The average driver of one of the classic off-road vehicles is often also a triathlete, rock-climber or mountain biker.
For the second part of our drive in the 2013 Range Rover, we leave the snow covered forest and tackle a climb up a high desert canyon. The route is intended to be even more challenging and technical to fully demonstrate what Land Rover calls ‘the breadth of capability.’ Buying one of these to haul groceries and occasionally drive through some snow is using about 1% of that breadth. And a lot of future owners will do just that. Land Rover engineers have spent countless hours developing and refining a sophisticated new automatic terrain response system which collects data including ambient temperature, engine torque, the transmission gear, suspension travel and even altitude. The terrain that lies ahead makes the Whole Foods parking lot speed bump look completely mind bending.
Our goal was to get to the top of a canyon ridge which overlooked Lake Powell, the second largest man made lake in the US. Our guides from Land Rover said it usually take a couple of hours, we had less than two before the sun set. Adventure and Land Rover are words that often get paired, and this really felt like one.
Transitioning from sand to rock required a very different driving technique. Our Land Rover driving instructor Tim explained that smooth acceleration is the key to traversing sand. Stops and starts will get you stuck. The new Range Rover’s lighter weight helps the vehicle ‘float’ better over these conditions.
Beginning the climb up the rocky wall of the canyon was intimidating. We were told the key here was to pick a line clear of jagged rocks and let the Range Rover’s low end gears do the work. Visibility becomes an issue with the grade change. Eventually the angle became steep enough that seeing the ground from the drivers seat was no longer possible. To assist with visibility, the Range Rover is fitted with half a dozen exterior cameras, including one in each side mirror pointing down, which can be selected on an interior screen. This makes it easier to put a wheel in the exact place you want.
Spotting is also an essential activity to navigating this type of terrain safely. The Land Rover instructors communicated with a series of hand signals regarding steering direction and amount, acceleration and braking to get through the really tough sections.
The view from the top was stunning and getting there proved the Range Rover was fit for the task with no problems.
Chatting with the team from Land Rover at dinner, many are adventurers at heart. We spoke with triathletes, mountain bikers and off-road racers. Enjoying the outdoors is something all of them love to do and share. They arranged for several local guides to lead a hike at dawn through Slot Canyon. Water carved a narrow channel through this limestone over centuries. At points the base is the width of a shoe. Recent rains filled sections with water requiring climbing along the canyon walls.
The US launch event of the Range Rover was an immersive experience. It was impeccably planned from the location selection and driving experience to the non-automotive activities. The story behind the new Range Rover emerged over the trip versus being presented on a screen. If potential buyers were on this trip, many would probably be driving home in a new Range Rover. Here are some observations from the launch which aided in telling a compelling story about the Range Rover:
The location seamlessly complimented the product – The Amangiri Resort located in the middle of the desert reflected the luxury yet rugged nature of the Range Rover. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect and with literally nothing else around, kept the focus on the vehicle.
It was a learning experience not a selling experience – A Land Rover engineer gave a brief presentation of technical improvements. We heard repeatedly “You’ll see for yourself.”
Related lifestyle experiences were included – Land Rover’s heritage is rooted in adventure. This experience included interaction with local chefs and cuisine, nature experts and off-road driving enthusiasts. Each had interesting stories to tell and knowledge to share.
For potential buyers or loyalists, this would have been a perfect vacation. Land Rover does regularly host driving events for existing owners who want to experience what their vehicles are capable of. Hosting regular trips like this one for luxury consumers would be an interesting new approach to premium selling.