A few weeks back I was invited by a friend to tag along with him on the Land Rover Experience, not knowing much about it but knowing it invlovled Land Rovers was more than enough to make my descision on joining him. Land Rover have been the market leaders when it comes to building quality and realiable off roading vehicles, so much so that world renowned adventurer and explorer, Kingsley Holgate swears by them. Hey, if he says they're the best, who am I to argue?
The day kicked off with a meet and greet at Land Rover Durban, there we met with the guys from Land Rover Experience, who gave us a run down on the days schedule and a driver briefing. The most exciting part was that we were going to experience most of the model line up offered by Land Rover for the day. Once the briefing was over, we were asked to choose our vehicle of choice for the drive up to our first driver change point in Shongweni, the little boy in me sprinted to grab the keys of the new 2014 Range Rover Sport. The Sport is one of the more bad ass looking models in their range, a derivative from the big daddy Range Rover, it has a more sleek look with a sloping roof similar to that of the Evoque and bigger air in-takes in the front.
The model we had was the 3.0 SDV6 Diesel SE, the car although big in size and weight was no slouch. With 600Nm of torque at my disposal and a claimed 0-100kph of 7.2 seconds, it was hard to ahere to the safe following distance in the convoy. The car is equiped with all the bells and whistles you'd expect to find. With a fully digital drivers display and a touch screen center consol to control the media player. The trimmings are classy and stylish which really sets the Range apart from its rivals. At the driver a change it was time for me to part with my Sport and swapped it for its smaller sibling, the Range Rover Evoque which I then drove to the Land Rover Experience trail in Inchanga. Where met for a short stop and talk of what we were going to be doing, first things first was set all vehicles to low range driving which keeps the cars in lower gears for more control off road.
Now when you think of a car, let alone SUV that was designed by Victoria Beckham, you wouldn't think it would be suited for the off road. However, to my surprise I was about to be proved quite wrong. While Vicky had a hand in the actual design of the vehicle, the guys at Land Rover HQ still ensured it did everything any of their other vehicles can do.. And I must hand it to Mrs Beckham, it is due to the Evoque's outlandish styling, many of the newer models are taking shape from the mold of this one. Although having a lower ground clearance, once we reached the trail, the instructor told me it was more than capable of going around the course, I just had to take a different line when approaching each obstacle to accomodate for the ride height. Within no time, with the help of the people on the course, I completed one lap with the Evoque.
It was time for another driver change, this time I opted for the Discovery 4 HSE. The top of the range in Land Rover's line up, the Disco 4 is known to eat up any terrain offered to it. The car again was packed with everything any luxury car has, add to that, Land Rovers marvelous air suspension that automatically detects the type of road you're on and adjusts accordingly, which could leave you surprised when getting out as the ride height will alter if you're going through unlevelled roads. To say the Disco 4 made light work of the course isn't far fetched, while there was quite a bit of work for the driver to do, it wasn't as challenging as the others. Hill Descent Control was by far one of the best features, the instructor told me to leave my foot off both the accelerator and brake while going down a steep hill. I thought he was crazy but the Disco 4 did eveyrthing itself apart from steer. It detected the steep hill and went down at a controlled pace, it's quite remarkable to experience.
The last change of vehicle was up, the Sport was already taken but there was something else that I wanted to try which no one took as yet, the Discovery 4 XS. The car just looked like it meant business off road it had a black front grille guard and air stack to the side of the door and side decalls that just shouted out adventure. Inside the car was more of the same ruggeredness, there was practically nothing in there compared to the Disco 4 HSE. The screen in the centre consol was considerably smaller and the entire dash was just hard plastic. Now you must be wondering why? Well this car is built for people like Mr Holgate, people who want to explor and love a good adventure. The XS didn't come with fancy air suspension either but trust me, the ride, although not as smooth was decent. It made things more fun on the course and it made me more aware of the obstacles, whilst it was nie sitting in the comfort of the other models, this one was by far the best.
Once we were all done, we did a bit more road driving to Garlington Estate in Hilton, just outside Pietermaritzberg. Once there we lunced at the Nicholson restaurant in the estate, the weathe was a bit cold and overcast so the prawn and chicken curry went down a treat. filling as it was I had to make room for dessert as one simply doesn't say no to chocolate sauce pudding. The drive back to Durban was in the Discovery 4 HSE, this is in a different class, everything about it is brilliant. It's a luxury curiser or an off roader which can be said for most of the Land Rovers but this one just makes the price tag more justifyable. All in all it was a brilliant experience and a must do if you are given the chance.
If you want more information on how you can be part of this experience, visit Land Rover Experience website and contact the relevant person, regent specific. They offer course which can be conducted with your own vehicles and also do corperate events which is great for team building. A huge thank you goes out to the team at Land Rover Durban and the Land Rover Experience Inchange for making this possible, namely Avesh, Mica and Shane.