Take a look at the new Defender 130. Because your initial reaction to that newly extended rear overhang is almost certainly going to govern how you feel about Land Rover’s latest attempt to carve out some headroom in a previously untapped market segment. If you think it’s acceptably well-proportioned – which half the PH desk does – then the manufacturer is probably onto a winner, given the very few rivals that can claim to seat more than five people in real comfort, while retaining the ability to ford a small river. But if you’re on the other side, you could say Land Rover stumbled at the first hurdle. Because who wants an XXL Defender if it looks like a kitchen extension gone wrong?
Either way, you’re probably curious. And you are right to be. Land Rover has resurrected the 130 badge for good reason: globally people are quite fond of very large SUVs, and the novelty of being able to comfortably accommodate eight adults where previously it could only accommodate seven at a time will fundamentally reposition the Defender L663. In some markets its extra size probably won’t be a major concern – but for those of us who live in Blighty it’s worth confirming that the ‘elegantly extended’ rear adds 340mm to the length of the car , which means it now extends to 5,358 mm. Which is 36mm longer than the extended wheelbase Bentayga revealed by Bentley two weeks ago. By any conventional European measure, this is a big car.
Of course, it was the useful dimensions of the Defender – notably its pre-existing 2m width – that allowed Land Rover to insert a full-size third row of seats. As expected, the 130’s wheelbase is unchanged from the 110 at 3,022mm; the transformation is confined to the overhang, which includes a “subtle boat-tail-style lift” to deliver a 28.5 departure angle (compared to 40 degrees for the 110). Besides this unavoidable limitation, the manufacturer claims “unparalleled off-road capability” of the larger model. The 130 range comes standard with air suspension, which allows an additional 71.5mm of lift at the front (73.5mm at the rear), supported by the Defender’s two-speed transfer case and the Terrain Response all-wheel-drive system.
Mated to a carryover choice of two petrols (the 3.0-litre six-cylinder Ingenium in either P300 or P400 spec) or a single diesel (the same sized D300), there’s no reason to doubt the potential of conquering the landscape of the Defender – or even its ability to move properly on the road. Land Rover didn’t provide us with a new curb weight, but given that it wisely declined to equip the 130 with less than 346 lb-ft of torque, even the lowest version will hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. It’ll also tow up to 3,000kg and oblige a maximum payload of 750kg – meaning you really can fill each seat with a 75kg EU spec adult and still have change for luggage.
The question is, would you? Well, obviously the proof will be in the pudding, but for what it’s worth Land Rover is adamant that the Defender’s ‘familiar contour’ and existing girth helped it find room for a third row “without compromise”. Admittedly, it seems to have taken the necessary steps to ensure that anyone sitting in the back isn’t treated like a second-class citizen: when fully kitted out, you won’t just have heated seats, padded armrests, “thoughtful” storage and USB-C connectivity, but also four-zone climate control, stadium seating throughout and a second sunroof above the last row. The manufacturer even reckons access is “effortless” thanks to a second row that “slides and folds forward to provide wide access.”
Needless to say, we’ve heard this sort of thing before (and always hit our shins in the way of displeasure), but it’s also worth mentioning that the bar for rear folding jump seats is usually so low that the 130 will probably be celebrated if it’s just nice enough for two adults, let alone three. Obviously with the two rows upright the load space takes a significant hit – Land Rover quotes 389 liters – although the extra length means a very good 1,232 liters if you keep the boot floor flat, and a downright cavernous 2,291 liters if you jettison all the passengers. You can even have the larger five-seater Defender if you want, which would unlock a total capacity of 2,516 litres. But surely you would have to like the new silhouette a lot to accept this option. Anyway, for anyone looking to put their money where a really big back end is, the 130 is available to order now from £73,895.