A NEW off-road driving experience has opened just up the M1 in Luton and I was invited to see what it is all about.
The Land Rover Experience at the Luton Hoo Estate is one of seven centres in the country where visitors can see the specialist off-road training facilities and get behind the wheel themselves.
Under the guidance of an instructor, the drivers negotiate the various terrains of the course and learn how to use the powerful vehicles.
Managing director Richard Beddall said: “We wanted a base in Luton as it’s near to London and the motorways and means we can drive on road and off-road. The Luton Hoo Estate is perfect.”
There are three courses on offer at the Experience.
The first is professional driver training for those with a company vehicle who can undergo a one-day training course for a certificate to say they are a competent driver.
The second is for Land Rover dealers from around the London, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire area who send customers to test drive the cars. If someone is interested in buying one of the new models they can drive it for three hours, on and off-road, and talk to the instructors about it.
There are also customers who already own the cars who want to learn more about how the various controls work.
Finally the Land Rover Experience also hosts corporate days with companies who can have an afternoon either doing professional training or just having some fun driving off-road.
Compared to the little Volkswagen Polo I’m used to driving, the huge Land Rover felt like an absolute monster.
Before I got behind the wheel myself, I was given a demonstration by the instructor, who drove the car over a frighteningly steep mound and down a big drop that I wouldn’t have attempted on foot, let alone in a giant car!
That was terrifying enough, then suddenly it was my turn.
The instructor talked me through some of the different controls but it all seemed like a lot to take in and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to remember what to do.
As soon as I started driving though it was fine, as the car really does most of the work for you.
It has cameras all around the outside so you don’t need to bother looking in your mirrors, it beeps if you’re going to hit anything, the wheels will climb and descend hills with minimal input from the driver and all you really have to do is steer.
We went over some side slopes, where the car was almost horizontal to the ground, then over some ‘elephant’ footprints, up some big rocks, across a ditch and through deep muddy dirt tracks in the woods.
Despite my reservations I’m now a Land Rover convert and can’t wait to go off-roading again. And although the £60,000 vehicles are a little out of my price range, it is my birthday tomorrow, so you never know...
To see a video of Connie’s off-road experience, go to our website at www.hemeltoday.co.uk