Once more over the (sort of) cliff face
Land Rover One Life 2011
It’s understandable when sportsmen and women punch their fists in the air to celebrate but it’s never done much for me. If I’m running in a road race (particularly if it’s a hard one) I simply pat my legs with a little congratulatory ‘well done’ as I cross the finish line. It is, after all, my legs that carry me through the whole thing (and I’m too exhausted to punch the air anyway). The gesture is a simple one (oh, alright, silly one too) because frankly I expected nothing else from my legs anyway. A difficult job well done by something built to purpose.
And so it is after two days with the Land Rover Discovery out in the rough and steaming hot terrain of Catalonia, Spain. If it had legs I would have given it a little congratulatory ‘well done’ for carrying me over slippery log bridges, along ravines, up slopes that are close relations of cliff faces, down inclines covered in loose rocks and dirt and finally through mud-filled tracks that would go down a treat with a bloat of hippos.
Okay, I admit I was a tad nervous before the three-day Land Rover Experience, geared towards novices and Land Rover drivers alike. Driving through London is just not the same as being perched with two wheels on the edge of a rocky slope with just the on-board camera display offering any visibility to what lies ahead (cameras offer views straight ahead, to the side, and to the back for when you can’t see yourself). But after a couple of days I’d found a remarkable confidence, knowing that terrain that appears impassable is simply waiting to be gobbled up by the Discovery.
“You went over that lot with even blinking,” laughed cameraman Darren, who’d gamely sat next to me on the adventure (although he did keep leaping out as we approached really dodgy looking bits, claiming the shot would look better from the outside). He was right. A similar patch of steep dips, sharp rocks and tight turns had me breaking out in a cold sweat the day before. But confidence is quick to build after a few hours inside the Discovery.
And one reason for this confidence is the Terrain Response console which you can adjust to normal mode (road), grass-gravel-snow, mud-ruts, sand, or rock crawl depending on the terrain you are driving into. This will automatically set the gears (eg on rocky terrain it will start in first and on snow in third), the throttle (in sand it would be responsive and in grass it wouldn’t so as to avoid skidding) and adjusts the anti-skid DSC (dynamic stability control) accordingly. Just think of it like the time when the automatic cameras came out with their easy-to-understand settings and hey presto, suddenly your photos were in focus.
Then there is also the Land Rover team. If, like me, you’d never driven off-road before, you’ll appreciate a little help when staring a slippery rock climb ahead of you when, due to the steepness, all you can see is the bright blue of the sky as you crawl upwards. And, like me, when you see the vehicle ahead veer to a 45-degree angle in deep mud you might just be zipping down the window and insisting on the help. Thankfully at every tough stage the Land Rover team leap out to guide you through with their hand signals. “Muy buenas direcciones amigos.”
The Discovery might not have legs for me to congratulate but it’s certainly getting a little pat on its mud-splattered tyres.
• For more see http://www.landroverexpeditions.com