We moved to Australia from England in 2009 and soon started looking for a car that would give us the ability to tour this wonderful continent, but also pick up the groceries. We short-listed two potential vehicles: Nissan Patrol or Toyota Land Cruiser.
In early 2011 we placed an order for a new Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, although lengthy delays caused by the Fukushima tsunami subsequently led to us cancelling the order.
But we soon found ‘Betty’, this black 2006 Range Rover Sport. When I asked the salesman if he knew of any off-road events for owners, he replied: ‘Our customers don’t usually take their Range Rovers off the tarmac, sir.’
My view was ‘why the hell not?!’ The car is made for exactly that purpose, with the added benefits of a beautifully sculpted body, perfect poise and city finesse.
After a year of weekend and holiday touring with trips off-road, a couple of good friends invited me to join them on an adventure. And so it was that an Englishman, a German and an American working for the same company in Melbourne planned a trip over a long weekend to the Victorian High Country.
Sascha (the German) had a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon he’d turned into a go-anywhere machine, at some expense. Craig (the American) swapped between the vehicles as a passenger/driver.
My Sport was in standard spec, but I made sure I carried recovery gear in the boot, a hand-held CB radio, a toolkit, food and a tent.
The trip started in Healesville, north-east of Melbourne, where we stocked up on food, ‘amber nectar’ and fuel before setting off to Woods Point, where the tarmac ended and we climbed into the Victorian High Country.
The Sport received strange looks from other drivers out on the tracks, but nothing was said, as this completely standard city vehicle smoothly followed battle-hardened 4x4 trucks up hill and down dale with ease. It is a real testament to Land Rover – this vehicle is extremely capable straight from the showroom floor and is at home on any terrain.
The first night we camped somewhere between Thomson Dam and Licola. The second day we headed east towards the famous Billy Goat Bluff trail. At the top looking down, your eyes follow its twists, turns and drops, and you get a sinking feeling in your stomach.
But there was no turning back – the shortest way to the campsite was down! I engaged Hill Descent Control and let the vehicle slowly guide us down the track, using the steering-wheel buttons to increase/decrease descent speed. The views from the ridgeline were breathtaking – a thoroughly challenging yet exhilarating trail.
That night we enjoyed a few drinks, a steak on the barbie and a good night’s sleep under a starry sky before heading back to Melbourne the next day. A fantastic adventure with great mates, and in a great vehicle.
This owner review appeared in the January 2016 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.