The Land Rover Experience Driving School

I’m in the southern part of Vermont. The temperature displayed on the crisp LCD screen in front of me reads 34 degrees Fahrenheit. I sit inside a 2010 Land Rover Range Rover and my body is warmed by the heated seats, the dark leather and wood trim, my Helly-Hansen snowboard pants (which I haven’t worn in two years, yet thankfully still fit), and a multi-zone heating system. Outside of my comfortable little world however, Mother Nature is using all the white paint in her tray. So far the accumulation is around two feet, with no signs of letting up. But like I said earlier, I am in a 2010 Range Rover and the instructor riding shotgun is telling me to give it more gas. As Jimi Hendrix once asked, “Are you experienced?” … I am now.

Land Rover has established driving schools around the world, with four locations in North America. They can be found at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, California; the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; the Fairmont Le Château Montebello in Montebello, Quebec; and at the Equinox located in Manchester, Vermont. Each school is staffed by a crew of knowledgeable and friendly Land Rover enthusiasts who just happen to have a passion for off-roading as well. I was invited by Land Rover to attend the school at the Equinox Resort in Vermont.

The resort, established in 1769, is located in a particularly scenic section of Vermont known as Manchester Village. It has a classically New England exterior mixed with wonderfully modern rooms and a state of the art spa. Today it is part of the Starwood Hotels group, yet I don’t think past guests such as Presidents Taft, Harrison, Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt were card-carrying members. Nevertheless, activities range from pedicures in the spa (Dearthair’s favorite) to archery and falconry lessons, and finally world-class eating and drinking (one of my favorites). My focus on this trip wasn’t the good life however, it was the fleet of 2010 Land Rover vehicles parked a few snowy steps down the street at the Experience school office.
Land Rovers are too often sucked into a life perpetual exterior cleanliness and on-road-only excursions. These particular Land Rovers have been freed from the pack and were now set to guide a group of journalists through a day-long snowy (emphasis on SNOWY) journey. Quietly idling in a neat line were the 2010 Land Rover LR4, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover all with LED head and taillights gleaming through the fluff filling the air.

My chariot of choice for the first half of the day was the alpha-vehicle, the 2010 Land Rover Range Rover. I had never driven the full-size luxo-beast so I thought it was the perfect starting point to begin my off-road career. I was right. The snow was so deep that we required chains for traction but that was the only part of the vehicle that wasn’t stock. Thankfully, all 2010 Land Rover vehicles come equipped with Terrain Response®. Not simply a gimmick stuck to the center stack, Terrain Response® allows me to choose between settings for standard, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand. Suspension adjustments and changes to throttle response are different for each setting. Everything worked together wonderfully to make sure I, the friendly trainer riding shotgun, and the friendly journalist riding in the back seat, did not end up on our roofs/in the tress/stranded Alive style in the woods.
At the heart of this Range Rover sits the 5.0L V8 engine which produces 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. The engine sounds great and it is always a blast to mash the throttle in any vehicle but I quickly learned that throttle modulation and the proper gear choice are very important things off the asphalt. You need enough speed to climb the hill which is something the Rover does quite easily and amazingly, considering it would be a task to just try and walk up this hill. The key is having just enough speed to reach the top of the hill and come to a stop without introducing the Mr. Fender to Mr. Tree. Once you go up you also have to come down, and that is where Hill Descent Control comes into play. Hill Descent Control is now standard across the 2010 lineup and is a unique experience to say the least. I was told to simply point the vehicle straight down the hill and take my foot off both the gas and the brake. I did as I was told and the Range Rover brought us all safely down what was essentially a bunny hill in length but a black diamond in steepness. The system knows which wheels to apply brake pressure to individually to provide a safe descent of the hill. It was pretty amazing from behind the wheel, and equally amazing watching it from outside the vehicle as each wheel would brake independently to keep everything moving in the right direction.

After a few hours of playing in the snow, we headed to quaint Dorset Inn for lunch. Another New England classic, the Dorset Inn was established in 1796, yet the bacon cheeseburger I had is now a modern favorite not to mention the fries with the bourbon ketchup. This place also had an amazing list of beers available but that would have to wait for another trip. Lunch was soon over and it was back out to the line of British Snowmobiles disguised as SUVs waiting for another round of amaze-the-author.
It was time to switch vehicles so I decided to take a gander at the LR3. It was a 2009 model year vehicle that serves as the workhorse for the driving school and had already tacked on 15,000 miles, most of which have been off-road. We were the lead vehicle and we broke some serious trail heading deeper and deeper into the Vermont woods. The LR3 was behaving amazingly until we finally reach a point where we could go no further. The snow was heavy, wet, and everywhere…it had not stopped snowing since I had arrived the morning prior. We tried a few times to climb the hill, but we finally had to decide to turn around much to the dismay of all the instructors. Was I disappointed in them or the vehicles? Hell no! Making it as far as we did was quite astounding yet turning around when we did showed that they truly understand off-roading. If we pushed the vehicle harder, we could have made it over that hump but we might have ended up getting stuck in something worse down the road – amidst falling temperatures, deeper snow, fading light, and most importantly a weak cell phone signal. The disappointment was evident on the faces of all of the school workers but I’m still trying to wash the smile off of my own.

For more information on the Land Rover Experience, head here: Land Rover Experience.
For more information on the Equinox Resort, head here: Equinox Resort.
For more information on the Dorset Inn, head here: The Dorset Inn.


  1. And to think, if fate had treated me a bit more kindly, I'd have been right up the road (literally) running the local radio station….WEQX. F@%$ing fate always f@%$ing with my stuff.
    Anyway, great article….and welcome back Hooniverse from server limbo.

  2. Nice write-up. Yet, it still leaves me wondering how the Range Rover Sport does offroad. I am sure its competent, but if it rivals the LR3. I told my wife recently that if I had the money, and was getting a new SUV, that would be the one I would get.
    I am please that server limbo ended. I could see the posts on my RSS feed, but when I clicked over, I was told to go to hell. Anyway, YAY Hooniverse.

    1. The Range Rover Sport was there and tackled everything the other two did… I just didn't get behind the wheel personally out on the trail. Though I DID drive it from Albany airport up to Manchester Vermont…
      Personally I would go with the LR4 or the Range Rover due to rear seat head room. The Sport looks damn good though

  3. Wow, what a story. Makes me wish that I had been there. However, I suspect that all the trails had been cleared of branches to prevent what we call here "Arizona Pinstriping," the roads were well known to the guides, and everything was well-run and not very spontaneous. Yeah, I lived in Vermont for a while growing up, and they have some pretty nice log roads there. I want to see how these Land Rovers hold up bouncing off of rocks here in the West, climbing out of washes, plowing through mesquite bushes that will kill Pirelli and Michelin tires, and holding up to the kind of off-road abuse that we subject our beater trucks to here on a daily basis. Then, during the weekend, let's take said Land Rovers ghost-towning, where they'll really get a workout. Yes, the whiz-bang features sound pretty good when you're an hour's walk from the Inn, but can all that be trusted when you're a hundred miles from the pavement, the electronics are crashing and the beer's getting scarce?

    1. While you or I can completely agree that $50,000 would be far better spent buying six $1500 cars/trucks and then throwing $5000 at each one to put turbos, lift-kits, whatever and still having $11,000 left over for fuel and beer and when they broke would have no problem telling the kid's to wait here 'til I get back or let's go hiking, many (most) other people don't feel that way. My wife and her sisters, when the conversation turns to cars, the first (and only) thing that comes to the fore is all the breakdowns they've had and the infinite hardships that occurred thereafter. Tracy is always a good sport about this (she drove a '71 Suburban all through college), but you can tell her sisters aren't telling these stories like you or I would, "insurmountable odds overcome by wits and guile". They want to get in, have it start every time on the first crank, and blindly plow through huge drifts of snow without stalling or getting stuck. These guys know their market.

    2. Actually… we were scraping them up as we went along. The snow was wet and heavy so it caused the branches to hang very low…
      The car in front spit up a few rocks right into my windshield as I was driving as well…
      Also, all the instructors were talking about THE trip to Belize… I guess they have been down there a few times but the last time they went there was massive flooding and they made up a totally new and uncharted route with lots of deep, wet crossings and it sounded like a pretty hardcore test of the trucks.
      One of the instructors put a CJ-5 body on an old Rover chassis… and it calls it the Offender, since Jeep guys and Land Rover guys will both hate it. He uses it as a plow vehicle I believe.

    1. Sorry for a typo relating to a great musician in an article about Land Rovers… I fixed it for you.

  4. Posted this yesterday, but was gone today so I'm sorry for the double post if it's on my end.
    Did they chain up the steer-axle too? 4-wheel-drive with chains all around is pretty much unstoppable in my experience, if you go slow and back up a lot. None of the Civ (4WD parking lot P-U truck plows) that I pulled out this Winter were chained-up at at all. They were trying to push the snow into these huge piles because there was nowhere else for it to go, and while pushing up the pile the weight of the plow, snow in front of the blade, and weight of the truck would cause them to crack through and get high-centered. The chained-up guys could drag themselves off the pile, but the other guys were just stuck. They should have had some of these:

    1. We could have made it if we kept pushing since we were the lead vehicle with chains on all four corners…. however we were at the beginning of the second trail and it would have eventually gotten dark out there. It was a wise move to turn around at that point I believe… a tough call but a smart one

  5. A good call. The forest around here is full of abandoned vehicles waiting for Spring, when they'll turn around and tear the hell out of the road before they get stuck in the mud.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here