Less is more


Latest Posts
16 April 2024
Van panels, but also side windows. Sound familiar? That’s because it is… : credit: © JLR
Martin Domoney tests the Defender 130 Outbound in Somerset… Could this be the model that appeals to traditionalists?

You remember when the new Defender was launched in 2019, and some people said they didn’t like it until they saw it in person? We’ve just done a similar thing with the latest model to the range. A press release came through in mid-2023 telling us about the V8-engined Defender 130 – not a major news story as it was just following the lead of the 90 and 110 – and the 130 Outbound.

Pictures accompanying the press release showed a grey 130 adorned with some of the accessories from the company’s range; it just looked like, dare we say it, a tarted-up 130. But now we’ve seen it in the flesh, we can see exactly what it is – and we wholeheartedly approve.

Distinctive blank rear panel marks out the Outbound

Think back to the introduction of the TDCi Defender in 2007. The big story, apart from the lack of bulkhead vents and a functional heater, was the introduction of the Utility Wagon as a mainstream offering. It had been available before, but this was the first time it wasn’t a special-order build.

The 130 Outbound is the Defender L663’s equivalent of the Utility Wagon; five seats in the front, large cargo area and plain sides on the rear flanks. It’s not easy to see that the sides aren’t tinted windows on the black models, but it will be more obvious on other colours – albeit it is only available in monochromatic shades from black to white, and protective satin film can be specified.

Boot is huge withseats folded – thefact they don’t go flat is annoying, though

These side panels make the rear end van-like and allow you to load up the interior without the worry of damaging window glass or the interior trim. In Land Rover speak, the interior design will probably be described as ‘reductive’ but in reality, it’s functional, with chequerplate finishing on the surfaces, rather than the carpet that we’ve become used to on the new models. There are also no seats in the rearmost area, which at least gives a flat area in the boot, rather than the eight-seater’s rather clumsy semi-folded arrangement, increasing the load area capacity by almost 100 litres. The second row seats still don’t fold fully flat, though.

The flat area is a useful 1267mm long – about the same length as the load area on a classic 110 Utility Wagon, but a lot wider – and the back of the seats have that aforementioned chequerplate protection.

Off-road angles and vehicle dimensions pop up at a touch of the screen

​​​​​​The durable theme continues into the cabin with Ebony Windsor leather and Robustec seats. Robustec, as its name suggests, is a robust abrasion-resistant and hard-wearing fabric inspired by work gloves and patches on motorbike jackets, which should keep the interior looking fresh for years – and is certainly in keeping with the rest of the vehicle.

The dash hasn’t changed much – unlike most of the other 24MY models, the Defender keeps a pair of dials below the touchscreen, which default to front climate control, but can also be used to adjust seat heating and cooling, where fitted, fan speed and Terrain Response settings. There’s a volume control for the radio, and the pistol gear lever allows you to select and hold gears in Sport mode – handy when off-roading as well as bustling along A-roads.

Chequerplate wing tops look less in-your-face against darker hues

The only other change is a button on the steering wheel to the right of the menu navigation buttons (on right-hand drive vehicles) to adjust Driver Assistance Mode. Regulations are coming in that force car makers to fit technology like Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Speed Limit Warning and Speed Limit Notification to vehicles. Although Land Rovers have had this kit for a few years now, you could go into the vehicle set-up to disable it permanently if you didn’t want it. The new regs say that it must reset to be active each time you start the engine – and rather than forcing you to have to go into settings to switch off features if you don’t want them active, you can toggle through three modes to personalise it: High, where all features are active; Custom, which you can choose and store in set-up to recall, and Low, where only Forward Collision Warning is enabled.

A/Ts as standard

Outside, the Outbound is fitted with 255/60 R20 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tyres on tough-looking black Style 5095 wheels – a £255 upgrade over the standard all-season rubber, but probably more suited to what the vehicle is likely to do.

Talking of prices, the starting price of the 130 Outbound is £81,285, some £2400 more expensive than the cheapest D300 Defender 130 (the X-Dynamic SE). We appreciate that there will be trim differences, but you’re paying more for less glass and fewer seats. And you don’t want to compare it to the outgoing price of the classic Defender XS Utility Wagon in 2015 – that was a veritable bargain at £32,405. But these are completely different beasts.

Splashing though the snow... er, rain actually

We’re driving it in Somerset in what many would describe as rain of biblical proportions. It’s been lashing down overnight and staff in the area are calling in to say they’re unable to get to work because of flooding. We’ve a route punched into the sat nav to our lunchtime destination, private woodland in the Brendon Hills and it is going to have its work cut-out getting us there. We’ve already dodged around several small pools that have started to form on the roadsides by the time we hit the busy A303 and built up the speed.

With fewer than 1000 miles of wear on the tyres, they’ve all the meat they need to shed the surface water, but our eyes are fixed firmly on the roads, especially into the hollows, where water is pooling, and a significant reduction in speed is required. Traffic flow in the opposite direction has dwindled to a trickle and it’s not long before we find out why. The opposite carriageway has floodwater across its width and car drivers are tiptoeing through, holding up lorries and 4x4s which are better equipped to cope with the conditions. Luckily our carriageway is higher and apart from a bit of side-wash, with water cascading over the roof, it’s clear.

For something so big, the 130 is impressively nimble on the road

​​​​​​We splash through the busy streets of Taunton – it’s staying dry inside, something that might not have been the case with the classic Utility Wagon, and despite the Defender’s size, it doesn’t feel too large.

Another flooded section welcomes us as we leave the town and while hatchbacks are edging through it, we can travel a little quicker, but still at a speed to avoid splashing vehicles travelling the opposite direction – and yes, we are conscious that manholes may have been lifted by the water.

Content continues after advertisements

The automatic wipers are working furiously to keep the screen clean, and it’s even dull enough to switch the automatic headlights on – they project a weird yellow glow through the muddy water as we splash through it.

Water tumbles off the fields at every opportunity, turning the roads into a reddy-brown river, but the Land Rover feels composed. I’ve selected Sport on the gear selector, which is normally used for spirited driving along lanes, but I’m using it for the times when I have to anchor-up and then pull away again – it selects gear that much quicker.

Hill Descent Control works well

We arrive at the start of the track hugging the side of the hill which will take us to lunch. It has a firm base, but chocolatey water runs down it carrying mud with it. With a very steep drop-off to the side, we don’t want to be sliding around, so select low-range and Mud and Ruts. This raises the suspension and activates Hill Descent Control (HDC) the speed of which can be adjusted using the cruise control button on the steering wheel. Liking to be in control, I also select first gear on some of the steeper sections – HDC would do the job, but old habits die hard.

This test car is fitted with All-Terrain Progress Control – off-road cruise-control – as an option. If I was a novice, I could use it to maintain progress along the track, but my experience allows me to feather the throttle pedal, backing off when approaching wash-outs and bumps. Driving like this is more comfortable and means you’re not forcing the air suspension to work too hard to absorb hard knocks.

Latest Defender’s array of traction aids make light work of slippery mud and ruts

As the rain falls, it’s getting softer under wheel and the Land Rover’s control systems are working hard to keep the Defender steady. After a spot of lunch – fortunately in a tent – we’re back down the hill, and the relentless rain starts to break and we can see just how steep the hillside is as we look out over the Severn Estuary towards Wales.

Careful placing of the tyres takes us around a couple of obstacles – the cameras help in this respect – and the 130’s length doesn’t cause a problem, even on the tightest hairpins, though I do have to take a shunt on a couple when I get the line wrong. Despite being bigger, the 130’s turning circle is better than the classic Defender 110’s so I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get that round in one…

All-Terrain Progress Control makes off-road driving second nature

A very long, very steep descent with a vicious hairpin halfway doesn’t faze the Defender and we’re back onto tarmac to make our way back to base.

Water is still gushing across roads and as we cross the Somerset Levels, we encounter flood after flood. A hatchback leads the group of vehicles we’re in, nervously approaching each puddle before pulling up short of a longer one. One of the other Defender drivers pulls in front and offers to test the water depth; the hatchback follows and gets safely through.

You’ll have to go a lot deeper than this to trouble the 900mm wading depth limit

A little further on a police van approaches with blue lights flashing and down the road we find a ‘Road closed’ sign preventing vehicles from driving the stretch of road that we have just driven – we must have been the last ones through.

With a wading depth of 900mm, we reason that we’ll be okay, providing we can see the verges to the side of the road. But we do get caught out by a flood on the inside of a corner, which is a touch deeper than we anticipated, sending water raining over the roof.

Gray skies don’t dull the Outbound’s good looks or capability

Arriving back at our base, the Defender has done what it needs to. Road conditions have been atrocious, but the Land Rover has shrugged them off. And it has proved its mettle on the soaking woodland tracks. Best of all, we’ve stayed dry inside.

The 130 Outbound is a very competent vehicle and is probably the Defender that most ‘traditional’ enthusiasts would take to out of the current range – its five seats, rugged trim and voluminous load area make it a winner – and we’re bound to see many more of them on the UK’s roads, come rain or shine.



Defender 130 Outbound

• Price as tested: £96,745
• Engine: 2997cc twin-turbocharged straight-six diesel MHEV
• Power: 296bhp (300PS) @ 4000rpm
• Torque: 479lb-ft (650Nm) @1500-2500rpm
• Transmission: 8-speed automatic, 2-speed transfer ’box
• Fuel consumption: Up to 32.1mpg (quoted)
• Max speed: 119mph
• 0-60mph: 7.1secs
• Wheelbase: 3022mm (119in)
• Length: 5358mm (inc spare wheel)
• Width: 2105mm (mirrors out)
• Height: 1970mm
• Weight: 2586kg kerb, 3380kg GVW
• Loadspace behind rear seats: 1329 litres
• Maximum dynamic roof load: 100kg (168kg with off-road tyres)
• Ground clearance: 218.5mm (290mm off-road height)
• Wading depth: 900mm
• Turning circle: 12.84m (kerb-to-kerb)
• Towing capacity: 3000kg


Like to have your own Land Rover library?

Try our All-Access Digital Subscription. You'll get access to over 7 years of Land Rover Monthly – that’s more than 100 issues plus the latest digital issue. All issues are fully searchable so you can easily find what you are looking for and what’s more it’s less than 10p a day to subscribe. Click the link above to find out more details and start enjoying all the benefits now.