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Range Rover Drive 2002

I was invited, through my friend Todd of TracQuest, to join Land Rover in Lake Arrowhead for a test drive of the newest Range Rover. This was no five-minute spin on city streets, but a professionally-guided extreme off-roading adventure. Land Rover provided eight Range Rovers, HSE trim, in various colors, all completely showroom-stock, with CD players, GPS, leather interior, climate control, etc. They were on relatively small 255/65 (if memory serves) all-season street tires.

Todd and I shared a Rover. We had a blast! Though I'm more accustomed to getting a rush driving a sportscar as fast as possible on the race track, this was very challenging, despite typical speeds around 2 mph. I was very impressed with the vehicle. I really had no idea that a stock SUV could do what we did, especially in such comfort. They were always quiet and refined. We had the AC blasting throughout. These things even drive quite well on the street and are capable of cruising at 130 mph on the highway. Todd demonstrated their propensity for understeer at breakneck speeds on the highway, much to the chagrin of our instructor.

When the four-hour drive was over, we tucked into a generous, though somewhat unusual, buffet lunch (prawns with potato salad?). We had a presentation / Q&A session with the North American Product Manager during lunch, then spent about ten minutes answering questions about the experience for market research. It was a lovely, adventurous way to spend a Saturday.

Lake Arrowhead area Though I'm certain that Todd was holding way back in his 996 Cabriolet, the rest of us were working very hard to keep up. I only had a few moments between counter-steering and drifting through turns, to snap a few shots of the scenery, of which I was trying not to become a part.
caravan The five of us who caravanned together from Riverside Land Rover made it safely.
Our Range Rovers We were greeted by the sight of eight shiny Range Rovers, plus a gaggle of safari-ready looking instructors.
Off Roading 101 After a brief drivers' meeting, we hit the trail. The instructors never drove; they guided us and informed us on vehicle specs, basic methods for driving in such conditions, ribald humor, etc.
the gauntlet Here is the gauntlet we ran. We didn't even take the easiest path up.
Our Range Rover We were in this silver Range Rover. Having seen the terrain, I was already glad I didn't accept their offer to try my Tahoe on the trail. Besides, this is a far more luxurious ride.
Our Range Rover Here's the shot they sent me after the event, showing me grinning from the soon-to-be-pummeled Rover.
minor obstacle This is what we'd call a minor obstacle. To avoid high-centering the SUV, we put our left wheels over the boulder. It was quite easy. The usual off-road mantra is "as slow as possible, as fast as necessary," but I started a new one: "It's not my car, it's not my car."
axle articulation Here's a good example of the advantages of the Range Rover's axle articulation. It has fully-independent suspension, which makes for a very smooth ride. Further, it boasts adjustable-height air suspension (access, to get in and out easily, standard, for street driving, high, for off-roading, and highway, which it automatically lowers itself to when traveling at highway speeds). To allow it to navigate such extreme terrain, the air shocks are linked from side to side to force the wheels to remain in contact with the ground, despite huge differentials in height (about three feet).
surefooted This was a larger obstacle. Though we could pass right over it at 1-2 mph, each vehicle stopped for a photo op. The switch-oon-the-fly differential and all-time four-wheel-drive is set up to lock-up the brakes on wheels without traction quite quickly, so that the wheels with traction get the power and with a minimum of wheelspin. It worked well.
not my car All this was often done in very tight quarters. Again, the mantra "It's not my car, it's not my car."
more trouble Shot from inside while we were going over that last big obstacle, we could see there was much more ahead That's Fred, our instructor/guide.
Fred H All the instructors were veterans of the Camel Trophy series of extreme off-road events. Fred took 2nd place in Borneo in 1996, if I recall. He helped us do things with that Rover that I wouldn't have imagined at the start of the day.

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Copyright © 2002 John Turkel. All rights reserved. Not affiliated with or Land Rover. All trademarks are the property of their respective holders. This material is for entertainment purposes only.

Last Modified November 6, 2002

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