2013 Land Rover Driving School Review:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The message was simple, really: treat the terrain gently and keep the shiny side of the vehicle up.
“We teach ‘expedition’ driving,” said Ben Wootten, Land Rover driving instructor. “The car is a tool to get you from point A to point B and back to point A. If you don’t want to have to walk back, drive in a way that preserves the vehicle and preserves the trail. It lends itself to the ethic of Tread Lightly.”
And there in a nutshell is the core curriculum of the Land Rover Experience off-road driving school here at the opulent Biltmore Estate: treat the land and the Land Rover (or any other vehicle you happen to be driving) with respect.
The vehicles we drove in a day navigating 14 miles of trails on the estate’s 8,000 woodsy acres were a 2013 Land Rover LR2 and 2012 Range Rover Evoque, two rides that feature full-time all-wheel drive rather than Land Rover’s famous permanent four-wheel drive. LR2 and Evoque do not boast a two-speed transfer case, nor the low-range grunt such a T-case provides.
But what they lack in muscle they make up for in technology that helps make a novice off-roader good and a veteran savvy.
That techno wizardy includes Hill Descent Control, which automatically pumps the ABS to ensure slow, controlled descents, and a four-mode Terrain Response system that lets the driver tailor various vehicle systems to the surface at hand, be it general driving; grass, gravel or snow; sand; or mud and ruts. Combined with a shared 2.0-liter, 240-hp turbo I-4 and a six-speed automatic, that anti-slip hardware proved adept at keeping the vehicles moving over mud-slick trails made spookily greasy by three days of almost ceaseless rain.
No, LR2 and Evoque won’t scale boulders – that grunt work is left to other Range Rovers and Land Rover’s LR4, with their two-speed transfer cases, low-range muscle and “rock-crawl” Terrain Response mode – but they’re effective in navigating slick forest trails and, particularly in Evoque’s case, they’re handsome to see around town.
Pictured here are some moments from our day at school.
Prices for the Land Rover Experience on the Biltmore Estate range per vehicle from $250 for an hour up to $1,200 for a full day. For more information, visit biltmore.com/visit/activities/land_rover.asp.
Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer living in St. Louis. He also is a regular automotive contributor to Fox 2 KTVI-TV St. Louis. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.