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Old 10th May 2012, 19:56   #1
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Default Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

Team-BHP was invited by Jaguar Land Rover for the Engineering & Drive programme at their facilities in the UK, and the Nurburgring Test Center / Race Track in Germany.

So, when GTO called me and asked if I'd be interested in going, hell, no way I would say no. After all, for an offroad & automobile enthusiast, this is like visiting Mecca, Kashi & Vatican in one go. I said I am on and would go even if I have to resign from my day job. Can always find another job after I return!

The program outline:

Day 1 (UK)
  • Land Rover, Gaydon HQ Engineering Capability presentations
  • Land Rover Experience Centre Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle

Day 2 (UK)
  • Jaguar Tour of the Castle Bromwich factory where the Jaguar XJ, XF and XK are produced.

Day 3 (Germany)
  • Jaguar 'on road' drive experience.
  • Nurburgring Race Circuit drive experience

Packing done & all set, I board the plane, settle down and look forward to the next few days.

At Birmingham, I am met by folks from JLR. The drive is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, and time passes by in chit-chatting with the chauffeur on various topics, including the upcoming Olympics in London.
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-4.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2012 at 15:31.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:14   #2
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Default About the "Land Rover Experience"

Land Rover conducts a program called the Land Rover Experience that allows people to drive their SUVs in an off-road environment. There are various types of packages that one can choose from; beginner to corporate to pro-driving packages. There are even half & full day drives, with an overnight option.

More details here:
Land Rover experience | Land Rover UK

http://www.landrover.com/gb/en/lr/ex...ions/overview/

One can take part in the program as part of an extended test-drive before buying a vehicle (something that can be arranged by dealers when they think the prospect is a potential buyer). Many times, dealers bring their select customers (and friends / invitees) to be a part of this program.

The program is run at several locations throughout the UK. We were doing it at Eastnor Castle, a 5000 acre estate with some 50 - 60 miles of offroad tracks and varying levels of difficulty. They say that the trails on this estate are a part of the secret test facility that JLR uses to test the capabilities of every new Land Rover model:
http://www.malverns.landroverexperience.co.uk/

As I approach the entrance of the castle, I see this in front of me... the off-roader in me is like a kid in a candy shop. Where to look is the dilemma. The complete range of Land Rover & Range Rover SUVs is standing there, looking like medieval knights guarding the castle.

Various versions of the Range Rover Sport, Land Rover Discovery 4, Land Rover Freelander & the most beautiful one -- the Range Rover Evoque:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-6.jpg

Notice how low slung the Range Rover & Land Rover are -- almost like drag cars. They have the capability to lift themselves up by 10 cms at the push of a button when offroading. It's the air suspension that does the trick:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-vehicles.jpg

These vehicles are armed to the teeth with all possible gizmos that you can think of : Terrain Response, All Terrain ABS, Dynamic Stability Control, Roll Stability Control, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Traction Control, Parking Aids, Cameras to see where your tyres are placed, Electronic Air Suspension, Cruise Control, Memory this, Memory that, Leather this, Leather that etc. You could take weeks to just understand the various buttons, permutations & combinations available in these SUVs.

Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2012 at 15:33.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:37   #3
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

I am told that the rest of the group has already reached the castle and are having lunch. I am escorted to the dining hall of the castle. There are media folks from India, USA, Canada & Australia as part of this program.

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-7.jpg

Post lunch, we are taken for a tour of the famous Eastnor Castle where we are told about its history & the association with Land Rover. The castle has a classic feel with elaborate artwork, stuffed wildlife souvenirs, life size paintings and rows (& more rows) of books. I must say that the castle is in the best possible shape. Not even one thing was out of order, or seemed out of place.

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-8.jpg

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-9.jpg

So, after an elaborate meal & the walking tour, it was time to head toward the waiting off-road beauties, and take them out in the wet & muddy trails of the castle estate. I was told that we were REALLY lucky for it to be raining on the days before we landed at the castle (this had made the trails interesting!). So, all the more reason to look forward to the trails -- after all, what would an off-roader want. The more slushy the trails, the better it is

We were then briefed about the drive. 2 people in each vehicle, along with an instructor who would be in the navigator seat. The drivers would switch twice, allowing people to drive at least 2 different LR/RR vehicles.

I chit chat with a few of the instructors, all of whom come across as passionate off-road enthusiasts. Most of them have a LR/Defender in their garage. When asked to choose between the current lot & the old Defender, their soft spot for the old Defender was obvious.
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-10.jpg

The cat is part of the Land Rover experience and there is no bad omen if it crosses your path or sits on your vehicle:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-11.jpg

These are just a few of the buttons present in each vehicle. The bottom left up / down buttons will make the vehicle lift or squat. The middle one is for engaging hill descent, while the bottom right up / down switch is for the 4H / 4L. The top panel is for terrain selection:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-12_1.jpg

The cute little Range Rover Evoque. This one looks so beautiful, & unlike any other SUV out there. No wonder the Evoque has a waiting time of almost a year, and is sold out in many markets till 2013. The Evoque doesn't get 4L capability or the magic air suspension of the LR / RR range. However, I am told that the "intelligent terrain response" & the "intelligent hill assist" make it a reasonable offroader.
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-13.jpg

The side profile of the Evoque, see how compact it is. At 4.3 meters, it is of similar length as our entry level sedans (e.g. the Etios):
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-14.jpg

Notice the large wheels. Can you see the trailing arm link? It's quite long and prominent:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-15.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2012 at 15:37.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:46   #4
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

So, it's time to choose which vehicle to start with. I headed straight to the Evoque.

Here is me in the rear passenger's seat talking to my co-participant & clicking pictures. The rear seat of the Evoque is small, but the HUGE panoramic moon-roof makes it feel airy. What strikes me is the absence of 'grab handles' anywhere. Thus, I put on the seat belt to prevent myself from being thrown around, and start chit chatting with the instructor who briefs us about the trail.
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-16.jpg

There is a push button for starting the engine. The most dramatic part of the start sequence is the impeccable chrome drive selector that lifts up once the vehicle has started.

Notice that in the Evoque, there is no Low Range selector. One can only choose the terrain type. We select "road" for now, and will later switch to "Mud".
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-17.jpg

We get rolling and head to the offroad trail.
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-18.jpg

On the way, we pass through the beautiful countryside of the Malvern Hills. There are hordes of deer roaming around the green pastures.
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You can read more about the facilities here:
Eastnor Castle - Deer Park - Caravan, Camping Site

For folks visiting the UK, this experience is highly recommended.

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 16:41.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:52   #5
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

The distance to the trail isn't much. At the entrance of the trail, we have the trusty LWB Defender leading the pack:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-19.jpg

The trail is a muddy & rutted one, much like our cattle & tractor trails in the jungles. It has lots of water collection points, several turns with ruts and descents / inclines. A typical rural country trail I'd say. I am assuming that JLR didn't want all of us to get stuck, hence selected an easier trail that would demonstrate the capabilities of the machines and yet finish on time.

Here you see the Discovery in action (that's a WARN Winch):
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-20.jpg

A section of the track:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-21.jpg

Some water crossings:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-22.jpg

The Evoque at a water crossing:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-23.jpg

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-24.jpg

The Evoque, even without the Low range, did quite well. There is a lot of computer wizardry that helps you. For example, there is a visual indicator that comes up if your tyres are about to turn 90 degree. You can see that in the dashboard console (Who needs a spotter)

The hill assist can be controlled & set to your preferences through the steering mounted controls. Notice the green horizontal bar (in the image below) and the white pointer to the bottom right of the green bar. Through the steering controls, you can specify whether the hill descent control should behave aggressively or loose (basically, should it kick in early or late). The hill assist then applies the brakes to each wheel separately, and the ultra complex computer wizardry takes control. One can hear & feel the brakes working overtime. However, even with the hill descent set to the most aggressive level, one can feel the difference between how a low range would have behaved. You do need to feather the brakes at times to feel comfortable with the descent speed. However, at no stage do you feel that the vehicle is not in control:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-25_1.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2012 at 15:27.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:54   #6
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Default

After driving for some 5-6 miles on the trail, I hop into a Land Rover Discovery. Stepping inside makes you realize how spacious & airy the Discovery is (and how small the Evoque is). The center console on the dashboard gives you all possible data that an offroader would want. Center diff lock, rear diff lock, tyre position and more. The rear diff lock is an optional extra. I am told that the vehicles on trail are stock, except for the rear diff lock + extra underbody cladding for the Evoque:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-26.jpg

The vehicle is in Low Range, while the center & rear diffs are unlocked:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-26_1.jpg

The presence of a low range makes a huge difference to the torque characteristics; one can just crawl away on the trail.

The 3L V6 diesel churns out 255 BHP & 600 Nm of Torque from 2,000 rpm itself. It has a wading depth of 700 mm (Yes 700 mm, that's HUGE). Add to that an approach angle of 36.2, Ramp Break Over Angle of 27.3 & Departure Angle of 29.6. Decent for a vehicle of this size.

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-27.jpg

At several places, the trail had side-inclines which the vehicles handled very well. I think this is where the Roll Stability Control comes into play. In the picture below, you can see the angle:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-28.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 17:00.
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Old 10th May 2012, 20:59   #7
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

Here is a small video of the vehicles in action:



What surprised me was the enormous amount of articulation that the Land Rovers & Range Rovers have. Just see the pictures below. They have a button that allows the air suspension to be lifted by 10 cms...this really helps in the articulation.

Here you can see the front wheel articulation:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-29.jpg

Observe that the vehicle is nearly straight horizontally (see the roof line). Then, look at the rear L/R wheel difference. Amazing:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-30.jpg

See the rear wheel drop. Imagine how the same SUV on road can become a low slung vehicle. That's the amount of versatility we are talking about here:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-31.jpg

In comparison to its bigger cousins (the Discovery & Range Rover), the Evoque had limited articulation. One could see the wheel lifts & spins. However, the traction control & all that computer wizardry never let it down. It completed the entire trail without getting stuck:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-32.jpg

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-33.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 17:05.
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Old 10th May 2012, 21:02   #8
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

At the end of the trail, we regroup & head back to the Castle. We drive through some breathtaking views of the countryside:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-34.jpg

The Castle, as seen from the countryside:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-35.jpg

Notice the difference in the mud coating of the Evoque & Range Rover. That's because of the latter's air suspension lift of 10 cms:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-36.jpg

The part of the castle that is used as the reception for the Land Rover Experience program. You can see dozens of Land Rovers & Range Rovers parked here. The centerpiece of attraction is a fully prepped Defender LWB perched on the rocks. It has all the things that an offroader can dream of. Huge Micky Thomson MT tyres, winch, snorkel, roof carrier, dozens of lights and more:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-37.jpg

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-38.jpg

There is a sign asking people not to climb the rocks. If it were not for this sign, I would have surely climbed up & explored this beautiful machine some more:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-39.jpg

Picture of the front axle up close. Notice the steering knuckle:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-40.jpg

The many versions of the Defender:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-40_1.jpg

The 2012 Defender has a 2.2L engine with 122 BHP & 360 Nm of torque. How I wish we could buy these old workhorses in India. Am sure that there is a market for these beauties at a price point of 12-14 lakh.

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 17:18.
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Old 10th May 2012, 21:03   #9
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

At the reception area, there is a small shop that sells Land Rover memorabilia:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-41.jpg

Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-42.jpg

A Land Rover scale model:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-43.jpg

Comes kitted with huge MT tyres:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-44.jpg

We are then driven back to our hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon...the birthplace of Shakespeare. A nice small town with a rich culture for arts & drama. Every room in the hotel has a plaque outside with lines from the Shakespeare plays:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-46.jpg

After a quick shower & change, we head to the restaurant for Indian curry. Here, we meet some die-hard petrolheads from JLR -- John Edwards, Global Brand Director for Land Rover & Adrian Hallmark, Global Brand Director for Jaguar. One of them happens to have the vehicle below as his daily drive! We discuss all possible automotive topics under the sun. In the midst of our meal, Dr. Ralf Speth - CEO of JLR, dropped by for a few minutes to meet us and say hello:
Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK-47.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 17:25.
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Old 10th May 2012, 21:23   #10
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Default re: Land Rover Off Road Experience at Eastnor Castle UK

Other Points:
  • The first Land Rover was unveiled at the Amsterdam Auto Show on April 30, 1948.
  • It is the second 4WD brand in the world (after Jeep. The first prototype of Land Rover, called 'Center Steer', was based on the Jeep chassis).
  • They say that 75% of all Land Rovers ever made are still on the road.
  • You can't imagine a British countryside without these off-roaders. They are still a hit with the farmers.
  • You don't get to see too many Land Rovers in India. In Darjeeling however, there are plenty of the ol' Land Rovers (modified with Mahindra engines & parts) plying as Taxis. They are a common sight on the Maneybhanjan-Sandakphu route.
  • In India, 2,288 JLR vehicles were sold in FY 2011-12, 891 in FY 2010-11 and 226 in FY 2009-10. The Freelander 2 is being assembled in the Pune plant from May 2011 onwards.

Last edited by GTO : 19th May 2012 at 17:34.
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Old 20th May 2012, 15:40   #11
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Default Re: Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the 4x4 Excursions Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th May 2012, 16:09   #12
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Default Re: Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

Khan saab,
So lucky of you to get this opportunity to have the LP Experience. Which is your favorite LR?

Waiting for the Nurburgring Test Center / Race Track part to come.
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Old 20th May 2012, 16:29   #13
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Default Re: Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

Great thread and its an achievement for TBhp.
I went through whole thread in one go and its sure a dream for a 4X4 enthusiast like me.
Thanks Khan S for awesome pics.Total drool stuff.
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Old 20th May 2012, 16:48   #14
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Default Re: Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

@Khan saab, you are one lucky bloke !! Words cant express the envy that comes up when reading your posts. And the pics are just too good. How did you manage to take the pics in the middle of the driving / riding ?
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Old 20th May 2012, 16:56   #15
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Default Re: Off-Roading with Land Rovers & Range Rovers at Eastnor Castle, UK

Thanks For sharing & good report.
Wow these machines are beauty & the beast just in a click of a button.

Please share more videos if avaiable.

BTW, there was this video on TOP-Gear where Jeremy takes a LR Disco on top of a mountain (First ever).
He mentions that Disco is the heaviest of the LR beacuse it had standard body on ladder frame design + its body itself is as strong as monocoque design. So its more like dual chassis?

Last edited by offroad_maniac : 20th May 2012 at 17:03.
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