Land Rover Explore smartphone launched

£599 rugged Android smartphone that's as tough as a Land Rover

Where would we be without our mobile phones? Even the most tech-unfriendly will have a phone of some kind or other (probably a Nokia 3310…), but most of us now have smartphones. And Land Rover has launched a smartphone with a battery life to rival that of the old Nokia: the Land Rover Explore.

Capable of running for two days of typical use, and able to double that with the Adventure Pack, the £599 Land Rover Explore is a rugged full-HD Android mobile phone with a five-inch screen.

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It’s drop-tested to 1.8 metres and can survive underwater and cope with extreme temperatures, humidity, thermal shock and vibration exposure - watch the video

The screen is bright enough to use in full sunlight and can be controlled with gloves or wet fingers. It’s also fully compatible with all Land Rover in-car apps.

The phone will be available to order from 26 April 2018. For more details and to register an interest, check out the website

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Land Rover Explore outdoor phone specifications

  • Huge battery (4000mAh) plus add-on battery pack
  • IP68 splash, water and dust resistance
  • Drop-proof to 1.8 metres with factory-fitted screen protector
  • Premium grade, detailed off-road topographical mapping options from ViewRanger with Augmented Reality Skyline feature
    • In-box premium off-road mapping voucher, giving a choice of country-wide or custom region topographical maps in many markets.
  • Customisable outdoor dashboard to access to the most important weather information, sensor data, and on-device tools for your activity: eg weather, wind, tides, compass, SOS light
  • Android Nougat OS, with scheduled upgrade to Oreo
  • 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM, expandable via microSD
  • Deca-core 2.6GHz 64 bit MTK Helio X27 chipset with dual SIM functionality
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, 4x digital zoom
  • Bright five-inch FHD display, Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protected, optimised for outdoor use
    • Touchscreen can be controlled with gloves on or with wet fingers
    • Night red filter mode reduces screen glare, preserving natural vision in low light and at night
  • LTE Cat 6
  • Curated apps and content catalogue relevant to outdoor pursuits

Adventure Pack specification

  • 3600mAh additional battery
  • 25 x 25mm ceramic patch GPS antenna
  • TPU protective case
  • Stainless steel carabiner with canvas strap
  • IP68 and 1.8-metre drop tested

Bike Pack specification

  • Bike mount and case for both stem and handlebar
  • Tilt to adjust viewing angle or change device orientation

Battery Pack specification

  • Ultimate battery performance, additional 4,370 mAh of battery capacity
  • IP68 and 1.8-metre drop tested

Range Rover Sport PHEV climbs to Heaven’s Gate

As far as publicity stunts go, driving a Range Rover Sport up one of China’s most famous landmarks is quite a feat.

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The showroom-standard Sport, a P400e plug-in hybrid (PHEV), started its run from
the bottom of the legendary seven-mile-long Tianmen Mountain Road – known as the Dragon Road thanks to its twists and turns – in Hunan Province, before attempting the epic final ascent to the Heaven’s Gate natural rock arch.

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Powered by a combination of the 296bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine and 85kW electric motor, the Sport effortlessly conquered the phenomenal 999-step, 45º stairway.

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Driver Ho-Pin Tung said: ‘I’ve won at Le Mans, but this was one of the most demanding driving challenges I’ve faced.’   

Range Rover SV Coupé on way

Range Rover SV Coupé set for debut at Geneva Motor Show

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Another limited-edition Land Rover is about to hit the streets, but the company isn't giving much away at the moment.

The Range Rover SV Coupé will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show and 'no more than 999 examples' will be offered worldwide. Each vehicle will be hand-assembled by Special Vehicles Operations at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire.

It will be a 'celebration of the Range Rover bloodline, with a dramatic two-door silhouette which alludes to its unique heritage, while being thoroughly modern and contemporary.'

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover chief design officer said: 'The Range Rover SV Coupé is a highly compelling design with peerless refinement and uncompromised sophistication from its breathtaking exterior proportions to its sumptuous, beautifully appointed, interior. This is a vehicle that will resonate on an emotional level.'

The SV Coupé will be revealed on 6 March 2018, when full details will be available. If you'd like to register an interest for one of these limited edition models, contact your local dealer - find them here.

New signage guides the way in Slaley Forest

Improved access information will keep everyone on the right track in Slaley Forest, Northumberland.

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Forestry Commission, working in collaboration with Northumbria Police, Northumberland County Council, Green Lane Association, Northumbria Trail Riders Fellowship and the local community, have improved access information so that everyone can enjoy the forest safely.  Slaley forest welcomes a variety of users from walkers, cyclists and horse riders to trail riders and greenlaners. The new signage clearly explains which routes through the forest are legally open to all traffic.

Alex MacLennan, Recreation & Public Affairs Manager for Forestry Commission for the North East has been leading the project and explains:

'Forestry Commission welcomes everyone to the public forest estate. Slaley is a popular location for trail bike riders and 4x4 drivers and part of managing this site with multiple users is to ensure that the public byways are clearly marked so everyone can maximise their enjoyment of this special forest, whilst at the same time staying on the right side of the law.'

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Neighbourhood Inspector Pam Bridges said: 'Northumbria Police is delighted to support this collaborative initiative. Police will continue to work with local agencies and individuals to ensure this area is available for visitors to enjoy.'

Northumbria Trail Riders Fellowship welcomes all responsible trail riders who are looking to learn where they can ride in the area, and have been a key contributor and partner in this project. Greg Villalobos, Chairman Northumbria TRF, said:

'All the riders at Northumbria Trail Riders Fellowship are proud to have been part of this initiative. We value the Green Road network in the north east and understand that Slaley Forest is an important and sensitive part of that. We believe that with a respectful approach all users can use the byways open to all traffic and that having clear signage, that doesn't discriminate against any particular user group, helps send out a positive message about where vehicles can and can't access.'

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An equal contributor to the partnership has been the Green Lane Association (GLASS), who promote the responsible use of public byways. Darren Clark, Northumberland Area rep for GLASS, adds:

'The Green Lane Association (GLASS) is proud to support and work with the Forestry Commission in promoting the responsible use of our public byways. These new signs should make it easier for all users to access the forest legally. We believe everyone has a part to play in preserving this sensitive area of the northeast for all to enjoy.'

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LRO welcomes this great initiative. The new signage makes it clear where it is legal to drive our and it also informs other forest users that there may be vehicles around. Read the signs, stick to the byways and follow the green lane code.

High-performance upgrades from Land Rover Classic

Land Rover Classic to offer high performance upgrades

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A select number of high-performance upgrades inspired by the Defender Works V8 70th Edition will soon be available for owners of more standard Land Rover Defenders to purchase.

The options will include power upgrades for the TDCi engine, together with fast-road suspension and braking kits.

Land Rover was always reluctant to offer Defender owners power upgrades, but relented a little with the Autobiography and Adventure editions, boosting power from the standard 120bhp to 148bhp; a noticeable increase.

More information will be available from Land Rover Classic in due course.

JLR unleashes 400bhp Defender Works V8

400bhp V8 Defender created for Land Rover’s 70th anniversary

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There’s nothing quite like a V8 engine. And there’s nothing quite like a Defender. So, fusing the two together to create a special 70th anniversary edition is the stuff of dreams – and that’s what Land Rover Classic are doing with the 70th Edition.

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These aren’t ‘new’ Defenders, though. Like the company’s Reborn restorations, the Defender Works V8 will be re-engineered vehicles, completely rebuilt and fitted with JLR’s 5.0-litre 400bhp naturally aspirated V8 engine, coupled to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. That'll give a 90 exceptional performance, propelling it from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds.

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Up to 150 units will be built, and the starting price is a cool £150,000 for 90 models. 110 models will also be available.

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So, what do you get for your money? Well, you’ll get a fully rebuilt and re-engineered Defender with the V8 engine and eight-speed gearbox, complete with pistol shifter. The two-speed transfer box is fitted with a torque-biasing centre differential, while the front and rear diffs are heavy-duty.

Brakes are beefed up too, with 335mm front and 300mm rear discs and four-pot cylinders front and rear. These push the standard wheel size up to 18-inch, and the diamond-turned Sawtooth alloys are shod with 265/85 R18 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres. A handling kit including front and rear anti-roll bars is also fitted.

The exterior is finished off with rear LED stop/tail and indicators, and Nolden LED headlights, as fitted to the Defender Celebration models in 2015.

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Inside, full Windsor Leather interior trim covers the dashboard, door panels, headlining and Recaro Sports seats. In car entertainment is brought to you by Land Rover Classic’s own Classic Infotainment System.

Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Director, said: ‘It’s fitting that we’ve been able to release the full potential of the iconic Defender, whose much-loved shape remains synonymous with Land Rover, 70 years since it was seen in public for the first time.

‘The idea of reintroducing a V8 Defender was something we were discussing as far back as 2014, when we were still building the Defender in Solihull. We knew the demand was there for a powerful and fast Defender; the Land Rover authenticity is the ultimate finishing touch for discerning clients purchasing these collector’s edition Defenders.’

We’d heard the rumours of the V8 special editions, before the launch of the Celebration Editions, and were a little disappointed not to see a V8 model among them. At least that has now been addressed and the 70th Edition will be available in the UK, and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) markets on a personal import basis. European market availability is also on an individual import basis, subject to rules on importation of vehicle conversions.

Interested? Drop Land Rover Classic a line at: info@classic.landrover.co.uk or visit Land Rover Classic

Land Rover Defender Works V8 – 70th Edition Tech Spec

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  • Engine: 4999cc V8 naturally-aspirated petrol (EU5)
  • Max power: 400bhp@ 6000rpm
  • Max torque: 380lb ft @ 5000rpm
  • 0-60mph: 5.6 seconds (90 station wagon)
  • Top Speed: 106mph (limited)
  • Gearbox: 8-speed ZF automatic, 2-speed transfer box with torque-biasing centre diff
  • Brakes: 335mm front, 300mm rear. 4-piston calipers
  • Wheels: 18-inch diamond-turned Sawtooth alloy
  • Tyres: 265/65 R18 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2
  • Price: from £150,000 (Defender 90)
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JLR Classic to restore pre-production Land Rover L07

Pre-production Land Rover L07, shown at Amsterdam launch, set for sympathetic restoration.

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The Land Rover, chassis number L07, was one of three Land Rovers at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948, when the world got its first sight of the vehicle we all love.

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One of 48 pre-production vehicles, it was presumed lost in the 1980s when research was done to track down the remaining examples – and its fate only came to light in 2016, when a garage owner was told about a couple of old Land Rovers in a garden. They were about to be scrapped, but the garage owner realised what it was and secured both vehicles – you can read the story of how it was found in the Spring 2016 issue of Land Rover Owner International.

The Land Rover was built as a left hand drive model, hence the L prefix in the chassis number, but was subsequently converted to right hand drive and has also been recorded as R07.

Given its significance, Jaguar Land Rover Classic was obviously interested, bought the Land Rover and its experts spent months researching the company archives to unravel its ownership history and confirm its provenance.

JLR Classic will sympathetically restore it at the Classic Works facility in Ryton, Warwickshire as part of the company’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Director, said: ‘This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history and is as historically important as ‘Huey’, the first pre-production Land Rover. Beginning its sympathetic restoration here at Classic Works, where we can ensure it’s put back together precisely as it’s meant to be, is a fitting way to start Land Rover’s 70th anniversary year.

‘There is something charming about the fact that exactly 70 years ago this vehicle would have been undergoing its final adjustments before being prepared for the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show launch – where the world first saw the shape that’s now immediately recognised as a Land Rover.’

Previous owners of this historic vehicle are being invited to Jaguar Land Rover’s Classic Works facility to share their experiences and to witness its loving restoration.

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Want to see the restoration progressing? A three hour tour of the Classic Works costs £49 and not only do you get to see the Series Land Rovers being Reborn, you also get to peek into the massive vault where up to 500 classic Land Rovers and Jaguars are stored. For more info, click here.

Mudmaster 2017 event report

Keeping it in the family

LRO editor Neil Watterson competes in Gemm 4x4 Mudmaster 2017

Gordon and Lisa McCheyne take first place

Gordon and Lisa McCheyne take first place

It was all going so well. We’ve rattled round an orienteering section, picking up all of the code boards well within time and cleared four trial sections before moving onto the fourth venue of the day – and another orienteering section.

Twenty code boards are dotted around the 200 acre site and we have to find them, record them and return to the start with 30 minutes. This is Gemm 4x4 Mudmaster 2017 – an off-road competition that tests both the driver’s and navigator’s skill and we’re in central Scotland.

Now, it’s fortunate that I do quite a few of these events, so I know the format. And Phil, who is behind the wheel, isn’t too shabby when it comes to off-road driving. We won the event a couple of years ago and missed out on the top spot by just one point last year. Could we regain it?

We’re counted down by the start marshal and pick out the first four code boards – 300mm high white letters on black backgrounds – quite easily. I know where the fifth one should be, but we overshoot on the slippery grass and the tyres struggle to find enough grip on the muddy rocks we’re now on. We’ve got to go forward, and down the hill.

A Forces Network cameraman is ready to film us make the descent. Phil selects ‘Drive’ on the Defender’s autobox and we bounce down the steep hill. Only when he goes to drive up the other side do we realise we’ve just made our rather hurried descent in neutral (see footage on Forces Network).

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But we pick a route through the trees, find the next few boards and go back and collect number 5 – which is just out of sight from where we were. We spin round and cross a boggy section, struggle to find 9, before descending again towards the eleventh marker. And there’s a military Wolf 110 sitting spinning its wheels in the mud.

Mudmaster is run jointly by the Scottish Land Rover Owners Club and the British Army Motorsports Association – so although it’s a competition, it’s also a military exercise. And this year the military and civilian motors started in alternating order – so the running order was civilian, military, civilian, military, etc.

We're car 5, but the stuck Wolf is car 12. How it has got ahead of us, we don’t know, but it needed help. Out comes the military tow strap, but there isn't enough give in the rope to jolt the Defender out of its ruts. So we dig out my more stretchy nylon recovery rope instead – and with mud and grass being flung everywhere by the 90’s tyres, the military Land Rover is extracted. It’s cost us five minutes, but we’ve still plenty of time.

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The site is becoming more crowded now and we catch up another couple of Wolfs as we record more letters, eventually reaching the finish after 25 minutes; well within time, and with a completed scorecard. We’re pretty pleased and clear the next trial section easily before disaster strikes.

Phil and I have walked the course, but weren’t paying that much attention to it. So when we drive it, we drop into ruts and the tyres’ sidewalls simply don’t have enough claw into the walls of the ruts to get us out. We’ve scored 7 points and that has almost certainly put us out of the running for the win.

The next driver attempts the section, and doesn’t get out, even on extreme tyres. Maybe we’ll be lucky – but we know were the first to pick up points on that section.

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Slightly despondent, we rejoin the road route, keeping an eye out for any 10cm square letter boards that have been placed along the route and make it to lunch. The top crews all have a clean sheet from the trials. Oh well, that’s us definitely out of the running. Still, at least it means the pressure’s off and we can enjoy it.

Another couple of trial sections are followed by a navigation test along forest tracks, which we nail, then a couple of very boggy trial sections before we reach the final section of the day: 12 minutes to find 12 markers in woodland.

Light is fading, but it’s not dark yet. We plunge down the hill into the wood and get the first board. It’s not a huge site, so it’s tricky to gauge distances. And the low light doesn’t help either. Three tracks run parallel and I’m not sure which one we’re on. I record one board but can’t finds the next, so we spin round and look in the opposite direction and collect it.

We loop round and the tyres scrabble to find grip on the hills, but we’re still going, One-by-one we’re getting closer to the finish and Phil floors the throttle pedal to get us up the hill, the final code board reflecting in the Defender’s main beam. Darkness has fallen – I haven't realised that the boards are reflective until this point. Another clear, and well within time.

We’ve done everything we can, but those seven points have ended it for us and when the overnight scores are handed out at the first section of day two, we’re in eighth place on 11 points. Gordon and Lisa McCheyne lead, having dropped just three points the previous day.

Gemm 4x4's George McLay conquers a soft section

Gemm 4x4's George McLay conquers a soft section

We kick off day two with an autotest and watch the first couple of vehicles go round. I’m slightly the worse for wear: we'd been enjoying the craic with the lads from the Highland 4 Wheel Drive Club and some of the Royal Navy crews late into the evening.

So when we arrive at the first cone garage, I struggle to find where we are on the test diagram. Then I tell Phil to drive the wrong side of a cone before realising my mistake and we ‘unwind’ the error. It’s cost us time, but at least we haven’t picked up more points. I need to get myself together.

Phil dispatches three trials sections with ease followed by two at the next site. When we arrive at the final site, Gordon asks whether we’d spotted any code boards on the roads. They hadn’t – and neither had we.

Gordon clears the sections, so, unless they have picked up any unknown penalties – driving standards are checked by observers and speed gun-equipped teams are also out – it’s all over. They haven’t, and it is.

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We recover another stuck Wolf, clear the trials and return to event HQ, 221 (Glasgow) Transport Squadron, 154 (Scottish) Regiment RLC, where the results are tallied.

We’ve retained our position, but a couple of errors has shaken up the top crews. Gordon and Lisa take the win, Martin Duncan and daughter Rhona get second place and Ruari and Louise Treble take third in their Tdi-powered Lightweight. Fourth place goes to Stephen and Anne O’Rourke, meaning the top four crews are family teams.

First military goes to Royal Navy’s Rory Lowther and Andrew Richman, who had driven their winterised 110 up from RNAS Yeovilton, and because you can only win one award, Phil and I get 1st Outlander – which goes to the highest placed non-Scottish crew.

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Last year’s event wasn’t a classic, but this year’s was, with plenty of mud and tricky navigation. As for 2018? Well, Phil and I have decided we’re not going to compete next year – instead we’re going to help marshal and maybe even set some sections. So that means there’s more space for fresh crews to take part.

Next year's event will take place on 27-28 October 2018. See you there!

 

Find out more about 4x4 Navigation events in the December 2017 issue of Land Rover Owner International, on sale now.

Nene Overland vehicle and parts extravaganza at the LRO Show

Nene Overland are holding a vehicle and parts extravaganza at the LRO Show on 16 -17 September

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When you get to the LRO Show, make sure you make a beeline for the Nene Overland stand – they’ve got a wealth of rare and exotic vehicles and parts on display; some for sale on the day, others up for auction on the company’s eBay store.

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Always fancied a Land Rover Defender 90SV? They’ve got one. A Half-Ton (Lightweight) Desert Reconnaissance Vehicle more your thing? Yup – there’s one of those too. How about a 34,000 mile VM Turbo Diesel Range Rover Classic? Oh, yes. There is even a 4.0-litre 50th Anniversary 90.

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The auctions are set to finish on Wednesday 20 September, giving you plenty of time to view them at the show and get your bid in.

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But Nene Overland’s stand isn’t all about the auction. They’re creating a parts maze where they’ll be selling a wide range of take-off parts, from alloy wheels to Defender bodies, TDCi engines to complete interiors, and winches to Penman trailers.

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Make sure you pop in and have a look – there’s bound to be something that takes your fancy!

Plimsoll at the Severn Valley Railway

Mark Saville's Series I, Plimsoll, to drive the Severn Valley Railway on Saturday August 12

You'll undoubtedly know the Series I Land Rover that Mark Saville, LRO assistant editor, drives. Affectionately named Plimsoll (well, its reg number is PSL 193...) it's been Mark's companion for countless adventures in the UK and through Europe. And its latest trick is to drive railways lines.

If you've seen the write-ups in LRO and wished you could see it doing its thing for real, then head along to the Severn Valley Railway on Saturday, August 12.

The plucky little Land Rover will be one of the star attractions at the preserved railway's Steam on the Road event, making the journey from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster and back by rail.

He'll be departing Bridgnorth at 09.10, arriving at Kidderminster at 10.42, then commencing the return journey at 11.35, making stops at various stations along the way, and arriving back at Bridgnorth at 17.48.

'I'm looking forward to the trip,' says Mark, 'especially the turntable at the end - I don't think the gearbox would cope with driving the sixteen mile line in reverse!

'I'll be heading into sidings at stations to let 'real' trains by on the return leg of the journey, so pop along - with other attractions at the stations it should be a great day out.'

As well as Plimsoll on rails, the railway will host a Series I Land Rover gathering at Highley and a steam traction engine 'Play Pen' at the station car park at Kidderminster on the Saturday. Oh, and if you're not driving, the Kidderminster Beer Festival is on from noon until 8pm at the Valley Suite.

Electric Land Rovers on the way

Land Rover responds to UK Government clean air announcement with promise of electric models

The UK Government’s announcement that new petrol and diesel vehicles will be sold from 2040 was met with concern in many quarters, but it’s something that car-makers are already working towards, in fact Jaguar Land Rover will have an electric-powered vehicle as an option in every new vehicle line the company produces from 2020.

The company will be the first premium car make offering a full electric vehicle – the Jaguar I-Pace – in 2018 and this will be followed by vehicles in every new product line.

Land Rover has dabbled with electric power before. Fully electric Defenders were tested a few years ago and some are still working hard, and before that there were some full-electric Series Land Rovers used for covert military work. And, of course, hybrid Range Rovers have been around for a while, offering significant improvements over standard engines, if very little actual range under electric-power.

Jeremy Hicks, Jaguar Land Rover UK Managing Director, said: ‘We welcome the clarity provided on the transition to a future where electric cars are the norm. However, only one per cent of cars driven in the UK today are electric. While we fully recognise that zero emissions are the future, there are no guarantees that we will get the take-up of electric vehicles at the rate and scale government would like without the appropriate financial incentives and charging infrastructure.

‘Therefore new, clean diesel and petrol engines will retain a key role in controlling carbon emissions and restricting air pollution. We’re pleased to see the plan recognise the fundamental difference between older vehicles which contribute to air pollution and newly developed engines (known as Eu6) which are part of the air quality solution.'

He continues to say: ‘Vehicles are just one potential source of urban air pollutants, and we’d be keen to see the plan also tackling air quality across a range of pollution sources including domestic and commercial heating.’

Of course, vehicles can only be as green when they’re driven as the energy they use – if we’re burning fossil fuels to power electric cars, they aren’t really ‘green’, just pushing the pollution elsewhere.

Technology is improving, as is our ability to harness renewable energy – the struggle now is to give the vehicles the ability to continue to work in remote places.

After all, you don’t find many charging stations in the Sahara…

Engine bay in electric Defender

Engine bay in electric Defender

LRO@30: Stage 1 V8 takes on Tongue

As Land Rover Owner rapidly approaches its 30th birthday, we take a look back at out most memorable adventures since 1987. 

Mission: drive as far north as you can without falling into the sea, then drive up a mountain. Oh, and tackle the Discovery 3 launch off-road course. In a Series III Stage 1 V8. Then Deputy Editor Rob McCabe took it on.

Some of the placenames on the far north coast of Scotland have a curious ring to them. Bettyhill – your gran’s best pal from bingo. Farr – you’re not joking. Smoo – wouldn’t want to get my Land Rover covered in that. Tongue – something that becomes inoperable when you’re left speechless.

And just how apt is that last one? Your first glimpse of the Kyle of Tongue and its surroundings, a stand-out jewel even among the hundreds of scenic treasures that grace the Scottish Highlands, is guaranteed to make the jaw drop and the heart sing. It is just stunning.

Everybody who goes there gives pretty much the same verdict. A recent visitor described the view from one of the commanding peaks on the outskirts of Tongue as ‘beyond human comprehension. It was way beyond epic. It was just dazzling’.

The writer was one Jeremy Clarkson Esq, who was explaining to the readers of his Times column that he’d ‘climbed’ Ben Tongue. Well, he had, I suppose – only he left out the bit that said he’d climbed it while sitting behind the wheel of a Land Rover Discovery 3 on an assignment for the BBC’s Top Gear programme.

Jezza’s typically colourful description certainly stirred the imagination – what must that view be like? And how about driving a Land Rover up to the summit of the very mountain that affords the legendary view? What must that have been like?

There was, of course, only one way to find out. As a bonus, the brilliant off-road drive created for the press launch of the Discovery 3 last year is just a few miles along the coast – and we’d been invited to take on the challenge.

I’ll make it immediately clear – we sought and gained permission from the landowner to drive up to the top of Ben Tongue. It’s not a public right of way. But get this – drum up enough interest among your Land Rover-owning mates and you can make a group booking to tackle the Discovery 3 off-road drive. 

 

The one thing that nagged at us was the prospect of undertaking this expedition in something like the new Discovery, one of the most civilised, mile-eating vehicles ever made. It’s a long old way to Sutherland from East Anglia, but the Disco 3 would do it without breaking sweat. And its formidable, electronically controlled engineering gives it the wherewithal to swallow most off-road challenges without chewing.

On the other hand, my Series III Stage 1 V8 pick-up is most certainly not one of the most civilised, mile-eating vehicles ever made. And its formidable, electronically controlled engineering is notable only by its complete absence. Just the job, then.

This wasn’t an assignment for any Land Rover to undertake single-handed, mind: if you’re venturing off the beaten track, it’s foolhardy to do it without another vehicle on hand to help you out if you get stuck. That job went to the laden-with-recovery-kit Td5 90 of editor-in- chief, John Pearson.

Ever since its service a few weeks ago, the Stage 1 has been running like a Swiss watch. The wash-and-brush-up in the workshop gave the big V8 that extra bit of bounce and it is just great fun to drive. ‘You go in front and set the pace,’ said JP before the off, trying hard not to sound too bored at the prospect of spending endless hours staring at the tailgate of an old Series III chuffing up the A1 at an honourable 48mph.

As it turned out, I soon settled on 60-65mph as the best cruising speed. At this rate, the motor is deep into its comfort zone and it offers the optimum blend of decent progress, bearable cabin noise and only mildly catastrophic fuel consumption.

We wouldn't recommend doing this in a 2.25... 

We wouldn't recommend doing this in a 2.25... 

A dual carriageway is never the happiest hunting ground for an old Land Rover, but the non-motorway bits of the A1 have their fair share of roundabouts to break up the monotony; and the best fun here is to keep it in top as you negotiate your way around and then floor it as you accelerate back on to the straight.

The alacrity with which it shoves its way up to 70mph and beyond in the space of a few seconds always gives a buzz – not to mention a big stretch of empty road in the rear-view mirror. For a little while, anyway.

None the less, it was good to climb up on to the moors as we headed across country into Cumbria on the more scenic A66. Plenty of utility Land Rovers in this part of the world – more often than not with a livestock trailer bringing up station behind.

There’s not much left of the M6 as you join the northbound carriageway at Penrith (small mercies, etc). Before long, we were in Scotland and, just to mark the occasion, we encountered one of those raven-black skies that always gather over motorways and always in the middle of the afternoon.

When it emptied its load it was a belter, the thick, thumping rain bouncing high off the road and thundering deafeningly on the cab roof. My twee little wipers did the business, though and – much to my surprise – hardly any of the deluge found its way into the cab.

Our overnight stop was at the comfortable Blackford Hotel in the eponymous village near Auchterarder, just off the A9 in Perthshire. In truth, the pace-setting Series III had covered ground quicker than we’d expected and we probably could have headed a bit further north than the 379 miles we’d done.

We’re glad we didn’t, though, because JP, photographer John Noble and I were all unanimous in declaring the Sheray Punjab in Auchterarder one of the finest Indian restaurants we’d ever encountered: worth a stopover in its own right. And bearing in mind you’re talking about three blokes who’ve had more curries than they have hot dinners... well, you know what I mean.

Next day, we motored purposefully northwards, dual carriageways giving way to single carriageways, in turn giving way to single track roads with passing places. As the roads got smaller, the scenery got bigger and bigger.

Amid the natural splendour of it all, we found ourselves at the centre of a high-tech spectacle on the road from Lairg to Tongue. We’d caught the odd glimpse of a pair of the RAF’s finest chasing each other at 600mph between the mountains. A few miles further on, one of them locked on to our path, hurtling straight at us from a height of no more than a hundred feet.

For a brief second, I imagined the pilot had been driven to distraction by some inconsiderate Series III-owning neighbour blocking the entrance to his drive and that, laughing manically behind his mirror-finish visor, he was about to exact revenge in a lethal volley of Rapier missiles and cluster bombs.

Instead, he wiggled his wings furiously from side to
side in the way that gung-ho Spitfire pilots do in all the movies and surged past overhead. He was probably somewhere over Edinburgh before the noise hit us; a noise so opposite the silence that usually pervades this part of the Highlands, it’s impossible to describe.

I re-fastened my seatbelt, closed the door again and regained my hearing somewhere after Altnaharra.

We were so engrossed in the fantastic off-road drive on the Eriboll Estate , the time ran away with  us somewhat and we’d left it too late for dinner at the Benloyal Hotel in Tongue, our base for the night. The village has many things going for it, but a strip of late- night eateries isn’t one of them.

The receptionist hinted that a hotel five miles around the headland might still be serving food. He called the owner. ‘You’ve got 15 minutes,’ came the message. ‘They’re expecting you.’

When we got to the Craggan Hotel 14 minutes later, the welcome was warm, the view gorgeous and the food fabulous. In our predicament, we’d have been grateful for microwaved macaroni cheese, never mind the top-quality fare that was served up.

Chatting to the owner in the bar afterwards, JP and John complimented him on the langoustines they’d consumed with such unreserved glee not long before. The boss smiled and nodded towards a chap enjoying a dram: ‘Well, they came from his boat, they were cooked by him (other chap, enjoying a lager) and they were served to you by his mother.’

A very special place, and quite a find.

Speaking of special places, we had a fine view of Ben Tongue on the drive back to the village. We’d be getting a fine view from it the next day. Hopefully.

Mercifully, the sun was out as we made our way on to the track at the foot of BT. To be honest, the fact there is a track makes the ascent a fairly straightforward challenge for a Land Rover, although it’s steep and sinuous in places, and loose stones sometimes put traction at a premium.

It was a case of slowly does it, plotting a route avoiding the bigger boulders: what can be more calming than sticking a Land Rover in low box and sitting back to enjoy the view while it does all the work?

Things could have been a lot different. ‘After it’s been raining, that track turns into a river,’ said the crofter we’d chatted to on the way up.

Best to let the pictures do the talking regarding the view from the summit. I wouldn’t argue with Jeremy Clarkson’s opinion one little bit. I was up there for about an hour and felt deeply privileged the whole time. Pick a direction, and just bask in the visual outcome.

Several miles away across the Kyle, JP and John (long- range picture in the bag, below) could clearly see the tiny speck of the red 109 as I eased it off the summit on my way back down to earth – literally and metaphorically.

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LRO Challenge: P38 to Ireland!

Twenty years ago the Range Rover P38 finally saw the Classic into retirement. To celebrate going it alone, Calum takes his 2.5 DSE for a road trip around Ireland to prove its worth. 

My second-generation Range Rover takes a bashing from those who deem themselves ‘clued-up’ about Land Rovers. It’s been called various things over the past 18 months, ranging from ‘The biggest pile of scrap I’ve ever clapped eyes on’ to ‘Mummy, my eyes are burning’. This is wholly unfair – as it’s far more reliable than LRO makes out.

Purchased for the measly sum of £1300 back in October 2015, it’s list of achievements for the magazine has been impressive to say the least. Besides being my daily transport, the plucky golden wonder has undertaken:

  • Off-road Photoshoots
  • Tracking car duties for Practical Classics, Modern Classics and Classic Car Weekly (where the editor promptly broke it, I should add)
  • Emergency transport tasks when other motoring journalists have been without a car
  • Various road trips to Scotland, Portsmouth and Wales
  • A battle with a hovercraft (more on that later…)
  • Van jobs for ClassicCarsForSale’s roadshow
  • Being a removals vehicle for friends moving house
  • At least a million greenlanes. No exaggeration.*

    *Some exaggeration  

Needless to say, these tasks aren’t easy on the old girl. Over the past 18 months the odometer has increased by 35,000 miles, soon to be brushing 200,000. And seeing as this is my own vehicle – and therefore run on a shoestring – those miles went almost service free, bar a home-bodged oil and filter change.

Out of all of these duties and my, frankly rubbish, DIY servicing skills very little in all reality has gone wrong. Some bits have fallen off and sometimes it kicks up a new noise or knock, but thanks to work schedules and sleep depravation, even the servicing for the P38 went horribly wrong. I ended up pouring a bottle of Fanta into the expansion tank rather than water after the coolant hoses were eaten by the fan, dancing on a broken bearing, trying to get home from Scotland – yet the P38 took it all on the chin. It even got me home safely – albeit with Fanta citrus freshness spewing from the heater vents.

And so, after the LRO hyenas have continued to berate my P38 like some sort of unwanted relative, it’s time to claw ground back. My Range Rover broke down before the Portavadie trip last year, so we would have to ramp everything up a notch.

Team P38 will be heading to Ireland – first Donegal then all the way down south – via greenlanes and historical points of interest. And to prove it’s a capable hauler, I’ll be taking my parents and the family dogs. For everything that goes wrong, It’s been agreed that I have to perform a forfeit – dictated to me by Neil, Martin, John and Mark.

May god have mercy on my soul. 

Part 2 arriving soon!