The 2023 Defender 130 surfs the dunes

“Simply preserve your foot in it and also you’ll be nice.” That’s the very first thing I inform my drive companion as we head into the dunes in Dubai. She’s behind the wheel of the extra-long 2023 Land Rover Defender 130 whereas I’m driving shotgun. Earlier than us are miles of steep dunes undulating just like the close by Persian Gulf.

“It doesn’t matter what occurs, don’t raise your foot off the gasoline till I let you know.” 

My driving companion, let’s name her Melissa, provides me a nervous look, however places the large SUV in gear, takes a deep breath, and goes for it.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130 dune self-discipline

Driving within the dunes is all about dedication, or  “driving with ardour” as our Land Rover guides say. It’s important to keep on the throttle to take care of momentum, particularly when piloting a automobile that’s greater than 17 toes lengthy with room for eight and weighs in extra of 5,700 kilos. Just about anybody can get a tiny side-by-side by way of the dunes. A full-size SUV? Not a lot.

I’ve pushed inventory automobiles by way of dunes in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, California, and Nevada, however I’ve by no means coached a beginner earlier than. Land Rover makes instructing simpler with a drive mode only for sand, full-time all-wheel drive with robotically participating middle and rear differential lockers, and an air suspension to convey floor clearance as much as 11.5 inches. 

For this journey, our Defender 130 is outfitted with the P400 powertrain, which groups a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with a mild-hybrid system to make 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed computerized places that energy all the way down to the sand by way of 32-inch Goodyear Duratrac tires. 

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

As Melissa heads up the sandy slope, I can really feel the traction management begin to kick in a bit. “Oh crap,” I feel. “We’re nonetheless in Auto mode.” Positive, Auto mode will reply to the terrain and act accordingly, but it surely’s positively not as forgiving as Sand mode. Land Rover hasn’t allow us to air down the tires but both, so we’ve a smaller contact patch on the sand and fewer flotation. However we’re in the course of it now and it’s not like we are able to cease and alter modes. Melissa simply has to do it.

“Throttle! Throttle! Go! Go! Go! You bought it,” I yell as Melissa stays steadfastly on objective, her eyes mounted on the place she desires to go. It wasn’t the prettiest ascent these dunes have ever seen, however she’s conquered her first sand hill.

She appears over at me with a triumphant smile. “That is going to be enjoyable.”

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

Going large within the 2023 Land Rover Defender 130

As soon as we air down the tires from about 39 to 25 psi and change to Sand mode, which retains the revs excessive and cuts the traction management nannies, Melissa is confidently piloting the Defender up and over some medium-sized dunes whereas quite a few folks behind us are getting caught. This provides us loads of alternative to follow stopping and beginning on the delicate sand. It might sound straightforward however stopping too rapidly will dig within the entrance tires and also you’ll get caught. Mashing the throttle from a useless cease will bury you as properly. 

Then I get the possibility to teach her up some greater dunes, the place throttle management is vital.

“It’s important to carry sufficient velocity to make it up the dune, however on the high you need to raise at simply the correct second. Too quickly and also you’ll lose momentum and get caught. Too late and also you’ll launch your self over the dune.” 

This gal’s obtained it. She heads up the dune with loads of velocity, the turbo-6 offering greater than sufficient grunt. Simply as we crest the highest she instances the throttle launch and we coast over the previous couple of toes, retaining all 4 wheels on the bottom.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

She does get caught as soon as, nonetheless, and it’s straightforward to do in an extended automobile just like the Defender 130. The wheelbase would be the similar because the Defender 110’s, however its rear overhang is far, for much longer. All the further 13.3 inches of size versus the 110 is carried on the rear, bringing the full size to greater than 200 inches. The departure angle right here is 28.5 levels with the air suspension within the highest setting. In the meantime, the 110 and 90 sit at a significantly better 40.0 levels.

Which means that the rear can drag coming off a steep slope, and that’s simply what occurs. It’s delicate sand so you possibly can energy by way of it simply, however the sand on the backside of the hill is chewed up and Melissa doesn’t have sufficient momentum to energy by way of. No worries although. A fast yank with a kinetic rope and we’re out and transferring once more.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

When it’s my flip to drive I’m a bit extra aggressive. I crab stroll alongside the facet of a dune, flinging sand from all 4 wheels. I take the very best line I can throughout the face of one other dune, simply to indicate off. I’m capable of level out to Melissa hazards like witches’ eyes, little sand bowls that may be laborious to see that can finish your day in the event you drive into one. We additionally chat about wanting a number of dunes forward to chart your path, browsing the tops of the dunes as a lot as attainable. Whereas the others are digging out within the scorching Dubai solar, Melissa and I are having a good time in cooled-seat consolation, singing alongside to dangerous ’80s music.

In fact, I can’t let my time within the three-row Defender go by with out sampling that final row. It’s really not too shabby. At 5-foot-9, my knees increase a bit of excessive and my butt sits a bit of low, however the 31.7 inches of legroom could be loads on shorter journeys. Hip and shoulder room are a bit of tight for 3 full-sized people again there, however children ought to be simply nice.

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

2023 Land Rover Defender 130

I really like that the Defender is primed for lengthy trekking with the aptitude to hold a veritable butt load of payload. You may shove greater than 1,700 kilos of drugs and other people on this factor and might carry 370 kilos on the roof whereas the rig is transferring. Mix that dynamic score with a static roof load score of 661 kilos and that’s greater than sufficient for a roof high tent for 2.

Though I at all times want smaller rigs for off-roading, I can’t deny the Defender 130’s dune driving chops. It makes it straightforward for a beginner to be taught and permits me to have some enjoyable as properly. In fact, you’ll pay for the privilege. The SE trims we drove begin at just below $80,000 together with $1,475 for vacation spot, however the high Defender 130 X trim simply squeaks its means into six figures.

That’s loads of cashola for positive, however have a look at what else is on the market. Apart from Land Rover’s different three-row Vary Rover and Discovery, solely the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer can come near matching the Defender’s off-road prowess. I imply, are you going to take your Cadillac Escalade into the wild? Have enjoyable with that.

When you’ve by no means pushed within the dunes earlier than, don’t freak out. Sure, it may be scary however the one two issues it’s essential to keep in mind are to air down and drive with ardour. An excellent Sand mode helps, too.

Land Rover paid for lodging and airfare for Motor Authority to current this firsthand report. 

—by Emme Corridor


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