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2023 Land Rover Defender 130 Mild Hybrid Review Singapore

The 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 is a full size 8 seater SUV that sits above the more well known Defender 90 and Defender 110. Measuring in at a length of 5.36m, 2m wide, and a height of 1.97m, the 110 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0 litre inline 6 cylinder engine that produces 394 bhp and 550Nm of torque when combined with the mild hybrid powertrain. The car features air suspension on both front and rear axles, and runs the latest Pivi Pro infotainment touchscreen unit that is equipped with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. A full digital driver's display is controllable through the car's multi function steering wheel.

Rugged but Premium Design

Land Rover Defenders have traditionally been the utilitarian car in the range of Land Rover lineup of cars, but with the latest iteration, the Defender has been cleaned up quite extensively with a lot more lifestyle enhancements than any Defender before it. While the new Defender is based off the Discovery platform, and isn't available with a manual transmission in Singapore, Land Rover have done quite well to keep the design DNA of the Defender aligned to its heritage, and despite being much more luxurious than any Defender before it, the car still retains a sort of utilitarianism about it that is quite endearing.

For instance, there are open rivets on the interior panels and black "steel" cladding panels on the bonnet. The greyed out interior, accentuated by the grab handle on the passenger side adds to that feel and aesthetic. There are also specially designed headlights and tail lamps that feature a shatter-deterring design. All these design features point toward an authentic off-road vehicle's aesthetic. These design features however, also coexist between plenty of modern technologies, including the latest Pivi Pro touchscreen infotainment unit, along with a full digital driver's display. The whole package, balances the rugged versus premium equation exceptionally well, and will definitely appeal to the weekend adventurer who doesn't want the rough and tumble in their week day environment.

Feels Like a Luxury SUV

Perhaps due to its sheer size and ability to haul eight passengers, the Defender 130 benefits from a luxury factor that seems to elude its smaller 90 and 110 siblings. On the road, the 130 feels extremely plush and composed, and travels with the sort of ease and comfort that you'd expect from a proper luxury SUV. Inside, despite the occasional utilitarian design feature that serves to authenticate the experience of driving a Defender, most of the car feels high end and premium, with plenty of soft touch materials and premium materials used throughout the cabin. In some ways, the 130 feels luxurious in the same way that a G Wagon feels luxurious.

Drive wise, the 130 is powered by a capable 3.0 litre turbocharged inline 6 power plant that is mated to am 8 speed automatic along with mild hybrid technology. Pull is solid off the line despite of the 130's size, and steering is appropriately weighted to be easy to use around town, while adjusting for more weight during higher speed drives. Like a luxury SUV that prioritises comfort, the 130's mild hybrid drivetrain does a decent job at smoothening out gear changes, and providing a little bit of extra juice when needed. Overall, its hard to imagine that we'd one day be viewing a Land Rover Defender in the same luxury bracket as other more established luxury SUV options.

A Compelling Case Against its Competitors

In another twist created by the 130's entry into the luxury SUV segment, it would seem that the 130 is making quite the compelling case for itself against its competitors. Due to the 130's ability to carry eight passengers, the natural association when it comes to the 130's segment mates would have to be cars like the Volvo XC90, BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GLE. For reference, the 130 is more expensive than the XC90, cheaper than the GLE, and technically more practical than the X5 since the X5 decided to drop its 7-seater configuration. In fact, because the 130 has eight seats, it's technically also the most practical car of the entire lot.

While the XC90 is powered by the smallest and most cost effective engine of the lot, the 130's 3.0 litre turbocharged unit doesn't exactly scream "global warming" either, and is a relatively reserved engine option considering the amount of car the engine has to haul. In fact, this engine configuration is on par with both the X5 and the GLE, who both run 3.0 litre turbo sixes in their engine bay. Lay all these considerations out on the table, and essentially you have the 130 representing the largest and most practical car for the money, but with no more the running cost of its closest competitors. Sounds like a win to me.

Who will it Appeal to?

Purists and lovers of the traditional Defender will likely find little appeal in the modern day Defender, but the Defender 130 will find new fans, as it is now conceivable to own one if you want a luxury SUV that is smooth, quiet, and comfortable, but also possesses enough of that rugged styling for you to get that weekend fix of being a weekend adventurer and explorer, even if that just means a road trip to Malacca or Desaru. Its not the first option that comes to mind when you think about dropping 400 grand on a luxury SUV - but it should be. After all, it does tick all the right boxes and looks amazing while doing it.


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