LandRover had invited us to their legendary Above & Beyond Tour to experience what a LandRover can do in extreme off-roading summits. An half a day event was planned at 19° North on 18th October 2019.
As planned we reached the venue and was greeted by our chief instructor Mr. Ashish Gupta. He gave us a quick 20 minutes briefing on the LandRover capabilities and few do’s and don’t of off-roading and obviously the entire product portfolio of LandRover in India. Ashish, also took us through different technologies, the LandRover Products have and some of them were patented by LR.
Let’s look at some of the functionalities that the LandRover comes with, which helped me wade through the obstacles without any hindrance.
Hill Start Assist – HSA is a very practical feature which is required in our everyday busy traffic roads especially when you are on a bumber-to-bumber on a flyover accent. It was demonstrated just before the rocky-bumpy patch on the big hump. Basically what it does it, it holds the SUV for3 seconds so that, the driver can use that time to get his legs off the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal to get the car rolling in the forward direction and ensures that the car doesn’t roll behind.
Electronic Traction Control – I don’t know what we would have done with all these vehicles minus the ETC technology on a track which is said to be the toughest, tightest and slippery of all the LandRover off-road tracks across India. This is one of the busiest of all technology which has to be constantly alert on every patch. A slightest traction lost on any wheel, ETC activates and applies brake to that wheel to prevent drive being lost and transfers the power to the wheels which has the traction. Thus ensuring that the SUV gets enough momentum to move forward. We experienced this multiple times when our Discovery Sport was performing magnitude of tasks with absolute ease.
Hill Decent Control – The very first technology of these never ending list was the HDC highlighted just at the start of the long and beautiful drive which was close to 1 hour plus. These sensors are so sharp and applies brake depending on the angle at which the vehicle is positioned on a slope (applies auto brakes) and it varies from different terrain response programs too. This works best when you switch to Mud & Ruts mode hence was the favourite during our extreme downhill descent and at a very slippery rocky bumpy patch where standing still was a challenge.
Gradient Release Control – This was also being highlighted by our instructor during the extreme descent at couple of places as to how this works just before the Hill Decent control kicks in. GRC has a very controlled brake release technology in a calm and composed manner.
All Terrain Progress Control – This was surely our Instructor’s favourite and not to be surprised the most talked technology of LandRover – ATPC. Just one word for ATPC – Incredible.
This is nothing but the cruise control / pilot mode in off-roading, you just have to activate this mode (a click away) where you set a speed as per our comfort and all you need to do is manoeuvring. This was demonstrated at couple of patches. Hats off to these raw Land Rover vehicles.
With briefing done, it was time to meet our individual instructors. And we were assigned to Mr. Amrut Kadam, who is also from Mumbai and interestingly is also a racing driver and gradually progressed towards off-roading and then becoming the instructor for off-roading. He has also started karting academy for youngsters to learn karting and also intends to start formula racing academy.
The SUV’s lined up by LandRover were the Discovery Sport & Evoque. Seeing the Evoque in the line up I thought to myself, the track must be pretty simple with not much obstacles, only to be proven wrong later. We got the Discovery Sport allotted to us and after brief exchange of pleasantries, off we went with the task at hand- exploring the LandRover’s in their natural habitat- the no man’s land.
There were lot of tips which we pulled out from our instructor that day like the importance of driving slow (off-roading is all about driving slow) and fast only wherever required. He was so much committed to the mantra of Land Rover “As slow as possible, as fast as necessary”.
Our instructor showed us a nice demonstration by intentionally doing a False Hill Start and showed us the importance of the momentum and the correct line with limited steering input to cross the difficult obstacles. Avoiding touching/brushing the under belly of the car was also highlighted by avoiding those unavoidable and unexpected rocks by either climbing over them or bypassing the traditional line on the track if possible.
As we progressed, the intensity of obstacles increased.
The first obstacle that we encountered was a relatively easy ascent which required me to give in the throttle to build the momentum.However I ended up stalling the momentum and I dabbed on the brakes to ensure the SUV doesn’t roll back. That is where Amrut, introduced to us the Hill Start Assist Functionally and also showed us the importance of momentum in off-roading scenarios. The Hill Start Assist helped in ensuring that the SUV was rock stable and didn’t not budge behind.
From there we went to experience the bank angle capabilities/side incline capabilities, technically called as Negative Side Incline capabilities of the LandRover Products. The LandRovers are designed to be stable even at 30° bank angles. However, here I experienced 29° bank angle and the car for pretty sure footed. I did think that we may slide down as it was slushy and drizzling, but I was visibly smiling as the SUV was inching ahead with much confidence.
From there we went into a steep descent stage II kind of off-roading experience and this is where I experienced the Hill Descent Control in the SUV, where the Discovery Sport took charge of the braking while going down the steep descent, that also showed us importance of taking correct line.
Team Motorise, would like to thank the entire team of Land Rover to let us drive and test the SUV's.
Post experiencing the functionality of Hill Descent Control, next one, was my personal favorite as it was something I had earlier seen only in videos. This obstacle was around Water Wading capabilities of the Discovery Sport. And no kidding, I entered into the water which was almost 500 mm in depth and the SUV glided over it, as if it was a piece of cake for it. For me it felt like, one tick in the box in my list of items to do with Discovery Sport- taken care. Immediately getting out of water, there was slippery side incline with rock bed and as it was drizzling, it had become slushy too. One trick that Amrut told us when under water was, no matter what, do not stop in water, and keep the momentum going at a crawling speed, which applied for side incline obstacle too.
Then came an extreme accent with least grip which was clearly the toughest patch of the entire track including couple of hair pins which had very tight corners, at the same time had to tackle the rocky and bumpy stretch. This patch was no less than ice-driving. This is where I activated the ATPC let the SUV do the job for me. Seeing technology work for me so seamlessly was absolutely refreshing and satisfying. Had the SUV not had ATPC, I am sure I would have been struggling to cover that part.
With this activity done, we headed back to the base not before falling in love all over again with the capabilities of Land Rover Products. At the beginning I did say, that I was driving the Discovery Sport and in the convoy we did have the Evoque. Before this drive, I always thought, Evoque was a City-SUV and not meant for such extreme sojourns, but this drive changed my perceptions on the Evoque, and I fell in love with it all over again.
With the drive done, quick snacks grabbed, customary photos taken, off we left for Mumbai. And the entire drive back to Mumbai I was only reminded of why, LandRovers are called Father of Off-Roading.
Heartfelt thanks to Amrut andAshishfor giving us lessons on off-roading and the entire management of LandRover for inviting us and letting us experience the LandRover products in a no mans land.