- November 2014

TheMotorist does some Bundu Bashing at the Land Rover Experience

Land Rover experience

Investments and cars. If you work in the financial sector, especially in investments, you will know that those words barely work in the same sentence. Well in this case there was an exception, let me explain. As a freelance journalist I rely solely on people who know people, who know other people that will get me to drive and write about their cars. So this time we step into the financial sector, and I just happen to know someone at Caleo Capital that does work with a company called Glacier by Sanlam. It all sounds very complicated, and it is. Don’t worry too much about it though, all that matters is that a group of very nice people got me into the seats of nearly the whole Land Rover range.

Glacier was kind enough to invite us to do the Land Rover experience. This experience includes nearly rolling millions of Rands worth of Land Rovers, at least that’s what I thought but the instructors assured us that this wouldn’t be the case. So here’s my line up: a Range Rover Sport 5.0l Supercharged, a Discovery 4 3.0l Diesel, a Freelander 2.0l diesel and a Defender 2.2l diesel. This is what happens, there is a series of obstacle courses that one has to do with each car. These courses are meant to prove to a client that their hard earned money did not go to waste in a “pavement” 4×4.

Since I have not put my money into acquiring a Land Rover product, I got the opportunity to look at this exercise from a different point of view. As someone living in the city, one sees many 4×4’s on the road. These cars are normally filled with kids in the back that are busy writing on the windows or one person in the car donning expensive sunglasses. Whatever the reason for the purchase of these cars, I can put money on the fact that a large percentage of the people who buy these cars don’t use them to their full capabilities. In fact I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that most expensive 4×4 owners don’t even know half the things their cars can do, but can you blame them? I’m sure you wouldn’t need hill descent assistance on your way out of Sandton City mall. Of course this is a gross generalisation so if you do use your Range Rover sport out in the bush, don’t hate me Bear Grills, we’re not talking about you here.

Let’s get off this tangent and talk about these cars. We will sum it up car by car but first, what did this course entail? A very bumpy trail, a thirty degree sideways drive, a few very steep inclines and declines, a large body of water, some rocks and very often the sayings “watch the trees!” and “just let go and let the car do the work”. Let’s start with the Range Rover Sport. The cabin? Amazing. The finish is one of the best I’ve seen in this class of car. Everything just felt like quality. The car has a very smart screen that allows the passenger to see a totally different screen to the driver.  For instance, the driver can be looking at the navigation whilst the passenger enjoys a DVD, all on one screen. How did it do throughout the courses? Very well! The cars suspension is such that is allows each wheel to manoeuvre through bumps independently whilst keeping the chassis as straight as possible. This allows for maximum comfort on bad roads. A car of this calibre is very assisted so inclines and declines were a case of letting the car do the work.

Next up, the Discovery. To make it easy, let’s quote the instructor, “The discovery and the Range Rover in these conditions are very much the same in terms of what they can do”. This was true, although the discovery is bigger, I personally found it more enjoyable in these settings. The car just felt great. The cabin is not as classy as in the Range Rover, but the car also doesn’t cost as much as the Range Rover. The discovery just felt more at home doing this sort of thing, it also looks more the part too. I mean who really wants to “bundu bash” in a Range? Maybe I’m brainwashed into thinking that the Range belongs outside The Michelangelo Towers and the Discovery is the one you strap all the kids in and hit the Kruger Park with. Anyway, this was so far my favourite for the day.

Freelander, what have you got for us? Well firstly I had to readjust my driving style. Before I was feathering the throttle and letting the cars do the work, but now I had to rev the devil out of this little thing. Things also got a lot bumpier now, no more independent suspension and fancy features. That being said, this car still has hill descent assist so it got me through all the courses. The rocky bits got hairy because the chassis felt like it was going to give up at certain points but the old girl made it through. The Freelander in the end made me feel proud because despite the lack of fanciness it got the job done, a little car with a big heart.

And lastly the old man in the group, the Defender. In terms of character, this car wins. You can’t help but smile when you’re in this car, you almost want to put on a Khaki shirt, don some short shorts and set off into the sunset with your buddies. The cabin is basic, the car sounds like a truck, the clutch is heavy, but who cares!? This is a 4×4, and it’s just that. You won’t get a Defender guy saying “Oh no! My 21 inch rims are scuffed, woe is me!” The Defender driver is busy climbing rocks in Botswana and taking photos of his amazing catch that he caught in the early hours of the morning. The car truly reflects the kind of person who would buy it. The simple man who just wants to road-trip, “Sunscreen for who? Salad for what? Just give me my Cadac and my fishing rod” said the Defender owner, and for that I salute it.

In the end of all the shenanigans, I have come to have more respect for the Land Rover brand. The versatility of the cars their offer in one brand is astounding. So much so that I think if you were to put all their clients in a room it would be a real “chalk and cheese” situation, but in this case it would be more like braai vleis and Hugo Boss.