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Land Rover’s Defender 130 – CROWN ROYAL

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Land Rover’s Defender 130 – CROWN ROYAL

Land Rover’s Defender 130


In THE QUEEN, Helen Mirren – portraying Queen Elizabeth – is seen behind the wheel of her own Land Rover, traversing some of the vast acreage comprising her Balmoral Estate. Much later the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip (portraying himself), is laid to rest with the assist of a custom-built Land Rover, comprising little more than a 2-passenger cockpit and long bed. Both scenes underscore the attachment Great Britain’s royal family has for Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles. And few vehicles in the company’s long history communicate that royal vibe better than Land Rover’s Defender 130. 

In a lineup that comprises the short wheelbase 90 and the midrange 110, the stretched 130 makes it that much easier to rule – as it were – Brittania; with its 8-passenger capacity the Defender 130 can easily accommodate Charles, Camilla, their press team, the Royal Taster and – presumably – the Wiper. At the very least, Chuck and Cam could bring the royal picnic back to Windsor in the Defender – and not on the Defender. 

What started as little more than a farm implement for England and its colonies has expanded to incorporate a wide and varied selection of luxury transport. And while many of those sold in the U.S. will see nothing more challenging than a Starbucks drive-thru, if you’re forced into either a daily commute or carpool lane there are few better hookups of luxury and utility than the Land Rover/Range Rover lineup. Recently I’ve enjoyed time in a Defender 90 with V8 power; before that I spent a week in the Range Rover Velar. And if I had the law degree Mom (my own Queen Mother) wanted me to have, well…I’d have bought one!

The Defender 130 sits on the more extreme side of Rovering, where an owner could envision not only parking at the trailhead, but actually navigating the trail. An extension of the by-now-familiar Defender 110, the 130 sits on an identical 119-inches of wheelbase with its additional length – comprising the ‘130’ – grafted onto its tail. As more than one critic has suggested, this makes for a somewhat out-of-whack visual, but not excessively so. If utility is the raison d’être of the sport utility, the 3-row Defender 130 delivers that utility in spades.

On the street – or in Trader Joe’s parking lot – the Defender 130 looks imposing, even in its ‘Virgin Queen’ white. The 130’s almost 18 feet of length is believable, but the Defender seems taller than the 77.6 inches claimed on the spec sheet. A foldable ladder sits aft of the driver’s side rear door to ease access to the roof, while AARP will reportedly offer an aftermarket elevator (Medicare-approved!) to its membership – at an AARP-negotiated discount. 

All four doors seem to have come from a Big & Tall design symposium, while the rear door is a door and not, notably, a hatch. Inside you’ll find generously proportioned buckets in front, a 3-person bench behind them, and purportedly room for three in that third row. Access to the third row is what you’d expect, and points are given for generous headroom, but if you really want room for eight and their stuff, grab the Suburban and – you know – a mountain e-Bike. 

Behind the wheel you have gauges offering a conventional appearance, an infotainment screen that’s almost intuitive, and HVAC controls that are (thankfully) intuitive. With a chilly February the heated seats required a bit of head scratching, but my wife Tina can digest an owner’s manual like nobody’s business; she – of course – owns a Jeep.

Beyond its platform and upright architecture, perhaps the best part of ‘Defending’ – the Crown Jewels, as it were – is under the hood, where Land Rover provides a supercharged and turbocharged inline six delivering 395 ponies and 406 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic. The horsepower, in combination with decent steering and credible braking, makes for a driving experience that feels much smaller than the Defender’s almost three tons of curb weight suggest. Those crazies at Car and Driver shot to 60 in just over six seconds, and while I didn’t attempt that (I’m not crazy…yet), acceleration at any and all speeds contained no drama whatsoever; you want the Defender to go – and it goes. 

The price you pay for this array of earthly delights (beyond the Defender 130’s $86K MSRP) is in fuel efficiency…or lack thereof. Our EPA provides an estimate of 16 City/18 Highway/17 Combined – and that’s perfectly good…if you’re a school bus! I wouldn’t suggest a plug-in hybrid, as that would take the current three tons of curb weight much closer to four tons, but I believe a mild hybrid could nudge the City figure up to 20 and Hwy to 25, while bumping the weight only modestly. At the very least those estimates would pull the Defender into this century – if not the next one.

For overlanding, know you have Land Rover’s world-renowned all-wheel drive system with a Twin Speed transfer box, in combination with Terrain Response and its selectable driving and off-road modes. Not only will these attributes keep you out of the muck if on the road, they’ll get you out of the muck you voluntarily got in! In the SUV world there’s safety and security. And then there’s Land Rover.

Of course, the whole premise of the original Land Rover is its all-terrain capability with stone axe simplicity. And as you’d guess with a turbocharger, supercharger and of-this-century tech, the stone axe has done left the barn. Anecdotal evidence suggests Land Rover dealers in the U.S. are challenged to keep up; only God and the King know what awaits if broken down in a Former Colony. 

Of the three Defender variants, the 110 – which, admittedly, I’ve not driven – would seem to be the sweet spot, as it’s big enough to be useful but not so big as to intimidate. I’d still go for the Velar, after (as ‘Mum’ suggested) lawyering up.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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