#LandRoverExperience - Unleash your inner adventurerDecember 23, 2014
"You have got to be kidding me, mister!"
That was the first sentence that came out of my mouth when Abel told me to take a left. I had been driving through some pretty patchy roads for less than a kilometre when he made his request. My response had little to do with him – it was because I had spotted the ‘left’ he wanted me to take. And it was an extremely steep uphill climb through a ragged rocky road, one that I would barely consider going on foot, let alone an actual vehicle.
But more on that later.
Since its first model was launched in 1948 under the simplistic title of the Land Rover, the company has significantly expanded its repertoire over the decades, adding such classics as the Freelander, Discovery, Evoque and Sport across its journey. It is an apt measure of their longevity that today, nearly seven decades later, they are still considered the gold standard when it comes to 4x4 vehicles across the world.
|Image courtesy: LandRoverIndia|
The concept of the ‘Land Rover Experience’ is something truly unique and shows a) the amount of respect the company places on the public and most importantly b) the faith it has in its product. Realising that the vast majority of test drives do not allow the public to use the showroom vehicle to see the best part – the offroading capabilities - of these vehicles, the Land Rover Experience was set up in select locations across the globe. Here, people could come and test the vehicles out under extremely strenuous off-roading scenarios, including hills, on water, sand or snow, depending on the conditions.
|Image courtesy: LandRoverIndia|
When I got the call to attend Kerala’s first ever LandRoverExperience thanks to Blogadda, I will not lie to you: I was just as nervous as I was excited. It was a lifetime opportunity and one that I had no intention to shun and yet, I was scared as well. Like the vast majority of the Indian public, I too had zero experience in offroading… well, unless you count the potholed Indian roads which are pretty close!
Knowing that this was going to happen, I did steel myself to be prepared for the ride.
Now that I am safely back, I can tell you this much… nothing could have prepared me for how awesome and exhilarating an adventure it turned out to be.
The first LandRoverExperience in Kerala was set up in the quaint but truly picturesque town of Thodupuzha in Idukki district. Named after the river that flows through it, Thodupuzha is the largest town in the district and is characterised by an abundance of hilly terrain with multiple plantations… an ideal location for some serious offroading.
My first stop on Saturday morning was to the rifle club in Muttom where the Jaguar-Land Rover team welcomed me with warm smiles and hearty grins. I am assuming they did those things actually… my eyes were pretty much stuck on the ground to my right as soon as I entered.
There, standing there in a regal queue waiting to be revved up were a row of Land Rover Freelanders, Evoques and a Discovery. Glistening in the morning sun, they demanded attention even from afar.
|Of all the Land Rovers available, the Evoque stood|
out thanks to its truly unique design.
|The Freelander exudes sturdiness. You know this guy|
is ready to rough it out!
After registering and partaking off their lovely continental spread (crab cakes, prawns, cheese balls, fish fingers, guava and passion fruit juices FTW!), I sat down for the instructors class where we were oriented with what the day was going to be all about.
We learned about the safety features in place and why the Land Rover can do the things it can (more on that later). The Land Rover team had been here since the last three days, testing out every inch of the plantation that was to be used for offroading and ensuring that the vehicle would be put to its limits while still making sure we would be safe. There was even a doctor and fully equipped ambulance on hand at the club, ready at the earnest should anything happen.
When the class was done, we set off with our assigned instructors and boarded our vehicle. I got the Freelander, a wonderfully built vehicle with lots of space and an extremely eye-catching design.
The Freelander I drove was a 2.2 litre diesel automatic 4 wheel drive with 4000 rpm of power and 420 Nm torque. With a length of 4.5m, a height of 1.7m, a wide wheel base of 2.66m and a load space that goes up to 1670 litres, this is no slouch in any department.
We headed out of the club and onto a 2500 acre rubber estate a few kilometres away where the safety of the concrete roads ended.
The first half a kilometre was easy-peasy. A few hops and skips as I navigated the straightforward if somewhat narrow rubber estate terrain.
That was when my guide, the friendly and extremely knowledgeable Abel, told me to ride up a cliff and I had my first “You have got to be kidding me, mister!” moment.
Turns out he was not. And so I did make the turn and placed my foot on the accelerator and prayed the vehicle would move. Lo and Behold! Up the steep cliff it rose, literally climbing through rock. It was the most ridiculously stunning feeling I had when I finally reached the top and took the first bend.
It also made me realise the value of something Abel told me – the art of offroading in a Land Rover involved a very key mantra when it came to power and acceleration : As slow as possible, as fast as necessary. You did not need to go flying through the rocky terrains and the waters. You needed to master it.
|Hill Descent Control:|
A godsend feature!
The Land Rover is a magician when it comes to stability control. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Unlike other vehicles where placing your foot on the brakes sends signals to all four tyres which may cause you to lose control in slippery conditions, in the Land Rover, the vehicle acts individually on the tyres. Nothing demonstrates this better than the Hill Descent Control (HDC).
Switch on the HDC and set an appropriate speed. As you start to descend down a rough terrain, you have to do something you have never truly done before – take your foot off the brake and trust the vehicle completely!
I kid you not. The vehicle now takes over and you can feel and even hear each wheel work separately as it descends down the drop, almost walking atop the rocks and rubble till you reach a safe strip of land and take over the vehicle by yourself. For me, this was a true jaw-dropping moment: I had to literally unlearn the art of driving downhill and have complete faith in a vehicle in a road that was decidedly treacherous and it did not let me down (no pun intended!)
|9913. That would be me. And it is purely a coincidence that the vehicle is tilting towards the direction |
I am sitting in and is no reflection on any recent weight gain. I repeat, no reflection at all!
Another feature nestled comfortably beside your left hand is the Terrain Response System (TRS).
|The Terrain Response System|
Select your program based on the driving conditions based on your driving conditions and once more, the Rover alters itself to suit your needs. The various settings include:
2. Grass-Gravel-Snow: Firm surfaces that may be slippery.
3. Mud ruts
With the exception of sand, we got to test most of the others. And that last bit was something amazing once more. We reached an extremely narrow strip of land going uphill where there literally was no clear entry point, owing to a bunch of boulders on one side. Setting the TRS to 'Grass-gravel-snow', I tried accelerating but it seemed a futile effort to me. Abel continued to smile as he asked me to just give a little more progressive gentle acceleration. I did as I was told and literally laughed out loud as the tyre climbed over the boulder, carrying me upward and beyond once more as we continued across the estate.
For those worried about braking while uphill, rest assured I tried that out too. The brake pedals are designed to allow you to have that extra couple of seconds after you release it to move your foot onto the accelerator before it disengages.
Wading through water is possible too, up to a maximum depth of 24 inches.
Dynamic Stability Control which prevents skidding while steering at speed rounded up the most impressive array of safety measures one could ask for in a vehicle. We got to drive for the better part of over an hour, I realised later but truth be told, I did not notice the time go by as I uncovered new challenges across the entire course, finding pathways where there logically shouldn’t have been any for a vehicle.
|And serenely, we end|
While it is all about the ride, it is always a delight to have a feature-rich vehicle. The key points that deserve a mention here include:
Automatic headlamps – Rain sensing windscreen wipers – body coloured door handles, mirror caps, rear bumper and sill cover - cruise control – 7 airbags – front and rear parking aids – rear seat split 60/40 – child seat fixings ( anchorages and tethers ) – driver and passenger armrests – fully loaded and capable 4.2 inch multimedia display – front centre storage compartment.
I knew it was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity when I got the call but the Land Rover surpassed all my expectations. The vehicle blends comfort and space with true sturdiness and grit, taking on the most ridiculous terrains with relative ease.
The LANDROVEREXPERIENCE allows you to use the vehicle where it truly shines – where the comfort of the road ends and the adventure begins. And you can do it, assured that you are in safe hands, both human and vehicular, thanks to their well-trained instructors and guides.
To have my first off-roading experience in the Land Rover Freelander was simply unbelievable and I am definitely giving it two thumbs up. It is an adrenaline rush unlike any other as you give in to the machine and watch it take over, understanding the roads ahead and adapting.
The Land Rover range of vehicles are truly a class apart – no other vehicular company presently available in India can boast these specs or provide you with such an adventure, leaving you so invigorated even hours after the experience. That much, I can guarantee.
I would like to thank Jaguar and Land Rover India and Blogadda for providing me with this opportunity. You can follow them on Twitter too at JLRIndia. For more pictures of my experience, check out the official album below.