Land Rover Driving Experience: Tackling the Off-Road
by Jessica Howell
Gripping the steering wheel – clammy hands at ten and two o’clock – I stare before me, eyes locked on the muddy ground that forms an angle shockingly close to 90 degrees with the bottom of the steep drop that I’m currently descending.
It’s called off-roading, they say. They being the instructors of Land Rover’s Experience Driving School offered at Ashville, North Carolina’s legendary Biltmore Estate. To me, it feels more like agreeably inching toward my own death.
"Keep your feet off the pedals," warns my instructor.
That’s right; my foot is on niether the brake or the throttle. We are in free-fall mode, tumbling down a steep, steep… well, not exactly.
In all actuality, I’m letting the Land Rover that we’re perched within do most of the work. As we straddled the crest of the high hill behind us, I simply slipped the SUV into first gear. Hesitantly, I lifted my foot off of the brake and felt the vehicle lurch forward slightly before Land Rover’s awe-inducing Hill Decent Control kicked in, slowly rolling the SUV down the decline and over its rocky, rutted terrain without any pedal input.
Focusing on keeping the front wheels straight, the instructor and I peer out the windshield as the vehicle brings us safely to the bottom of the steep hill, where we’ve conveniently paused before a lumpy log bridge that is next of the list of obstacles to navigate around, through, or in this case, over.
This and the following six hours are all a part of the Land Rover Experience Driving School, one of three in North America, the others stationed in Carmel, California and Montebello, Quebec.
Here, what you see is what you get. A hands-on, adrenaline laced encounter between human and nature, Land Rover’s Experience is pure thrill blended seamlessly with practical driving advice to take on-road once you’ve headed home.
From scaling rocks to treading through deep, mud-drenched ruts, one-on-one instruction provides off-roading newbies or pros with solid advice and technique suggestions.
|Off-road Lessons to Take On-road
|| Land Rover suggests that you grip the wheel, keeping your thumbs resting on top of the wheel, not hooked around it, and hands positioned at ten and two o’clock. This way, if something triggers the steering wheel to turn unexpectedly, your thumbs will stay intact; and nobody wants to break or sprain a thumb in the midst of a leisurely drive.
Also, when turning the steering wheel, concentrate on shuffling it – ten o’clock hand slides wheel to two o’clock position, returns to ten and two o’clock position, then slides again until turn is complete. The point here is to avoid letting one arm criss-cross the other; this time we’re avoiding a broken wrist.
“Be a feather foot,” advices Land Rover. Treat the throttle and brakes with good old TLC, never allowing sudden movements to upset balance of the vehicle.
If you can, make use of the left foot braking technique, which suggests applying pressure to the brakes with the left foot and working the throttle with the right foot, on both automatic and manual transmissions. Modulating with both feet ups control maintenance considerably and using both feet leads to better reaction time in the case of an accident.
Always keep a look out for what’s ahead of your vehicle – a good distance to gauge is about 30 yards. By doing so, you’ll stay aware of any obstacles that might otherwise quickly arise, be able to pick the best path for your vehicle to follow and accordingly align it.
Whether it’s a Texas-sized boulder on a mountain trail or a careening ice cream truck, you want to get out of the way – fast. By judging what’s ahead of you while it’s still ahead of you, you’ll up your chances for safely maneuvering.
The top of the line, Land Rover’s Range Rover is the ultimate in luxury; so we were thrilled to get behind the steering wheel – whether on- or off-road. Known by many as the long-time king of luxe SUVs, Range Rover maintains its classic physique in 2007, combining prime elements of both sophisticated comfort and rugged capability for chic city dwellers who like to get down and dirty on the weekends.
Range Rover Sport
Land Rover’s high performance SUV, Range Rover Sport, was created to satisfy the throttle-hungry among us. Designed for long distance driving, the vehicle comes with a V-8 4.4L engine, averaging 300 hp or offers 390 hp with a Supercharged 4.2L V8.
Land Rover L3
With an optional third row, this model offers seating for up to seven. Available with either a V6 or V8 engine, it also comes in as the most affordable Land Rover. Classic design characteristics like the stepped roof and asymmetrical tailgate are blended with superb interior detailing and unbeatable off-road standards to make this one SUV capable of suiting most everyone’s needs.
Standard on all of the above vehicles for the first time in 2007, Land Rover’s trademarked Terrain Response system allows the driver to simply twist a rotary knob to one of five settings – general driving, gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand or rock crawl –tailoring the vehicle to each specific terrain.
Does it work? Most definitely. On our off-road experience, we found the Terrain Response handier than ever, switching the dial back and forth to accommodate for each separate obstacle. Also invaluable was the Hill Descent Control, permanent 4WD and Off-road Navigation system that utilized GPS satellite technology to plot routes even where no maps exist, and also featured a “breadcrumb trail” that allows you to retrace your route, as well as both compass navigation and four-corner air suspension main screens.
Land Rover Experience Driving School at Biltmore Estate
1 Approach Road
Asheville, NC 28803
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. / Seven Days a Week
1 Hour, 1 Driver = $200 per Vehicle
2 Hours, Up to 3 Drivers = $300 per Vehicle
2 Hours, Up to 3 Drivers = $300 per Vehicle
4 Hours, Up to 3 Drivers = $500 per Vehicle
6 Hours, Up to 3 Drivers = $800 per Vehicle
Advanced, 6 Hours, Up to 3 Drivers = $800 per Vehicle
Scenic, 4 Hours, Up to 4 Passengers = $575 per Vehicle
(*All Full-Day Adventures Include Lunch)
For information on all of Land Rover’s Driving Schools, visit www.landroverusa.com/drivingschools or call 800-239-0533.