The journey of the first Land Rover began in the years following the end of World War II, thanks to Maurice Wilkes, chairman and chief engineer of the Rover Company. Inspired by the U.S.-produced Willys Jeep, Wilkes envisioned a British version that could tackle the tough countryside of rural United Kingdom. He designed a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a steel frame and aluminum body, making it strong, agile, and resilient to the elements. In essence, a machine that could “rove the land.”
In the spring of 1948, the first-ever Land Rover was showcased at the Amsterdam Motor Show, and production of 8,000 units soon followed, with the British Army among the first customers. Today, Land Rover is renowned for producing some of the finest all-wheel-drive vehicles in the market.
The most recent iteration of the Defender was released in 2020, boasting an entirely new exterior and interior design, as well as two body options: the four-door 110 and the two-door 90. In 2023, the all-new Land Rover Defender 130, proudly the largest in the fleet, was introduced, featuring three rows of seats and an array of exceptional capabilities. It competes directly with the BMW X7, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and the Mercedes-Benz GLS.
Our own journey with the Defender 130 began with Economy Middle East recently taking part in a global media drive, where we had the unique opportunity to experience this spectacular vehicle in all its glory across multiple terrains. The trek began at the beautifully revamped Bab Al Shams Hotel, now part of Kerzner. Land Rover had cleverly chosen the desert retreat, which blended in perfectly with the Defender’s DNA, as the backdrop for the drive. After an intricate early morning coffee workshop, we settled into the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 First Edition, ready to take on the mighty Dubai Desert.
Engine and Trim
The brand-new Defender 130 offers five trim levels, starting with the S, SE, X-Dynamic SE, First Edition, and X. In the GCC range, there are two engine options: the P300, which packs 296 horsepower, and the P400, with 395 horsepower. Both feature an imminently capable turbo-boosted inline six-cylinder 3.0-liter engine that comes with an electrically driven supercharger. The eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox is equally impressive on both smooth tarmac and off-road terrain. With performance figures of around 6.6 seconds for 0 to 100 km/h and a top end of 191 km/h, the Defender 130 is certainly no slouch.
Additionally, there are four accessory packs to choose from: Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban, each with its unique design.
The Defender 130 offers a range of terrain response settings, including Comfort, Gravel & Grass, Snow, Mud, Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. It also features a Wade Mode, which allows the vehicle to submerge in water for up to 88 cm.
During our test drive in the Dubai Desert, we were particularly impressed with the Sand Terrain response setting. The Land Rover team intentionally neglected to deflate the tires, even in deep soft sand, to demonstrate the Defender’s capabilities. As the day went on, we discovered that the Land Rover wanted us to get stuck, so that we could experience how easy it was to maneuver out of it, thanks to the Defender 130’s advanced abilities. We can confirm that this strategy worked, as even when this Economy Middle East journalist managed to beach the 130 twice, we were able to get it out effortlessly without breaking a sweat.
The Defender 130 stays true to Land Rover’s DNA of being strong, agile, and balanced whether navigating steep sand dunes or cruising on smooth motorway tarmac. The P400 engine works seamlessly with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, providing ample power when required, while the Terrain Response modes continually impress.
In terms of creature comforts, the interior is exquisitely designed with premium materials and cutting-edge technology that closely resemble the Defender’s more luxurious cousin. We are confident that Maurice Wilkes would have approved of the Defender 130 as it remains faithful to his original vision while incorporating modern-day advancements.
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