Monday, December 14, 2009

Land Rover Experience - East of England

I was invited last week to the Land Rover Experience site in the East of England.  The aim of the half day event is to show the capability of the Land Rover offroad and then to persuade you to buy a new vehicle.

Our guide for the day was the son of the well known Vince Cobley.  Vince is best known for his company Protrax and his tours to Morocco with the Land Rover Adventure club (Photos below of his Defender) Luke Cobley, his son,  is a young guy full of passion for the Land Rover marque.  His knowledge of the Discovery 4 (our chosen vehicle for the day) was perfect and his enthusiasm for offoading meant that we had a fantastic couple of hours exploring the capability of the D4 and pushing it to the limits.

The D4 was launched in October 2009 and offered a facelift on the D3, plus a new engine.  The engine in our D4 was the 3.0 TDV6.  Read the Autotrader UK for a full review.

One noticeable fact about the D4 is that the market this vehicle is aimed for does not generally target your entry level 4x4 owner or overlander. With a huge price tag, this vehicle is fully kitted with every bit of luxury, 4x4 wizardry and a whopping huge computer to drive this vehicle.  This vehicle is driven by the computer - and it does a good job selecting the right 4x4 combination of power, diff lock, autodipping lights, reverse camera and tow hitch line-up assistance plus a raft of other features.
The first thing you notice as you walk up to the vehicle is the keyless entry system.
Climbing aboard, the memory seats automatically adjust to your requirements.  Nice!

The centre console is neat and functional.  The round dial, just in front of the automatic gear lever, offers various terrain options which include rock crawling, snow conditions, sand and gravel.  We experience the snow mode (on very wet slippery grass), sand mode and the most common mode, gravel.

The centre digital display offers the radio, navigation, 4x4 info (as above) and DVD player.  It also provides full telephone integration and engine system checks.  The photo above is displaying the centre and rear diff configurations, the hill descent button and the air suspension levels.

The course:

The course we were given the option of driving included a 28Deg side slope, axle twister, downhill and uphill slopes plus a very rutted singletrack.

First up was the 28Deg slope.  Sitting behind the drivers wheel, I had the impression that this was a very steep angle but after reviewing the photos I realized that this was only a gentle slope and that the D4 was capable of up to 40Deg.  Perfect for offroading but not necessary on an overland trip.

The next section was the axle twister.  In older 4x4's an axle twister is often the most difficult terrain to cross due to the rising and lifting of the front and rear wheels.  The D4, with its centre and rear Diff managed to cross this tricky section even when a wheel was raised in the air.

Here are a few more photos from the day:

The day finished in typical English winter weather as the fog settled for the night.

An Overlander?
The big question:  Will the D4 be a good overland vehicle?  Will it be reliable, and if not, easy to repair?
From a comfort and safety perspective this vehicle is fantastic.  As the vehicle lowers in price and the overland equipment becomes more available, I think we will start to see more of these vehicles used however, the price tag needs adjusting for your average overlander.

Computers and overland enthusiasts will always clash however the future of motoring is based on computers. To be prepared, every overlander will require a diagnostic computer for repairs.  Once this is onboard, the world is available for exploring.  Plug in the diagnostic computer, find the problem and fix.

Additional photos from the day can be viewed here:

Vince Cobley's Overland Support Vehicle
Prior to our Land Rover Experience day starting, Vince Cobley arrived in his Defender.  The first thing my friends noted where the amount of computer screens bolted to the front dash.  I got a quick glimpse and noted two GPS units and a laptop monitor.  I, however, was impressed with the vehicle and the equipment.  Here are a few photos:

Additional photos here

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