I admit I’ve been on an off-roading spree of late. One that started with the previous Land Rover Experience drive earlier this year, our very own CarWale Off-Roading day, Ford’s Off-Roading Experience in the Philippines last month, and now this. It feels like ‘Deja-vu’ as I drive into 91 degrees north at Amby Valley. Popped my collar, rolled up my sleeves and naively didn’t expect fireworks. I was so wrong!
Before I get to that, let me elaborate on the Land Rover ‘Experience’ drive. These off-roading exercises are conducted so that owners get a glimpse of what the brand packs into these vehicles. Capability of munching extreme terrain in their stride while helping owners make most of their Land Rovers without having them to struggle behind the wheel.
Land Rover proudly admits that all this is possible thanks to their very own ‘Terrain Response System’. It allows the user to select from a few modes depending on the off-road terrain like General, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud and Ruts, and Sand mode. And if this weren’t enough, we also had an instructor sitting next to us for special inputs to get us across the terrain.
We set off on to the track laid out at the venue, and I immediately notice that it was much more treacherous than the previous instance. It looked so challenging with the unending enormous boulders, trenches, ascents and descents. Forget driving, I couldn’t think of treading or even taking a bicycle through such terrain. However, we slotted into the Grass-Gravel-Snow mode and nudged ahead after reducing the Hill Descent Control speeds to a minimum.
In this mode, the vehicle behaves smoothly as the gearbox manages low engine revs while the throttle has a soft response. Dynamic stability control kicks-in to avoid the tyres from slipping, and hill descent control is automatically engaged to ensure progress is steady. Like Land Rover says, “As slow as possible, as fast as necessary”, we crawled over the dirt like an insect.
We slowly manoeuvred through the terrain, going wide on tight bends so that the rear didn’t get caught up. With both feet flat on the floor, we only braked to keep speeds to a bare minimum so that the suspension-play, while bouncing over a bigger rocks, wouldn’t let the car’s belly to scrape.
In fact, I wondered how we kept evading such huge rocks. Eventually, it struck me that the vehicle’s geometry, with the 212mm of ground clearance along with the aggressive approach, break-over, and departure angles allowed for obstacles and challenges be conquered.
With a river crossing coming up ahead, we had to slot into Mud and Ruts mode. The need for slow and constant progress from the motor is initiated with this mode, and any loss of grip is detected and compensated for by the traction control. It simply spots freewheeling or slipping and stops sending power to that wheel. The system then redistributes the power to the other wheels that have traction. A few seconds later we easily cross the river, thanks in part to the 600mm wading depth capability.
We also got to taste the exact use of the Hill Start Assist function. If there’s a need to stop while going up a hill, all one has to do is step on the brake pedal again to release the hold. The system allows you three seconds to get on the throttle. However, even if you decide not to, the car will roll back slowly and steadily until it gets to the levelled surface. This is reassuring to say the least.
Not once did we scrape or bottom out on the wretched terrain that covered the entered span of the drive. Land Rover has done a brilliant job to get one acquainted to the true identity of their vehicles. These Experience drives seem to be getting better with time, and it would be nice to see owners use their Land Rovers to their true potential at least once in a while.
Pictures: Land Rover and Santosh Nair