Supersized Land Rover Defender 130 is an oversized statement |

Supersized Land Rover Defender 130 is an oversized statement

Can an SUV get too big for its own good? The very long Defender 130 gains more than a foot from its other four-door model, the 110.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

Many new cars are built on the same, scalable underpinnings, allowing multiple models and applications from a standard model.

And while this provides a more affordable way for carmakers to offer versatility, you’ve got to be careful exactly how big you go for the sake of bigness.

Case in point is the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130, the ultra-supersized rendition of the company’s all-new makeover of the semi-classic Defender brand. So far, there have been new two-door Defender 90s and the four-door Defender 110 that I’ve driven a few times.

But the ultra-massive Defender 130, which I drove as a First Edition model around Christmas, priced at $92,275, may be an example of just a little too much extra real estate for its own good. Unless you really do want to comfortably haul up to eight people on full safari-styled adventures, and look more than just a little ungainly in the process.

In 130’s case, it’s a full 13.4 inches longer than the 110 (coming in at an imposing 187.4 inches, total) and a remarkable 30.5 inches longer than the 90, which seems like the length of an entire Smart Car. I called it the Slovak Santa Sled, owing to the country Land Rover has built the Defender plant, and … that seemed about right.

All of that additional rear cargo room, especially in the blazingly “Empire Strikes Back”-styled Fuji white paint job mine had, turns the Defender into a long and boxy machine that looks a little like one of Land Rover’s specialty ambulance models from days gone by. Or, less charitably, like it has three or four dryer boxes welded to the back, just to make it as big as possible.

After a few days of trying to put my head around the 130’s scale, I determined that taking a Sawzall and turning it into the world’s longest Evoque convertible might not be a bad idea.

The upside is quite impressive room for your second- and third-row passengers. If you absolutely hate the angry looks of tailgaters during your drives (try driving with New Jersey car distributor plates, as I did), you can simply leave the overly tall middle and third-row seats up, plus their Clone War droid headrests … and you won’t see anything, ever.

And while I did not get to do the same dirt/rock/ravine plunge I normally do in the summer with the sizeable 130, my guess is that the almost 6,000-pound vehicle’s identical set of newfangled off-road technology, its 11.4-inch clearance and maybe even those expensive 22-inch wheels provided here, will do off-roading work like you wouldn’t believe. With every member of your family aboard.

That includes a 10-mode road and trail management system, a two-speed transfer box and hill descent control that might actually be a good idea, given the vehicle’s size and potential human cargo. And an automatic air suspension system that, during my drives, seemed to be never-endingly lifting and dropping the vehicle, especially at stop lights.

The big Defender gets two engine choices, with the bigger 395-horsepower mild-hybrid 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo offering more than adequate power. The 48-volt electrical system won’t quite go into overboost mode like other brands, but you’ll still be pleased by the pull and the not-terrible, not-great 19 combined mpg. It’s also capable of towing up to 8,200 pounds of trailer.

As with the now trio of new Defenders, the ultra-modern external attributes (including those out-of-place boxes on the rear cab that are actually removable tether points for roof rack systems) only get more interesting on the absolutely Moon Buggy-inspired interior.

Close the doors — with panels that look like Lego accessories that ought to come off, Wrangler style (but do not) — and you’ll find a positively shocking assortment of cubist shelves, ledges, cubbies and other peculiarities. It’s still got a steering wheel, for now, but the upright gear toggle and the video readouts all make it really look like the kind of vehicle we expected in 2023, back in 1960. And here it is.

Accessing those third row seats is relatively easy with flop-slide second-row seats and the passenger I stashed back there, briefly, said he enjoyed the space, and the view. You’ll also find what is perhaps the largest, heaviest, side-opening rear door in the business, though a stylized handhold inside helps in closing that huge gate.

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