Now that Jeep has all but given up its off-road bona fides, Land Rover is the last major manufacturer that sees its SUVs as more than trendy faux-by-fauxes for urbanites.
Explore Catalonia in a Land Rover LR4, the rugged gent of motoring
Land Rovering off-road is supposed to be the gentlemanly art of treading lightly over incredibly treacherous terrain, an often-delicate balance between momentum and precious traction. The emphasis, as is often reminded by the golly good fellows who man all the Land Rover Experience adventures, is always on the gentlemanly. One never rushes a Land Rover, particularly if one is deep in the woods.
Except if you're in the Bowler Nemesis version of the company's famous sport brutes. Custom-made, the Nemesis is essentially an off-road racer that sees a Range Rover Sport body mated to a custom off-road space frame and powered by a tuned version of the original 4.4L V8. The custom Donerre suspension has the Nemesis glide over the same treacherous terrain at speeds that would split a standard Range Rover in two.
But that just makes the standard LR4's off-road abilities all the more amazing. Considering that this same vehicle will garner you a prime parking spot in front of any classy hotel, that the luxurious LR4 can even venture near the same terrain as the custom-built Nemesis is incredible.
And incredible (or perhaps impassable) is the only way to describe some of the places I find myself bouncing through on my pristinely white LR4 in Catalonia, Spain. Now that Jeep has all but given up its off-road bona fides, Land Rover is the last major manufacturer that sees its SUVs as more than trendy faux-by-fauxes for urbanites. Indeed, even after almost a dozen such forays to the company's "Experience" adventure programmes, I never fail to be amazed at the incredible contortions Land Rovers can endure while still maintaining forward motion. In the course of the three-day Catalonia adventure, I submerge the LR4 in bogs, tilt it sideways in ruts so dramatically that I could touch the road and clamber up hills so slimy with mud that walking is actually dangerous.
Over the course of the day, my co-pilot and I drop Land Rovers off the side of roads, winch them up when they're too impossibly mired to extricate themselves and bound over rocks that have the suspension extended further than a low-interest Greek government loan. You wouldn't treat a rental car this way. Certainly, nothing wearing a Mercedes, BMW or Audi badge will clamber up the hills, descend the precipitous drop-offs or wallow in the mud that our LR4 shrugged off as nothing more than a weekend run to the cottage. That it cleans up so well, offering all the luxury of its competition, however, is the most amazing part.
And, of course, since this is a Land Rover event, our daily mud and muck is washed off at the end of the day in venues even the Queen Mum would have approved. Even our night spent "camping" featured facilities worthy of a four-star resort.
Land Rover puts on experiences all over the world; the Catalonia adventure cost Dh20,500 for four days including accommodation, money well spent considering it is as extreme as you can get while not exceeding a speed limit.