary switch action.

HOW CONNECTED: Pivi ProTM center mid dash tablet landscape 11.4″-inch capacitive touch LCD tri-pane landscape infotainment screen; Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; what3wordsTM GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance + Map in Digital Instrument Cluster; voice to text SMS messaging; USB-A x 1, USB-C x 5 (2 total each per rows 2,3 ); 12V x 2 (includes cargo), 115V, 180 W AC x 1 (Cargo bay); Qi inductive charging pad; OTA media software updating.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S: off road ready cockpit presents state of the art displays in a rugged refined setting.

+1 Pleasing earth tone high contrast graphics, customizable widgets; Sliding covered forward center console wireless device storage w/ Qi inductive device charging tray; Traditional knurled twin rotary knobs for audio volume + tuning

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: wireless Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; LR Online Data Pack w/ over the air updates; Weather app; Off-Road Pages app

HOW AUDIBLY: 11 speaker (including subwoofer), 400 Watt, 6 channel Meridian audio system w/ chrome sail panel speaker grilles = a bit thin sounding

By Subscription: Sirius XM 360L w/ enhanced search (90 day trial); 4G LTE Wi-Fi by Verizon (1 GB, 90 day trial); Sirius Guardian telematics

HOW MUCH: $74,175 = 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 S 4×4

WHAT’S MISSING: Less tire road noise; Less motorway wind buffeting; Less body roll; More supportive & better cushioned seats, cargo bay 2nd & 3rd Row power seat folding; Retracting running boards

ANY COMPETITION: Lexus GX 550(launching early 2024): +1 Torsen center differential, cabin comfort

BOTTOM LINE: Exceptional Commonwealth rugged expeditionary carriage warrants Royal Household recognition.

(Contributing Editor: T. Paluch)

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