Suraj Devasthali
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Exploring the Luxurious and Capable Land Rover Defender 130

Go big or go home. Or in case of the new, big-as-abarn Land Rover Defender-130, take your home anywhere you please

The Defender 130, much like its Defender counterparts with their quasi-military aesthetics and abundant grip handles within the cabin, strongly appeals to avid off-road enthusiasts. Its interior is as capacious for passengers as it is for storage, while its performance has been appropriately upgraded for more ambitious escapades. The era of the old Defender's pastoral existence has given way to an international icon that seamlessly blends precise utility with contemporary British luxury.

Land Rover Defender 130, the most recent and largest iteration of the current Defender series. The cabin presents a familiar environment, complete with compartments, button-tufted accents on door panels, and numerous grip handles. Interestingly, to discern the distinctions, one must exit the vehicle and walk to the rear of the Defender 130. This proves to be quite a stroll, especially on Arabian sands that seem to constantly shift like grains in a massive hourglass.

Typically, when confronting a steep incline, instinct prompts one to reach for the gear shift, depending on well-timed upshifts to maintain optimal engine performance. In the case of the Defender, however, I allow the eight-speed gearbox to assume control. Engaging "Sand" mode, the gearbox sustains revolutions for just the right duration, ensuring a steady delivery of torque to extricate the vehicle from nearly any predicament. Concerns about the Defender's increased size affecting its off-road prowess are swiftly dispelled, even with the shallower departure angle. The new Defender 130 remains faithful to its heritage and, akin to its much-loved predecessor, offers three rows of seats with an exclusive 340 millimeters added to the rear overhang. Although this adjustment slightly disrupts the proportions of the Defender 110, the augmented space serves as a substantial enhancement for this particularly utility-focused Land Rover variant.

As the Middle Eastern sun still looms high, the imposing shadow of the Defender 130 stretches 5.35 meters long. It preserves an impressive design, infusing modern elements into a timeless configuration of rectangles—a design that characterized SUVs from the mid-20th century. The 130 navigates a fine line between commanding and unwieldy, yet ultimately emanates a dignified and dominant aura. These attributes resonate favorably with luxury SUV enthusiasts in both the UAE and India.

Returning to the off-road excursion in the Defender, our convoy recently passed a weathered husk resembling an old Nissan Patrol, charred by fire, offering insight into the extreme temperatures the Defender effectively shields its occupants from. While it may lack the Alcantara-laden embellishments of a Range Rover, the Defender remains an embodiment of luxury. The seemingly daunting endeavor of traversing voracious sand dunes that threaten to engulf the vehicle is transformed into an exhilarating experience. Activating the "Terrain Response System" via the central touchscreen and selecting "Sand" mode sets the stage. Subsequently, the task involves coaxing the Defender's mud-terrain Goodyear Wranglers to gradually navigate their way out of the shifting terrain. At this point, following the guidance of the off-road instructor, one could "drive it like you stole it," translated as flooring the accelerator and allowing the sophisticated all-wheel-drive system to assume control.

Benefiting from the initial momentum that carries it past the crest, the Defender aptly demonstrates that its augmented size does not hinder its ability to tackle challenging terrains. However, in a scenario where I had indeed stolen the vehicle, my progress would have been stymied by an untimely throttle input, causing the Defender to become stuck. Lacking a visible winch or a suitable tree, the two-speed transfer case becomes the solution. Transitioning to four low (4L) and meticulously reversing allows for finding more stable ground, permitting a forceful exit with the same daring energy akin to a Grand Theft Auto scenario. While one must remain conscious of the reduced departure angle when maneuvering over rocks, the height of the 130 is sufficient to navigate uneven landscapes with ease.

Interestingly, the robust rear end of the Defender 130 accommodates a surprisingly spacious third row. This contrasts with many SUVs in the Indian car market, where third rows often accommodate little more than a pair of small dogs. In this instance, three average-sized adults can journey comfortably over longer distances. For those devoted to overlanding, folding the third row provides access to the cavernous 1,232 liters of storage space.

Thankfully, the Defender 130 sidesteps the smaller four-cylinder petrol and diesel options, directly offering the potent straight-six P400 and D300 engines—the former being the petrol variant driven in the desert. Generating 393 bhp and 550 Nm of torque, this engine efficiently propels the two-and-a-half-tonne Defender to triple-digit speeds. The adaptive air suspension not only eases entry and exit but also enhances cornering capabilities, although extreme maneuvers at high speeds are cautioned against. The substantial bulk necessitates prudent management, and the 130 performs better as a controlled, linear force. Nevertheless, the on-road maneuverability, a hallmark of the current Defender generation, remains intact, even while navigating corners.

Land Rover Defender 130:

AVAILABLE MODELS:
DEFENDER 130
D300 AWD AUTOMATIC MHEV and
P400 AWD AUTOMATIC MHEV

ACCELERATION:
6.6(D300); 7.5 (P400)

POWERTRAIN:
3.0-Litre, straight-six petrol/diesel

POWER:
393bhp (P400); 296bhp(D300)

GEARBOX:
8-speed automatic

TORQUE:
55Nm(P400); 650Nm(D300)

Price:
₹1.3 Crore onwards (es-showroom)

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