2023 Land Rover Defender 130

MIAMI — After a production hiatus that lasted for just over two decades, Land Rover brought back the Defender model for 2020, giving it the customary off-roading capability the company is known for while also delivering a refined performance for on-road ventures.. The 2023 Land Rover Defender is offered in a myriad of versions and trim packages with three different body styles for 2023.

There are the Defender 90, Defender 110, and Defender 130 and in three different engines (4-, 6-, and 8-cylinders) all paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with a dual-speed transfer box.

To keep things from getting confusing, we will deal here with what showed up in my driveway recently, which was the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition model.

With an electric motor giving it a slight boost and giving it MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) status, the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition gets a substantial 390 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque from the 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, which moves it from a standing start to 60 mph in a quick for-the-class 6.3 seconds, according to the company.

Fuel mileage is a modest 17 miles-per-gall on city, 21 highway, and 19-combined, which pretty much is in line with the large luxury SUV segment.

Being in South Florida, I didn’t have the opportunity for off-road testing. Expressway ramps just don’t present much of a challenge. A few years ago Land Rover came in preview a new model and had to build its own off-road course with custom-built earth mounds. They flattened them when they were done.

The First Edition model is available in three special colors (Full White, Sedona Red, and Carpathian Grey) to commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary in 2023.

With a length of 211 inches — almost 14 inches longer than last year’s biggest Defenders — the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition can fit in three rows of seating to accommodate eight passengers, though I wouldn’t want to spend much time in the far back row where legroom is cut over six inches over the first two rows.

The interior itself leans more to the functional side as the overall ambiance may fall a bit short of its more luxurious competitors, but the cabin is comfortable enough and an upgrade over most off-road capable vehicles.

Comfort and convenience features run the usual gamut for luxury vehicles. They include  a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, premium leather seats with premium textile inserts, heated and cooled front seats with power lumbar support, a power adjustable, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, four-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and an 11.4-inch screen for infotainment functions.

Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, a 3D surround view camera, blind-spot and lane-keeping assist, a rear traffic monitor, and emergency collision notification.

That’s all covered by a starting MSRP of $84,700 for the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition.

My test vehicle came with an optional Towing Pack, Cold Climate Pack, and stand-alone options like 22-inch, five-spoke wheels, 60-40 pass-through rear seats, and a 22-inch spare wheel mount on the rear cargo access door.

All that and the $1,475 destination and delivery fee ran the final bottom line to $92,725, which puts the 130 Final Edition at the high end of the Defender’s pricing spectrum, though V8 models start in the six-figure range.

Pricing for the 4-cylinder models start in the $50,000 range.

What I liked about the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition: Though known for its exceptional off-road capability, the Defender also is very comfortable on paved surfaces. The ride is quiet and it handles well, and the cabin is spacious. The inline 6-cylinder engine packs a good punch. The surround view camera is a nice standard feature.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition: I find the white side panels at the C pillar as an odd styling touch. They kind of look like somebody has left the Monroney label on the windows. The mild hybrid, inline 6-cylinder engine is a bit on the thirsty side. Cargo space is limited when all three rows of seating are in place. You can get a workout opening the cargo door.

Would I buy the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition? If you’re interested in going off-road in style, the Defender is a solid choice.

— Paul Borden