Inside track on tour of Land Rover’s testing grounds
The Land Rover facility at Eastnor Castle in England holds all manner of off-road challenges. Designed to test a car to its limits, the terrain is challenging to say the least. Jack Evans takes a lively tour
Great off- road capability sits at the core of every Land Rover car. Ever since the first Land Rover project began in 1947, it has been paramount that each vehicle can deal with the toughest terrain and weather.
But where to put this to the test? Believe it or not, the answer lies in the rolling slopes of the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Ledbury in Herefordshire, in the UK.
The first thing you’ll notice is the castle. It was only built recently ( in castle terms), but the 1820 structure is no less imposing to look at.
Crenellations aside, what can you expect from the proving grounds? After all, it’s open to members of the public who buy vouchers, while anyone who purchases a new Discovery will be offered the chance to visit the facility to see just what their new car can do.
It’s part of Land Rover’s new initiative to enable customers to understand just what’s going inside their new Discovery and therefore use the technology comfortably.
We were sent out to try a series of different obstacle sections, with each segment testing different areas of the car’s capability.
Firstly, we got behind the wheel of the all- new Discovery to see just how good it is at towing. The previousgeneration car was incredibly popular with those who like to hitch up, so the new one has quite the reputation to uphold.
Thankfully, with its towing assist technology, the hard work is taken out of the job — even when reversing a three-axle trailer box. It calculates steering angles for you, meaning there’s no need to try and work out just how much lock to use.
One of the key features of any Land Rover is its ability to tackle sticky situations. The area surrounding Eastnor has some of the claggiest mud in the UK, able to cling to tyre treads and suspension components alike. Even the Discovery, with its heated seats and built- in televisions has been designed to cope with it — which is why we were next sent out on a rutted, muddy track featuring steep inclines and even steeper drops.
Set to low range, the Discovery happily plugs away at the route. It’s easy to see how other cars would struggle in this area, but the Disco — even on road tyres — manages it well. It’s also an incredible showcase for the car’s seamless technol- ogy, as it will monitor the ground conditions and adjust its off-road settings accordingly.
After driving down a rocky incline, ( where we were tested to keep as much water in a bowl mounted to the bonnet as possible) we headed to an articulation test area. With high concrete banking and car-killing gradients, it showed the extremes that Land Rover
cars are pushed to. We were then instructed to head straight for a deep section of water, which tested the Discovery’s 900mm maximum wading depth to the limit.
Finally, we waited until darkness fell to drive along a muddy, slippery track through the forests surrounding Eastnor. With the trees lit up by the car’s headlights, i t certainly felt spooky, and travelling in a convoy did give you the feeling you wouldn’t want to be left behind.
A rabbit warren of these tracks surround the area, giving those who attend one of the Land Rover’s experi- ence days the chance to try a selection of different surfaces. You can do this in the manufacturer’s legendary Defender, too.
The impressive facilities at Eastnor Castle show you that — far from being any soft- roader — Land Rover cars still have the same very high level of off-road prowess that won them such a goanywhere reputation to begin with.
Of course, if you’re lacking in confidence on tricky surfaces, a trip there could be just the thing you need. Equally, if you’re an avid thrill-seeker, you’re just as well catered for.
A challenging gradient, one of the many tests awaiting the driver visiting Eastnor Castle, Land Rover’s testing grounds in England.
A flooded track, with very challenging mud, one of the many obstacles facing drivers at the Land Rover testing grounds at Eastnor Castle, England.