Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to spend a few hours at the Land-Rover Experience Driving School in Manchester, Vermont. In part one we learned about what one should know about their vehicle before heading off-pavement. In part two we discussed basic off-road driving techniques. Now, in part three, we will take a quick on what it is like to drive the 2014 Land Ranger Rover Supercharged off-road.
The off-pavement terrain featured dirt roads with various dips, muddles, hills, trees, rocks and small crevasses. It was setup for the purposes of teaching off-road driving and to show vehicle abilities. The terrain was meant to mimic what can be encountered on an expedition-style off-road adventure, destination of which would be otherwise inaccessible in a conventional car.
One does not simply slide behind the wheel of the new Range Rover. No, one has to lift up their butt a little bit and then plant it one of the most comfortable driver’s seats ever created. Once seated, one will be an elevated to a commanding position which has been a trademark of Land Rover vehicles for a long time. In the newest version, codenamed L405, that view has changed a little with bit because the long flat hood has been replaced with one that is curvier and the windshield seems a tad bit shorter, not unlike on any new model of any car.
The interior is purposely simple in an elegant way and made of really high quality material. The majority of functions are accessed through a touch-screen and eight hard-keys surrounding it, but in my off-road adventure I had limited time to play with all the toys. The one thing I used a lot was the Jaguar-like rotary shifter knob which I did not like because I had no idea which gear I was selecting; what was wrong with a conventional shifter, I do not know.
The biggest difference in the rear seat versus the previous Range Rover, codenamed L322, is the amount of legroom. Where there was just not enough of it before, now it feels like a proper large luxury sedan, only much higher. And it’s comfortable, too, as demonstrated by my wife who fell asleep while I was off-roading. Unfortunately we were not able to fully test the utility of the backseat, by which I mean we were not able to install any kid seats there.
Driving the new Range Rover off road is different than any older vehicle. The 4×4 system, which consists of settings, locking differentials, throttle control, traction controls and various other subsystems, is very advanced and different than anything else I have driven thus far. Combine that with throttle-by-wire and electronic power steering and some time is needed to fully master the controls and behavior of this Landy.
Special, or extreme, conditions such as race track or this here off-road course (not that it was extreme anything) show vehicles strengths and shortcomings. The Range Rover’s strengths were power and ability to cross this terrain on factory all-terrain wires wrapped around huge twenty inch wheels. The downsides were difficulties in keeping a steady throttle (traction control system taking over the TBW) and my inability to know which way the front wheels were pointing (electric power steering). The first just needed me to get used to the car and for the second, Land Rover has provided a dash display.
In a conventional car review, I can tell you what it’s like to live with a car for a few days. It’s not often I get to spend time with a vehicle that was designed with a purpose, be it a Land Rover or a BMW M car, in an environment for which it was designed. This Range Rover performed as good as promotional videos would have believe, and while anyone can get a vehicle stuck or damaged off road, just as anyone can roll any car on any race track, it takes some skill and common sense to get it back home safely, and that’s what this off-road school was about. The Range Rover here was just a tool here, and what a fabulous tool it was.
Images copyright 2013 Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski