“Just ease the vehicle over the edge, down the hill, and remove your foot from the brake” were the words of advice offered by Rob, my LandRover Experience guide at Eastnor Castle. The idea is to allow the on-board electronics and hill descent control system of the Discovery 4 do it’s thing, and descend the hill in total control. The hill in question was particularly steep, the track rutted and muddy, it could be described as gnarly. The theory sounded good, but letting go didn’t come naturally!
However, as it had been all day, Rob’s advice was sound, and the vehicle behaved impeccably, providing the wheels were kept straight, it handled the descent perfectly, just as any of the vehicles, regardless what we threw at them. Along with the Discovery 4, there was also an Evoque, Range Rover, Freelander and a Defender 110, and all were great fun to throw around the muddy tracks of the Malvern Hills.
It’s not every day that an invitation to drive the very best off-road vehicles on the planet arrives in my email inbox, so it was with some excitement that I had accepted this invitation. It’s genuinely boy’s own adventure stuff, driving off-road vehicles at the extremes of their capabilities. This had been the deliberate intention of the instructional team, so our little group was soon driving through deep water, along rutted tracks, up and down the steepest terrain and all in vehicles standard showroom setup.
That is an extremely important point to bear in mind, none of these vehicles have been especially modified for off-road use, the Discovery 4 and Range Rovers were even fitted with road tyres. They still coped extremely well with the vehicular obstacle course around Eastnor Castle. This is also one of the prime reasons people attend a LandRover experience; new owners learning the capabilities of their brand spanking, shiny new car.
The events are usually bespoke, designed specifically for the needs of the participants. They range from off-road instructional days, to corporate days out, probably even stag parties. Just contact an event organiser and they will do the rest, it’s only limited by requirements of the group or individual booking.
Driving the vehicles was very enjoyable, Land Rover has always been one of my favourite car manufacturers, having owned several Defender 90s. The driving experience and the electronics of the Range Rover, and Discovery are a joy, but the Defender still seemed the most engaging drive, feeling more connected with the vehicle. What it lacked in sophisticated electronics, it more than made up for in character, and despite it’s possibly aging image was still able to tackle the most challenging terrain.
It was with some sadness I learned the Defender is being withdrawn from production for the foreseeable future, so if you’re also a fan, get down to the local Land Rover dealership now before it’s too late. To soften the blow, Land Rover has introduced three special limited editions; the Autobiography, Adventure and Heritage, but deep pockets are necessary.
A LandRover Experience Day is an exhilarating few hours, driving vehicles over the toughest natural obstacles. Challenging yourself, and the cars, easing vehicles beyond the point of no return on hills so steep it’s impossible to see the bottom until pointing almost vertically down the decline. The vehicles rock and roll around the course, often banking at 45 degrees on one side, and then the other, wheels spinning on porridge like mud, scrambling for traction.
There are dozens of muddy dykes in the grounds of Eastnor Castle, fording them is a blast, the water easily deep enough to reach the front grill. Progress is steady, keeping the speed low enough to prevent a large bow wave, and slowing down just before exiting to make sure there isn’t too much splash back. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
The castle is well-known to Land Rover enthusiasts, steeped in the history, and development of the company’s most iconic vehicles. It has probably been the testing ground for every new vehicle produced since the middle of the last century, and even on the day we visited there were engineers driving around with a strange contraption fitted to the front of a Range Rover. It has 43 miles of specially prepared trails, providing a variety of challenges, the route is affectionately known as “the track”.
Despite all the fun, the driving can be challenging, but the patient instruction from knowledgeable guides, enables even those with little driving experience to tackle each new challenge with confidence. I know, my driving skills are vastly improved after just a few hours behind the wheel. It’s likely most people would benefit from an experience day
If the sign of a good day is how much mud gets splattered over the vehicles, we had a great time. Each white car caked in thick mud, from wheel trims to roof, I’m just glad the experience didn’t include cleaning them!
I was a guest of LandRover for the day, however all the enjoyment was my own, and I can thoroughly recommend the LandRover Experience, but don’t just take my word for it, watch the video and see for yourself.