I recently spent a week away from the office in our long-term Range Rover and covered quite a lot of ground off-road. I was reminded that the genius of the car is not so much the go-anywhere trickery across the hillside, but the ability to cruise down the motorway pretty quietly, smoothly and, nowadays, economically on either side of the mud slugging.
But despite all that, I can’t help but acknowledge something that gets neglected in the era of traction control and electronic locking diffs: the very old-school, off-road quality of wheel travel. It’s here that the Range Rover really comes into its own.
When you’re off-road, the air suspension is not only jacked up, but the linked across the car, side to side, allowing the independent suspension to mimic the articulation of a live axle. You get an improvement in ride comfort, better traction and generally better grip, giving a better sense of security and stability.
There’s still a point, however, where wheel articulation, traction control, terrain response, and locking centre and rear diffs can’t deliver what you need. I hit this during a recent photo shoot, when Autocar’s senior photographer, Stan Papior, complained that the already tough going wasn’t muddy enough.
I reluctantly set off into a very muddy field and found very quickly that, having got it in, the Range Rover’s road-biased tyres would not get it out again. In fact, an hour and a massive tractor later, it became obvious that a very different sort of tyre was the order of the day, though I wouldn’t put much faith in their wet weather grip.