What better way to test and prove a car’s reliability then go on a mega road trip spanning 14 countries and a variety of terrain? Land Rover thinks so, and has sent a group of Range Rover Hybrid prototypes (shown at Frankfurt 2013 alongside the Range Rover Sport Hybrid) on a trip to India from UK. It is the final validation test before the model is signed-off for production. Deliveries will commence in 2014.
Recently, the Silk Trail 2013 expedition entered the 14th and final country on the journey from Solihull to Mumbai when it passed through Nepal and reached the town of Mahendranagar on the border with India. At this point, over 15,500 km has been covered, with 1,700 km left on the journey to Mumbai.
Leaving behind high altitudes and the peaks of the Himalayas, the three prototypes were driven on flatter but more hazardous roads, passing paddy fields and rain forests. The heat and humidity, and the density and unpredictability of the traffic, have been increasing. The responsiveness of the engine, and its ability to accelerate strongly, enabled safe overtaking manoeuvres on roads busy with trucks and buses.
The seventh of the expedition’s eight-week journey started by crossing a deep river ravine on the Friendship Bridge connecting the town of Zhangmu in China with the village of Kodari in Nepal. One-by-one the Range Rover Hybrids were given permission to drive slowly across the bridge with the passengers required to follow them over on foot.
On the other side of the bridge lay a journey to Kathmandu of merely 136 km – but the traffic was so dense, and the roads so severely potholed, that the Range Rover again had to draw on its class leading (590 mm) wheel articulation to ride smoothly over the bumps. Even so, this short distance took three hours – an indication of the challenges that would lie ahead in the next week on Nepal’s busy roads.
The next leg of the journey, from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a town surrounded by three of the ten highest mountains in the world, was a 203 km stretch of road demanding eight hours of unwavering concentration. Every foot of road space was contested by bicycles, tricycles, horse-drawn carts, scooters, motorbikes, cars, mini-buses, buses, trucks, roving cows, slow-moving water buffalo, loose dogs, and fearless pedestrians.
The Range Rover’s commanding driving position was invaluable, allowing drivers to see further down the road and recognise hazards sooner. The need for regular braking also kept the Hybrid motor’s battery recharged, ensuring that it assisted the 3.0 litre SDV6 diesel engine and further improved fuel economy despite the ever-changing pace of driving.
The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes were then ready to cross the bridge over the Mahakali River and into India, for the final stretch to the expedition’s destination, the city of Mumbai. More on the Range Rover Hybrid here.