While most sane people spend their 60th birthdays in a five-star hotel ballroom sipping cups of tea and nibbling on cucumber and dill finger sandwiches, the folks at Land Rover Philippines decided to celebrate six decades of four wheeling fun by flying in almost 60 million pesos worth of precious metal and throwing them around one huge, custom built mud pit, causing one female journalist to gasp after realizing that she had to spend a dirty weekend with one of the most prestigious brands in the country.
“I just bought these shoes,” she exclaimed as realized that there were no carpets and air-conditioned foyers with crystal chandeliers within 30 kilometers from us. “But this is what they were born to do.” The Land Rover Experience instructor assured her as she stood in horror watching these British bruisers climb over rocks and bathe in thick, muddy, waist deep puddles.
And he is absolutely right, too, because no matter how much cushioning, leather trimming, wood paneling and computerizing they have added over the years, at the heart of every single Land Rover lays a thoroughbred off-roader capable of climbing the highest mountains and crossing the angriest rivers. Well, almost. But it’s safe to say you’ll get further than just about anything else on four wheels.
To prove the point, our local Land Rover dealer, led by Wellington and Marc Soong, contracted off-roading gurus, Robbie Consunji and Beeboy Bargas to design and construct a one hectare playground for their premium customers, press and friends to play around in for a day at the sprawling Eton City development down in Greenfields city, just on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.
There were Range Rover Sports, Freelanders, Defenders and of course the Discovery 3 on hand to tackle the tricky terrain that was built to conform to the famed “Land Rover Experience” international specifications, which is primarily designed to showcase the company’s sensational Terrain Response™ system that takes all the guess work (and skill) out of negotiating the challenging course.
As I approached the 45 degree mud ramp, I glanced over at my instructor, who I half expected to be trying to force his door open and leap out, and waited for him to yell out some kind of obscenity. Nothing. He just motioned me to keep going forward. I pointed out that we had the equivalent of a wall in front of us, yet he still insisted on punching the throttle.
Reluctantly, I stabbed the gas pedal down and began my ascent. Yet instead of sliding every which way but where the wheels were pointing, the incredible Hill Control feature simply pulled the multi ton SUV up at the most optimum speed. All this with my feet completely lifted off the pedals. I have tried hill descent control before, which uses engine braking and wheel braking to maintain a steady speed, but this feature, which is also designed to work uphill, was extremely impressive.
There was a lot of work poured into the event, but the end of a long day, the folks at Land Rover had finally made their point. Because after several weeks of painfully simulating river crossings, rock climbing and other natural disasters, the only thing that really stood out was this man made wonder.