- NEWS FEATURE – LAND ROVER EXPERIENCE
A 30-minute trek through dense woodland, over the Haunted Bridge and past the Witches Staircase, leads to a feature known as the Toblerone.
It looks innocuous to the point that you don’t really even notice it, until the car lurches to one side at the top of a steep climb – and leaves you staring at an unnerving drop down to the right.
Along with other hazards like the Peanut, Del’s Drop, the Wilks Brothers Bridge and Red Wharf Bay, the Toblerone is part of a new quarry area just opened at the Land Rover Experience in Cheshire.
Based on a 500-acre estate around Peckforton Castle near Tarporley, the new quarry adds considerable appeal to what was already an impressive set-up.
As one of several Experience centres dotted around Britain, the Peckforton venue has all the Land Rover vehicles – Defender, Discovery, Freelander2, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Evoque – on site.
And senior instructor Andy Rigby was on hand to help me sample the new facility in a Liverpool-built Range Rover Evoque SD4 five-door six-speed automatic model.
This car, with 2.2-litre 190PS diesel engine and in leather-clad Prestige trim, costs £38,295 from a range that starts at £29,195 for the front-wheel drive eD4 Pure version.
While the capabilities of tough, rugged Land Rover offerings like the Disco and Range Rover are legendary, owners of more road-biased models like the Evoque would be surprised at just how much their car can cope with off-road.
And the Land Rover Experience is designed to do just that.
The drive into the forest from the Victorian castle with its battlements and walled courtyard crosses a dry moat before winding through Peckforton Woods past ponds and sandstone outcrop to Stanner Nab, some 850ft above sea level.
Mud, ruts and a 450ml water channel – just 50ml short of the Evoque’s depth capability – lead to a narrow passage cut through a steep-sided ridge hewn so sandstone could be transported from the quarry for building.
The features installed in this new area are designed to test driving technique and show off the qualities of the Land Rover vehicles.
They consist of five elements – steep hills, side slopes, elephants’ footprints, a tipping bridge and water splash – each making a different demand on car and driver.
All the features are named after a different figure from Land Rover’s history and all are demanding.
Hue’s Hill is a steep climb topped by the Toblerone, designed to cross-axle the car, lift its wheels into the air and show off the traction control, while Del’s Drop brings the Hill Descent Control into play.
It’s a 45-degree drop involving a leap of faith – lift your feet off the pedals and the let the Land Rover smoothly make its own way down using the ABS braking system to control each wheel’s speed.
Red Wharf Bay, a side slope named after the Anglesey beach where designer Maurice Wilks first drew a sketch of his ideal all-terrain vehicle in the sand, tilts the car 35 degrees.
And using the onboard zoom cameras that offer a 360-degree view of everything around the car, you can negotiate tricky sections like the Peanut or McGovern’s Mounds with confidence.
It all makes for an experience with the wow factor, one that is likely to get even more varied and impressive as plans are at an advanced stage for securing a 6,000 acre add-on at the nearby Bolesworth Estate.
Land Rover operates a range of experiences at Peckforton from off-road driving courses lasting from one hour to a full day as well as a two-day winching course, supervised by instructors with more than 200 years experience between them.