Off-road action at Land Rover Experience will test any driver’s resolve

A Land Rover Defender and a Range Rover Evoque on the course

A Land Rover Defender and a Range Rover Evoque on the course - Credit: Archant

“Let’s go off-road!”

Until recently, my only perception of off-road driving came from watching episodes of The Fast Show and Top Gear, neither of which prepared me for the real thing, writes Matt Adams.

Instead of being thrown around the interior of a ramshackle all-terrain vehicle like a sock in the washing machine, it was much more about precision driving using the full capabilities of a car, and was actually closer in feel to a flight simulator or video game.

Accompanied by my intrepid photographer, I was taking part in a Land Rover Experience at Luton Hoo Estate, just north of Harpenden, and driving one of the powerful 4x4s for the first time.

Offered as a perk to new Land Rover owners in order to familiarise themselves with their cars, or run as corporate team building events and stag do activities, the Experience provides an opportunity to get behind the wheel and put these vehicles through their paces in a safe but challenging environment.

After all, how many of us spend a fortune on a new car without really knowing what it’s capable of, and only eventually learning through trial and error? The Experience offers practical, hands-on driving with an unmodified Land Rover but with an emphasis on the features you might not be aware of.

Following a brief coaching session with our fully accredited instructor Simon Blackburn around some man-made rough terrain on the picturesque estate, it was time to have a go ourselves.

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Driving at 30 degree angles around a water-filled bowl sounds harder than it actually is, as the Land Rover offers video camera support, remarkably attentive steering, and responsive wheels which shift grip according to the terrain and gradient.

Similarly, reversing onto the apex of a mound barely wider than the vehicle, and with a steep drop either side, requires more faith in the power and capabilities of your Land Rover than it does any real driving skills.

That’s not to say that this wasn’t an incredible, pulse-racing experience, because even although your brain is aware that your state-of-the-art vehicle is comfortably taking care of most of the challenges of off-road driving, your nerves are still heightened and your heart beats like a trip hammer.

Resisting the urge to ram your foot down on the brake pedal instead of confidently manipulating the accelerator, choosing the exact gear setting and manipulating the height of the car to suit a particular surface are the sort of skills you can only pick up on a practical course like this.

Plunging through water which splashes against the sides of the vehicle, bumping over rocky terrain, and careering down sheer embankments with your foot off the brake are just some of the features of the Experience, and will put the resolve of even the most confident driver to the test.

The company aims to focus on the responsible side of using these vehicles as opposed to overall “race track” performance, especially with regards to the green agenda and driving off-road both safely and responsibly.

The courses also change dramatically depending on the weather, so you could have a completely different driving experience at various points in the year.

So you want to find out exactly what your vehicle is capable of, or just enjoy putting one through its paces, this could be the day out for you.

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