Written by Greg (with an assist from Anita)
November 19, 2017
City living can make a red-blooded American (okay, Canadian) man lose touch with his Y chromosome. Let’s face it: Hunting in DC extends to searching for the perfect latte foam. So, when I heard that one of only three U.S. Land Rover Experience Centers was in Manchester, VT, I jumped at the chance to reconnect with my inner outdoorsman side.
Land Rover offers one- or two-hour experiences or half- or full-day adventures. I opted for a two-hour private lesson that included driving both the Land Rover Defender 90 Heritage and a 2016 LR4 Land Rover. My instructors, Jack Williams and Jim Mariano, were as excited to see me as I was to see them (I learned later that this was to be their first lesson in the Defender, so they were as giddy as two kids in a candy store.)
On the way to the closed course, I got a rundown on the vehicles and how to maneuver them. The Defender would be a rougher ride—it is for purists who want to revel in the vehicle’s military roots. The 2016 LR4 Land Rover model is for those seeking luxury (but who also appreciate the beast within). Both vehicles have impressive capabilities: multi-cylinder engines (V8 for the Defender and V6 for the LR4) significant horsepower (182 hp for the Defender and 340 hp for the LR4), extreme towing capacity (3,500 lbs. for the Defender and 7,716 lbs. for the LR4), and torque (233 lb-ft for the Defender vs. 332 lb-ft for the LR4).
We started in the Defender, with Jack and Jim giving me step-by-step instructions on how to handle it as we maneuvered through mud and water and over ruts and rocks. The experience isn’t for those with a need for speed; rather, you make slow and steady progress through some amazingly hostile terrain that would have totaled my city-slicker car in an instant. Whether at a 45-degree angle or with one wheel three feet off the ground, we were able to tap the vehicle’s inner strength to overcome any obstacle. For the last 30 minutes, we switched to the newest model Land Rover, tackling many of the same perilous obstructions with similar grace and ease.
As I became more comfortable at the wheel, we all relaxed and enjoyed the ride through the stunning Vermont countryside. Fall in Vermont is really something to behold, with leaves drifting lazily in our path, the sun glinting off the eddying water, and Mt. Equinox rising majestically in the background. There’s also something very zen about driving such a powerful vehicle under the instruction of experts; you must attune yourself to their voices and be ready to respond without hesitation.
Once the lesson was over, we enjoyed a mini photo shoot and then it was back to downtown Manchester Village (with a quick 0 to 40 mph stint to show off the LR4’s speed capabilities). What a rush!
After a hard few hours of driving, I was ready for some relaxation. Luckily, the Land Rover Experience Center is steps from the historic Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, a luxury resort that has catered to U.S. presidents and other notable personalities since it first opened in the early 19th century. The resort offers a state-of-the-art spa, indoor swimming pool, sauna, and relaxation room. Even a red-blooded Canadian man can enjoy a little pampering after a dirty day of off-roading!
To see more pictures from my off-roading experience and of the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, click here.