As a part of building its brand image in India, Land Rover has been organizing these experiences for potential customers and members of the media to truly experience what these SUVs can do. The location chosen for the Delhi edition of the Land Rover Experience was Damdama Lake in Haryana. It is a semi-dry lake, surrounded by tall bushes and semi-barren land that would make for a great OTR (off-the-road) venue.
The Taj Gateway Resort, Damdama was the start point and we were greeted by the team of instructors and vehicle fleet. The new Land Rover Discovery Sport looked really nice and was on display in all the colors that are offered. Personally, I really liked the dark grey color.
The schedule was such that we had a small briefing by Mr. Ashish Gupta, who had designed the track along with his team of instructors. He is the first Indian Lead Instructor to be certified from Range Rover and also the owner of Cougar Motorsports. They are the same people who are responsible for getting The Rain Forest Challenge to India and are partners with various OEMs for organizing customer experiences.
Mr. Narendra Saini, an experienced rally driver and motorsport veteran, was the instructor assigned to me. He guided me around the 3 km course - it was a combination of trenches, steep inclines, no-traction sand patches and varied angle approaches.
The drive started at the Hotel and the convoy had a total of 12 cars. I happened to be in the 11th one. It was a short 2 km drive till the start point of the trail. There were three Evoques and the rest were the Discovery Sports. I has the grey one from the picture above. This was the 'SE' trim, which for perspective is the model right above the base variant and as a result had 140 PS on demand as compared to the 190 PS available in the top speec 'HSE Luxury'. The best part about this car was the 400 Nm torque, which is channeled to all the four wheels using the latest tech wizardry, courtesy of the latest gen 'Terrain Management System'.
The four modes work with the help of some sensors and the 'Electronic Traction Control' system. The on-board computer detects the slip each wheels and then sends power them individually depending on the available traction. The viscous coupling locks and unlocks, working in tandem with auto-adjusting gear ratios to propel this mammoth out of any obstacle.
The Hill Descent control was the only system I had an issue with. It does the job, yes. But it isn't as reassuring as the ones present on some other vehicles available in the market. As you approach a descent, you can adjust the speed at which the vehicle crawls down via the switches on the steering which is a good feature, but to my surprise, the HDC kicked in a bit too late! And it happened not once, but on all three slopes. If I talk about the exact time delay, it was not more than 1 - 1.5 seconds, but it was more than enough to induce that feeling of free falling inside the cabin. And also when it does engage, it is accompanied by scratching and gruff noise from the wheels, which to my guess is the brake pads struggling to stop the rotors. I convinced myself that it was ok, but in the long run it will have an effect on the wear and tear of the brakes.
Coming to the better things about this vehicle, it has some great potential for sure. The approach and departure angle are more than enough to tackle these almost 2 feet ditches. The ground clearance is also class leading.
Every time we came to an obstacle, Mr. Saini would ask me to switch modes if needed and also suggest a line. Each of the modes would alter throttle response, gear ratios and engage low ratio, when needed. In 'Mud And Ruts', the car holds each gear for longer to help with traction and the throttle becomes extremely responsive to allow for some wheelspin, which in turn would help the individual wheel locks to engage.
I think this experience is a great initiative by Land Rover towards making people experience the true capabilities of these machines. They can be driven as well mannered vehicles on the weekdays and also take on the responsibility of being family explorer on the weekend.