My early memories of Land Rovers were my father’s dusty blue vehicle which he had when he lived in Morocco. It was an adventure vehicle that allowed us to tackle rough terrain and cross a few dodgy mountain passes in the Atlas Mountains. These post-war beasts were built for the outdoors and capable of dealing with lots of challenging road conditions, but the bucket seats I endured as a boy in the back of the vehicle didn’t make for the most comfortable experience. We were constantly jiggled about on all the bumpy unmade roads.
Yet these early experiences in the faithful Land Rover instilled in me a sense of excitement about travelling to exotic places – and perhaps set in place the thinking which eventually led to Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, my tourism company which shows visitors the rugged splendour of Scotland.
So I was looking forward to seeing how much these great British icons had moved with the times. Taking out and driving a pristine Land Rover Discovery 4 in 2011 was a completely and totally different experience to my 1980s trips around Africa. The gentle hum of the automatic engine with eight gears and the smooth changeover between gears made the old memories of growling utilitarian motor as you shifted the great black stalk of the gear stick, disappear quickly into the past.
Here was a luxurious vehicle with extremely good handling on country roads and the high-level views made the country driving experience second-to-none. It was very stable and the suspension held the vehicle in position extremely well, even when skirting a few ditches in some of the not so well-kept Scottish country roads.
I have to say though that it is a very bulky car for city driving and not easy to find suitable parking spaces in a place like Edinburgh – so I would never want one for the city.
But I know that Scotland is much more than its capital and I can imagine it being a perfect vehicle for a weekend with a few close companions hauling up the majestic A838, past Loch Shin and all the way to Kyles of Durness and the top of Scotland, or down the A708 past the Grey Mare’s Tail to Moffat and Carlisle. You could feel the power under the bonnet and tell that it would eat up the mountain pass to Applecross. It’s certainly a vehicle that suits Scotland’s terrain – in whatever the weather conditions that are thrown at us.
Other interesting features – which took me a bit of time to get used to – are the reversing camera shot that appeared on the console. It is very wide angle shot, which is designed to help you see if you are pulling a boat trailer or a caravan. Very clever indeed. Then there was the excellent sat nav, Blue Tooth phone system, the driver’s seat position memory, which I liked, and you can just leave the key in your pocket and not fumble about with the ignition.
If you’ve got a big family, this is a spacious seven-seater – you’ve got two pop-up seats in the boot forward facing for the extra kids. So no bucket seat experience for them. Talk about being pampered these days!
And for taking in some of those misty mountain scenes, there are two sun roofs – although we didn’t open them on this trip. In all, there’s a nice and airy feel inside.
This Land Rover was very much like its cousin the Range Rover – but somehow wasn’t a Range Rover!
Robin Worsnop in chief executive of Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, based in Edinburgh.
The Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 Sdv6 HSE, automatic with Orkney grey and black leather, otr price £51,195. Test drive vehicle kindly supplied by Pentland Land Rover, Lanark Road, Edinburgh, EH12 1TG. www.pentland.edinburgh.landrover.co.uk