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2023 Review of Land Rover Defender: Can Be Tested On Any Rough Road

This is the critique of the 2023 Land Rover Defender, which seamlessly combines its off-road prowess with on-road abilities, while maintaining its strong presence in practically any scenario. The Defender, an SUV oriented toward off-road capabilities, exhibits impressive performance on the road as well. Compare it with the less luxurious Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco and even consider the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The Defender effectively merges old and new.

By blending its off-road capabilities with chunky, distinct design and satisfactory on-road comfort, the Land Rover Defender has positioned itself as a sophisticated plaything for adults. In 2023, the Defender lineup expands in size with the introduction of a long-wheelbase model with three rows of seats, known as 130. Other than that, the two-door 90 and the middle-child 110 receive a standard 11.4-inch touchscreen and witness a few adjustments to their optional packages.

Unlike the Ford Bronco, the 2023 Land Rover Defender might not provide as much fun or a distinct retro vibe, but it pays homage to the brand’s legacy without any artifice. The Defender is available in small (90), medium (110), and large (130) variants, though these numbers do not correspond to their wheelbases. In fact, the 110 and 130 share a wheelbase of 110.9 inches. All these variants sport similar appearances, including a square front end with rectangular headlights that enclose a circular element. The checkered design on the hood seems like it would offer excellent grip, but in reality, it is made of plastic and has a strictly functional purpose of “no-step.” Land Rover provides a wide range of paint colors, including contrasting roof panels, and an extensive selection of wheels. Carefully choose to acquire the most impressive Defender in your neighborhood.

The 2023 Land Rover Defender, being a robust off-roader, is also comfortable enough for long journeys. The Defender justifies its substantial price tag when you take into consideration its diverse capabilities. It retains its trademark of a smooth ride and remarkable off-road capabilities. Naturally, Land Rover equips it with a low range and a variety of off-road modes. Customers will have to pay extra for rugged tires, an air suspension that enhances ground clearance, a locking rear differential, additional traction control modes, and the manufacturer’s off-road cruise control-like system, which operates at extremely low speeds when encountering extremely rough terrain.

The base models, equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, deliver 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque to the wheels, enabling a leisurely 7.7-second acceleration to 60 mph. These 4-cylinder models are satisfactory in urban settings but may struggle with a full load. They serve as a compelling selling point for the turbocharged inline-6 engine. This engine generates 395 hp and 406 lb-ft, along with a mild-hybrid system that ensures minimal lag. These models are notably swift and also refined. The 8-speed automatic transmission performs admirably, with prompt downshifts and seamless upshifts. The V8 Defender is equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine, which employs a supercharger to produce over 500 hp, thus making it the fastest Defender. The Defender has a towing capacity of up to 8,200 pounds.
Defenders exhibit robust steering feel and a firm yet pleasant ride. Thanks to the fully independent suspension, there is no swaying from side to side, a phenomenon that can be experienced in vehicles equipped with solid axles. The standard coil springs ensure a comfortable ride and are likely to be durable, although the optional air suspension lowers the Defender for easier entry and exit, and then elevates it for up to 11.5 inches of ground clearance. While these independent corners may not offer as much suspension travel as solid axles, Land Rover’s innovative traction control mitigates the possibility that one or two wheels may be dangling in the air over larger obstacles.

With the 6-cylinder engine, the Defender 90 can be relatively economical for a box-like vehicle. Overall, it is not a fuel-efficient choice. The mid-level turbo-6 is rated at 18 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined in 90 and 110 body styles (the 130 achieves 19 mpg combined). The base 4-cylinder lacks the 6’s mild-hybrid technology and has a rating of 18/21/19 mpg, or 18 mpg combined in 110 form. The powerful supercharged V-8, offered on the Defender 90 and 110, consumes a considerable amount of fuel, achieving just 16 mpg combined. All Defenders require premium unleaded gasoline.

The 2023 Land Rover Defender comes equipped with various advanced driver-assistance technologies, although it has not been assessed by the IIHS or the NHTSA. Given its relatively low sales volume in comparison to, for example, the Ford Explorer, it is possible that the 2023 Defender may never undergo official evaluation. Nevertheless, it is equipped with a comprehensive array of safety technologies, including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, parking sensors, and a surround-view camera system, while adaptive cruise control is readily available.

Despite its wash-out floors, the 2023 Land Rover Defender exudes a luxurious ambiance within. It is reminiscent of a sophisticated Lego set, featuring numerous storage compartments and panels. While cloth upholstery comes as standard, the majority of vehicles will be equipped with full or partial leather. Synthetic leather is a new option worth considering for those intending to make the most of their Defender. The materials used in the Defender are of exceptional quality, even with the rubber floors and cloth seats that come as standard in the most economical versions. High-end models, featuring premium leather and open-pore wood, exude a sense of luxury akin to that of an older Range Rover. The Defender’s interior is delightful, providing excellent comfort for occupants in the first two rows, along with a spacious cargo area.

Although Land Rover has phased out the option of a three-across front row, this interior brims with character. Front-seat occupants are provided with well-cushioned seats that come with standard power adjustment. Passengers in the rear seats of four-door models benefit from good access to a bench with ample legroom. However, the 5+2 third row, which is available on the Defender 110, is not particularly worthwhile. It is advisable to opt for the Defender 130, which is equipped with three seatbelts and offers adequate third-row space for children or smaller adults.

Cargo space varies based on the variant. The Defender 90s provide a modest 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, whereas the 110 offers an expansion to 34.0 cubic feet. The Defender 130 only exposes 13.7 cubic feet behind the third row, but this space can be increased to a substantial 43.5 cubic feet when the third row is stowed away. The maximum cargo capacity ranges from 58.3 cubic feet in the 90 and 79 cubic feet in the 110 to nearly 81 cubic feet in the 130.

The 2023 Land Rover Defender can be customized to cater to a diverse range of preferences and requirements, but it comes with a premium price tag. Land Rover now offers three Defender body styles, each with a wide array of available features and powertrains, along with generous standard equipment, a large and sophisticated touchscreen infotainment system, and an extensive selection of options. A 4-year/50,000-mile warranty is standard within the luxury segment, although it does not include complimentary maintenance.

Commence your search for a Defender by narrowing down the lineup, which includes 18 basic models, based on the number of doors and seats you desire. Surprisingly, the most inexpensive model is the middle child, a Defender 110 in the base S trim, equipped with 18-inch steel wheels, cloth seats with power adjustment for the front, a 10.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and a surround-view camera system, all for $54,975.

While the concept of the base model with its back-to-basics appearance, complete with steel wheels, is appealing, the mid-level S trim opens up further possibilities and is available in all three body styles. The S variant adds 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, and a Meridian-branded audio system. Prices stand at $56,575 for the short-wheelbase Defender 90, $59,475 for the Defender 110, and $69,475 for the substantial 130 version.

A modestly-equipped Defender 110 base model serves as an excellent foundation for off-road enthusiasts. By introducing features such as adaptive cruise control, a locking rear differential, the air suspension, and a package containing Terrain Response 2, it is possible to nudge the price to $60,075. To unleash further performance, stepping up to the SE trim and opting for the 6-cylinder would be necessary. The Defender 90 SE begins at $70,775 and allows for the inclusion of cooled seats, wood trim, a mini fridge, and several other luxurious features.

While the Defender 130 may be equipped in a trim costing over $100,000, with upgraded leather, 20-inch wheels, and numerous additional features, the most expensive version is the V-8-powered 110 Carpathian Edition, priced at approximately $120,000.

The Land Rover Defender was faced with filling some very large shoes. By transitioning from a utilitarian body-on-frame to a much more refined unibody design, Land Rover has incorporated modern-day comfort while still retaining its off-road capabilities. Additionally, by migrating to a new platform, Land Rover was able to integrate all the modern technological enhancements we have grown accustomed to. Ultimately, the 2023 Land Rover Defender lives up to its nameplate, and even exceeds expectations. It performs admirably.

Image Source: North Monaco / Shutterstock

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