Sunday 6 November 2011

Road - Going Bump in the Night

The new 2012 Land Rover might have a smaller engine than the current model, but it is still every bit as capable and impressive when the going gets tough, and muddy, and slippery, and steep, and rocky, and wet, very wet.

Despite the lack of 200 cc, the new 2.2 litre engine has the same power as the older 2.4 version with 120 bhp and 360 Nm of torque, but there is another difference. Top speed has been raised to 90 mph as opposed to 82 mph. That wasn’t an issue where we went tonight.

Using many of the roads, gullies and stream beds around the Floors Castle estate, the Land Rover team had laid out a sinuous route through the trees with dark river and flooded black pond crossings, spindly bridges over gullies, and some really muddy and slobbery climbs up steep embankments, including one which required the use of the front mounted winch. Even the LR top product engineer failed to negotiate this test prior to the press launch without using the winch.

In all fairness it had been designed deliberately to enable journalists to experience the delights of winching stuck Land Rovers out of a mucky morass, up the side of a small muddy mountain – in the dark, when there are beasties and ghoulies out there hiding in the trees. The climb commenced round a very tight right hander which prevented taking a run at it. Once the tyres were clogged with mud, they were going nowhere.

Much of the rest of the route was conducted in Lo-Range four wheel drive in either first or second gear with the diff locks on, although there was some faster stuff between the trickier sections.

But until you’ve experienced the capability of a Defender first hand it is quite unbelievable the angles that it can be tipped without toppling and the fact that steep, slippery descents which would thwart a mountain goat with crampons can be negotiated at snail’s space without any fear of the vehicle running away from you and impaling you on a tree.

It’s still not the most comfortable vehicle to drive, especially after a country vegetable soup, roast chicken main course and Eve’s pudding 3 course lunch. It’s cramped and awkward to drive, but once driven, there’s nothing else quite like it.


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