I’ve never written a review before and didn’t think I’d write my first one about an unusual subject, but after one amazing morning, I felt I had to review the half-day Land Rover Experience Discovery Driving which my hubby and I attended at the Eastnor Castle site.
When Mr Passports and I decided in 2014 we needed to change my beloved Audi A5 for a more practical family car we eventually settled on a Land Rover Discovery, and my husband set about looking for the right one. We were very lucky to get a good deal on a very well looked after 2011 Discovery 4 XS SDV6 from Stratstone Land Rover in Cardiff and we snapped it up. The service we received from the dealer was first-class and after delivery of the beast, we settled down to enjoy getting to know her and all her toys. Soon afterwards, a letter arrived from Land Rover congratulating us on our purchase and letting us know how to book our Land Rover Experience Discovery Driving Day.
Say what? A half-day driving experience to learn the capabilities of our new car!? To say we were shocked is an understatement, but we were both thrilled and excited to receive this letter. The first-class service was continuing.
We gave ourselves a few months to get used to the car and then called the booking office to arrange a suitable date to coincide with Alex, our son, being in nursery. Unfortunately we had to cancel our first booking at very short notice due to illness, but Land Rover were very understanding and allowed us to rearrange. Well, after months of waiting that day finally arrived. Monday 2nd of March 2015.
After an early start to drop our son off at nursery, Mr Passports and I arrived at the Eastnor Castle site at 8.15am and made our way to reception where we were booked in, had our driving licences checked and were served tea and coffee with biscuits beside a roaring wood burner while we waited for our 9am start. A very nice gentleman called Martin (the manager I believe) took time to chat to us while we waited in reception, and ran through some of the history of the site, the experience days and also where the concept of the Discovery came from. And all this even after we revealed we were Irish; Ireland had beaten England 19-9 the day before in the Six Nations but he spoke well through gritted teeth! 🙂
A few minutes before 9am we were introduced to our instructor for the morning, Simon, and headed out to a gleaming white Discovery. “That won’t last long” we thought. As we were already familiar with a Land Rover Disco 4, Simon brought us straight out to our first track of the day. Before he did a demo lap, he ran through the terrain response modes and hill descent mode to bring us up to speed with each setting and those that we’d be using that day. Then it was off down a very muddy track to demonstrate the cars capability on terrain like that.
The muddy track was just about wide enough for the car, with trees all around, many skirting the track, with some steep descents and ascents too. One particular ascent included a 90 degree right turn with a great big dip right in the middle of it. Simon demonstrated to us, and the Evoque behind, how both the traction control and differential worked to overcome a spinning wheel in the air to get around the corner. The Disco sailed around slowly and smoothly before we reversed onto a track behind to watch how the Evoque did it. To be honest, she struggled and after a few goes, and a bit of welly, around she went and we followed her back to our starting point.
It was now time to swap drivers and my hubby volunteered me, so I jumped into the drivers seat, slightly nervous if I’m being honest. I’ve never in my life done anything like this before, especially not in a 2.5 tonne machine. And what a machine she is! Hill Descent Control (HDC) rocks as does mud tracks mode and I got around the lap no problem, even coasting around that 90 degree bend with ease. I was like a giddy school girl by the end of that lap.
Following this we moved onto a different area where water and slopes featured for hubby’s turn behind the wheel. He had so much fun here that Simon decided I should have a turn too. Through the water I went, creating a small bow wave as I went before moving on to what could only be described as a concrete crater.
The idea here was to enter in slowly, move the car so it was driving at an angle of around 45 degrees to the ground, before exiting with one wheel in the air. You don’t feel like your wheel is in the air but as the picture my hubby took of my turn, it looks quite dramatic from outside!
From here we were taken to drive over “rocky” terrain and that can be scary as you cannot see the track over the bonnet until you are already coming out of it. Being on only two diagonally opposite wheels at the same time as the other two are in the air is both scary and exhilarating.
Another muddy but also rocky track followed and it was one which Simon made me drive. Again, mud tracks mode and HDC came into their own, that is until we came across one short, but steep descent that also turned 90 degrees to the right between two large trees. And I was going to do it! Now this scared the life out of me. “Me, do it, get this beast of a car, through that?!” I thought. However, as hubby videoed it, Simon talked me through each step of the manoeuvre and, lo and behold, we were through and I could breath again. “Holy crap did I just do that!?”. You seriously couldn’t even walk it!
With a few minutes left before we had to return to the office, Simon kindly took us to another part of the estate to show us some stunning scenery and also to let Mr Passports behind the wheel again. This section was another level up from the one we had just left in terms of terrain and difficulty, and is used more on the full-day Discovery Driving experience and for training purposes. It gave my husband a chance to test out his skills a bit more than he had already as I had hogged the controls before now (but not intentionally!).
He thoroughly enjoyed himself and handled both the car and the terrain with ease, so much so he even considered doing the full day to see what else the car can do. Although we thought we had pushed the car, Simon ensured us we hadn’t even come close to pushing it to its limits and that the full day has far tougher terrain for the car to tackle.
After almost three hours in the car we headed back to the office for another tea and coffee with Simon, and a quick chat before we thanked him for a great morning and a fantastic experience. All-in-all, this was by far the most thrilling way to spend a Monday morning. Not only did we come away grinning like Cheshire cats, but we also learned an awful lot more about our cars’ capabilities and gained new skills to use should we ever need them. When snow and ice hit hard on our Welsh mountain after that day, we were both confident enough to get in or out of our estate in the Disco when we have to. We gained hints and tips we wouldn’t have done had we not done this experience, and also learned a lot more regarding the controls of the car.
All of the staff at Eastnor were extremely friendly and approachable, and Simon was both thorough and patient as an instructor. We all had a great laugh in between the seriousness of the learning curve we were on. The staff answered all questions we asked, were excellent hosts, and couldn’t have done more to make us feel both welcome and comfortable. The service we received was first-class again, in keeping with a first-class brand. It is this sort of thing that will remain in our minds when we come to change cars in the future.
We chose a Land Rover Discovery for both comfort and practicality, alongside safety and if there had been any doubts in our minds that we’d made the right decision, there was no doubt in our minds now.
I should point out that although we pushed the car and ourselves, at no point did we feel uneasy or in danger, or like the car would lose control. We were never placed in any danger, nor put in a situation beyond our own capabilities as drivers, nor those of the car. It was a fantastic driving experience and Simon summed up the morning perfectly:
It’s the most fun you’ll have ever had while going slow!Simon – Instructor at Land Rover Eastnor
He was 100% right. And what do you know, I woke up to 3-4 inches of snow the next morning. No problem!
If any of my readers have a Land Rover of any make or model, I urge you to think about doing a half-day experience with them. You learn so much about your car,things you never knew before and it is invaluable training for you as a driver!
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve got a car capable of going off-road or if you’ve tried one of these days. Also, if there’s anything you want to know about them, just ask!
*I was not asked to write this post.