Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t much care for the looks of the Land Rover Defender 130, describing the stretched 4×4 as “a very odd-looking car” and “not even on nodding terms with the concept of pretty”.
In his review of the eight-seat Land Rover for The Sunday Times Magazine today, the columnist and Clarkson’s Farm star lamented the fact that while the five-metre long Defender offered some useful extra space, the increased distance between the front and rear wheels hadn’t done much for its visual appeal.
Despite those qualms, however, he still found plenty to like about the 3-litre six-cylinder mild-hybrid version of the car he tested.
The Defender 130 drove well, he said, lacking the diagonal pitching he experienced when testing the short-wheelbase Defender 90 model — something he put down to the 130’s air suspension.
He also liked the performance of the petrol engine under the bonnet even if it felt like “conspicuous and unnecessary consumption”. A diesel version would represent a better option, he suggested.
“As it’s not a sports car and you’re never going to drive it like your hair’s on fire, you may as well go for the diesel.
“And if anyone accuses you of using the fuel of Satan, tell them it’s a sort of hybrid and then they’ll have to shut up. Or tell them you voted Labour. Same thing.”
Although he found little to fault the Defender 130’s driving experience, Clarkson was less complimentary about its interior, which he reckons isn’t as pleasant a place to be as that of the Volvo XC90.
The eight-seat model “would be a nine-seater,” he wrote, “if you could specify the front-row jump seat that’s available on other, shorter models, but this would then make it a minibus and you’d have to pass a test in weirdness before being allowed to drive it.”
Helpfully, he sought to clarify that point.
“I’m not saying all minibus drivers are weird. Just most of them.”
The seats are amply spacious enough for eight adults, he said, though he found the middle row of seats so complicated to fold down that he abandoned the task.
With all eight seats in the upright position, Clarkson found the boot too small to accommodate a couple of Labradors — “I know, I tried” — and concluded that like the rest of the current Defender line-up (and most unlike the classic Defender range), that the 130 was unlikely to be much use as a practical workhorse.
“You need to think of it as a rival to the increasingly excellent Volvo XC90. Except for the interior trim.”
“The Volvo feels Swedishly cool and stylish, whereas the Land Rover feels dark and foreboding. And the trim is nowhere near as tactile. Let’s be kind and say they were going for a functional look.”
In the end, Clarkson awarded the Defender 130 a creditable four stars out of five, praising its “smooth and serene” drive, but not being quite so enamoured by its looks, its gloomy interior or the model’s £74,000 starting price.
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