What better to showcase the capabilities of an SUV than taking it off the beaten track? While one gets to see a lot of events from premium SUV manufacturers displaying their product`s capabilities on extremely built ramps, the true test lies in the outdoors.
Aamby Valley’s 19 Degree North which is a 6 km odd off road track nestled in the expansive Aamby valley property makes for a perfect location with its challenging gradient sections and water crossings. The course starts with a customary brief about the basic, technologies, do’s and don’ts of off-roading. The team of instructors are subject matter experts with years of valuable on field experience who carefully guide you at every maneuver while riding shotgun.
The Land Rover Experience fleet consists of the Range Rover Evoque and the New Discovery Sport. It was a no brainer and we jumped into the new “Disco” Sport. Externally, the New Discovery is a far departure from the chunky and boxy design that we associate the word Discovery with. However, it maintains the same capabilities and takes them even further in the latest avatar, as we found out.
Land Rover’s decades’ worth off road know-how shines in the whole experience through their proprietary Terrain Response system. Confident and responsive, the drive is further enhanced by a generous wheel articulation and innovative off-road technologies like Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and the Gradient Release Control. The “General” mode which is akin to the Auto mode suffices in most scenarios as the electronic wizardry sorts out your life while you are sat in the plush interiors, creeping and crawling over some visibly challenging terrain.
While the General Driving (read Auto) mode of the Terrain Response is clever enough to keep going over most of the treacherous terrains, we also toggled between “Grass/Gravel/Snow” and the “Mud & Ruts and Sand” modes. The “Grass/Gravel/Snow” is your best bet for the most scenarios that we (or anyone for that matter) encountered, where the terrain comprised of gravel, rocks, water fording and some powdery soft dirt.
When situations get more sticky (no pun intended) like trying to get out of a muddy bog, or some steep ruts with loose surface, that’s where the “Mud and Ruts” mode turns out to be your savior. The mapping is evidently different on these 2 grouped modes as we found out during certain sections of the exciting course. As per the instructions we switched to “Mud and Ruts” mode while descending over steep gradients with loose surface, exactly the kind of a scenario where a tighter crawl control is called for. Moving forward in this mode also allows for, understandably, aggressive wheel-spin (more torque) as opposed to doing the same in “Grass/Gravel/Snow” mode which reins in the wheel spin and maximizes traction control.
So, to help you choose the mode depending on the wheel surface beneath, here is a simple ready reckoner. The General mode will allow maximum wheel spin of all modes followed by “Mud and Ruts” and lastly the “Grass/Gravel/Snow” modes. Mostly you will end up toggling between the latter modes, as we did during this course. “Mud and Ruts” could be the best choice for descending on steep gradients with low traction. This mode also supplements the Hill Descent Control, the speed of which can be set via steering mounted controls. The Discovery’s 600mm water wading capability wasn’t even questioned as we traversed through a small pond in the trail which made the small water waves slap against the floor pan.
Hill Start Assist, comes seriously handy on those ascents which can be very tricky for most of us. Transitioning from braking to accelerating while stationary on a steep incline is a child’s play with the Hill Start assist. With Gradient Release Control, Land Rover has taken it further ahead of what we all know as Hill Descent Control. Avoiding sudden inputs be it braking or throttle is the well-known thumb rule in off-roading. This feature adds gradual brake release in the Hill Descent Control function as opposed to unlocking the brakes as soon as throttle is applied. While quantifying the importance of this is difficult, it underlines Land Rover’s quest for perfection in their off-road tech pedigree.
Everything said, it’s worthwhile to know the technologies that are employed to help the owners derive maximum pleasure while the “modes” work tirelessly and silently underneath. The off-roading prowess displayed through the Land Rover experience is even more applause worthy considering the impeccable road manners that Land Rovers are known for. If that’s not all, what further boggles the mind is that the Land Rover Discovery dispensed whatever was thrown at it nonchalantly while wearing standard tubeless rubber meant for pavement and with minimum NVH levels as expected of premium SUVs. Its simply criminal to ignore the brilliance of tech-sophistication that Land Rover brings in to the equation and makes it look like trekker in a tuxedo!
The Land Rover experience has a commendable footprint covering many places all over the country. In our opinion, the 19 Degree North remains one of the more challenging courses that can be taken on in a Land Rover and remains a fun experience.