We were looking for a chance to hone our skills and become off-road driving gods. The Land Rover Experience seemed to fit the bill. As my wife, Leeanne, does a lot of remote rural driving – often on roads that only loosely meet the description – she was keen to take the wheel.
We turned up to an array of shiny white Range Rover SEs which I was quite convinced was not an appropriate start to the day. Who drives a white 4x4 off road? Would we do more than bimble down a couple of country lanes?
Apparently the guy in the Maserati had opted to join us via the scenic route - presumably having assumed something similar. Just as we were about to leave in our Range Rover, we caught a glimpse of him arriving at the HQ. His car arrived separately on a tow truck. Apparently Maseratis don’t ford rivers well.
We set off slightly chastened, and eager to try out some of the features. Apparently we were driving pretty standard models apart from the off-road driving pack. The fording question was answered pretty quickly – and we didn’t end up stuck like a Maserati. Wade sensing was interesting. You press the button and launch yourself into the water. Sensors on wing mirrors show you how deep you are – and tell you how much deeper you can safely wade. It makes the experience slightly less unnerving (although not much – it’s not something I’d usually do). Leeanne was having a whale of a time though.
We spent the whole day in low ratio gear box chugging up and down 1:4 hills. Land Rover is rightly proud of its Hill Start Assist (which is automatic) and Low Traction Launch capabilities (which was engaged with the flick of a button). They allowed us to move over glistening mud in complete control.
One of the important lessons of the day was that you can go absolutely anywhere if you take it at the correct speed. It was salutary that even in these maximally controlled vehicles (with both gradient release and gradient acceleration control) you still need to accept that you can’t just bowl along at the speed limit in poor weather. Forget following far inferior vehicles launching themselves at 30mph on snow and ice – drive to the conditions and knock the speed back.
At the end of the day, the off-road experience was about learning to use the tools the Range Rover has to offer. Those skills aren’t going to help a Maserati get up a muddy bank – no matter how much momentum you have. The real lesson was that the tools the Range Rover puts at your disposal are pretty impressive.
We’ve done a few track days and I’ve not seen Leanne quite as excited as after the experience. Possibly because these are things she actually has to contend with in her daily driving (unlike flooring a super car on a straight!). She’s due a new car and she immediately put her name down for an Evoque. We get snowed in even when the rest of the valley is snow free so a 4x4 in the household is pretty much mandatory. Plus for her, the confidence that she won’t be getting stuck on farm tracks in the middle of nowhere takes the stress out of a lot of her driving.
We loved the day out - although I did come away feeling that somehow it was a marketing exercise dressed as a learning experience. It certainly worked though.
by James Cartwright at 29 Jan 2018, 00:00 AM