Land Rover Defender 130 Outbound Road Test: Atmospheric river survival machine

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NEWBURY PARK, Calif. – If there’s going to be a week to find yourself with a Land Rover Defender 130 Outbound, it’s the one where an historic atmospheric river dumps a staggering amount of rain. Not that you should drive through torrents of rushing water, but if anything is up for the task of literally keeping you high and dry, it’s this most up-for-anything version of the Defender.

Now, the 130 was effectively created to be the family-friendly version of the 2024 Land Rover Defender with 13.5 inches of extra length tacked on behind the rear axle to create enough room for an actually habitable third-row seat. The Outbound’s primary claim to fame is that it ditches that third row and instead takes full advantage of all that extra length to create the most voluminous cargo area possible. Seriously, the cargo area is almost 4 feet long. I had to climb all the way in just to secure the rear LATCH anchor on my son’s car seat. Total capacity is 46.9 cubic feet, up from 43.5 in the three-row 130 and 34 in the Defender 110. And no, I didn’t do a luggage test. It would be pointless. The 110 needed extra stuff beyond the usual six bags to fill up the cargo area; I’m honestly not sure what else I could haul out to satisfy the Outbound’s appetite. 

Because the Outbound’s a bit of a bootleg creation, the air vents, storage bins, glass roof panel and rear side glass that would normally serve those in the third row are still there. Now, you can’t see that side glass from outside, but you can from inside, complete with the defrosting heating element – the body panel you see from the outside is just a painted panel placed over it. The fold-down ladder and storage box you see in the photos here are accessories available on every Defender, though they make those painted panels look more purposeful. The ladder is neatly engineered, and I know it would be a great help with roof loading, but you’d have to ask someone else what the storage box is for. My best guess of “poopy diapers” probably isn’t right. Both are bad news for aerodynamics and wind noise.

Speaking of noise, the Outbound also gets all-terrain tires around black 20-inch wheels. I wouldn’t call them booming, but this is a less refined Defender to be sure. The usual buttery-smooth ride quality gets a dose of impact harshness as well due to that extra-rigid rubber.

There’s another issue with that fat spare. As you might’ve noticed from the photos above as well as the gallery below, I plugged my Yakima StageTwo E-Bike rack into the hitch receiver included in the $1,850 Towing Pack 2. While the rack was installed without issue, the giant off-road tire sticks out far enough that there was no way to avoid my Gazelle’s pedal from resting against the wheel. That seemed like bad news for the bike and the wheel, so I had to go against Yakima’s instructions and place the bike on the outer platform. It also meant I had to bolt on that outer platform, which I really didn’t want to do. This inconvenience for me could be a deal breaker for others, though, since it basically means I can only carry one bike or need to remove the pedal. I was also unable to secure the rack in its upward position when not in use, meaning I had to drive around (and park) with an extra 2 feet hanging off the already extended-length Defender. Not ideal. I’m curious to know how the 130’s standard 19-inch wheel/tire package might change the situation, because we’re only talking about a centimeter or two here in regards to the pedal situation. You definitely wouldn’t want the tire cover, though, and I’m not sure a rack could ever fold up. 

Nevertheless, I could still use the rack, and the ability to lower the air suspension with the push of a button in the cargo area is a real back-saver given the Gazelle weighs over 50 pounds. And I must say, how perfect is the combination of car, bike and rack, here? The 130’s matte Eiger Grey paint is a perfect match for my Gazelle, while the gloss black trim matches the Yakima StageTwo. It really did look like I went out of my way to coordinate it all. By the way, that paint is effectively a $5,155 option due to the “satin protective film” necessary to protect the delicate matte paint from off-road injury. Every Outbound gets the unique “Shadow Atlas Matte” finish on its bumpers, grille insert and wheels, while the side vent is finished in Anthracite.

The Outbound’s interior, apart from the absent third row, is nothing special compared to other 130s although your customization choices are limited. On top of a reduced number of exterior paints, a black interior is obligatory. Standard is a combination of leather and heavier-duty “Robustec” textile ringing the seats outer portions and center console, which together manage to pull off the dual purpose of looking like it belongs in a luxury vehicle, while also seeming likely to hold up to more rigorous use. Think a high-end hiking jacket. You can also swap the standard leather for fancier “Windsor” leather, that I just assume came from cows tended to by Prince William.

Also standard is the 11.4-inch PiviPro upgrade touchscreen (a 10-inch screen is standard on lower trim levels), which is probably the first JLR infotainment system I can recall that does its job without delay, hiccup or causing me to pull my hair out with frustration. The rest of the cabin is spot-on aesthetically and functionally. I just love the dash shelves and the center console’s versatility, although I’m not sure how much I’d use the test truck’s refrigerator compartment and wonder why the same options pack that includes it also adds “Twin Front Cupholders with Cover.” Are you paying for the cupholders? The cover? I mean, I like the cover. It’s a sturdy piece that hides away in the storage area below, and I used it for my phone since the wireless charger was roasting it (some ventilation would be nice), but pay extra? 

Anyway. As with every Defender, the Outbound has a height-adjustable air suspension that lets you lower it when parked for easy bike mounting or hoisting your kid into their child seat. You can also raise it when off-roading, overlanding, fording a stream, impressing your friends or looking extra-awesome in pictures on Autoblog. Unfortunately, I only managed to do the latter since my typical off-roading spot was a muddy mess and fording a stream seemed like, well, I already mentioned the atmospheric river. Does “flash flood” mean anything to you? Just because the 130 Outbound seemed like the perfect vehicle, doesn’t mean I was going to test that theory.

And really, the important thing here is that I could do all that stuff, and isn’t that what a bad-ass SUV like this is ultimately for? It’s as much about potential as action. I’m sure dedicated off-roaders will be quite pleased, but much like a sports car and its track-going capability, you don’t have to fully need or routinely use those capabilities to want one. Personally, I dig the Outbound’s look, especially the body-colored panels covering the rear side windows.

And you’ll need to as well, since that’s basically the only thing, along with the exterior trim, that’s unique to the Outbound besides the yanked-out seat. You can’t exactly create your own three-row Outbound using the options list, but you can get into the ballpark and save some money. The Outbound starts at $85,975, including the $1,475 destination charge. That’s $3,200 more than the otherwise similarly equipped 130 X-Dynamic SE. You can add all-terrains onto that for $350, plus all the other options affixed to this particular Outbound, including the exterior accessories, Towing Pack and Off-Road Pack (electronic active diff, brake-based torque vectoring and a house-style electrical plug) that really should be standard on the overlanding special. Oh, and should you be wondering, the Outbound is only available with the 130’s standard mild-hybrid inline-six. The Defender’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 option is exclusive to the aptly named “V8” trim level.

So, Overlanders probably will appreciate those extra few cubes of cargo space – I know Lexus found that overlanders had a tendency to yank out the GX’s third row – but for everyone else? You’re paying for someone not to install a third row, pop in a different load floor, attach body-colored window coverings and apply some exterior trim no one will notice. There’s also exclusivity, but it’s not like there’s a special badge or anything. So yeah, the 130 Outbound is very cool, but then so is every Defender.

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