Biltmore Land Rover Driving Experience: 2014 Range Rover Proves its Worthiness Once Again

photo-6Weaving a $100,000 2014 Range Rover between massive oak trees before blazing up slick, rut-filled inclines seems like something no Rover owner would ever dare to do. However, this week at the Land Rover Driving Experience at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, we did just that–and the Range Rover ate up the rugged terrain without hesitation.

Our Indus Silver 2014 Range Rover awaited us as soon as we pulled up to the opulent Biltmore Estate, set on over eleven square miles of untouched land. We headed immediately for the trails, observing the amazing scenery on all sides before completing a test course involving steep side tilts, significant downhill grades, and massive wheel articulation. Never having driven the new Range Rover off-road, it was here that I began to appreciate the vehicle’s host of technological aids: the downhill assist was smooth and nearly imperceptible, keeping us at a steady 3.5 mph even on the steepest of slopes, and Land Rover’s Terrain Response II was nearly flawless in its allocation of traction. However, though praised by much of the automotive world, the “Auto” setting of the Terrain Response system was the first aid our instructor turned off. He said that the system would be “overloaded” by the rapidly changing terrain.


I explored Terrain Response II’s capability much more blazing up a long, steep, rut-filled incline. The car was set in the “Rock Crawl” traction setting for the first two times I attempted the climb, both of which ended in wheelspin and loss of traction at the hands of a deep rut. However, a third time in the “Mud and Ruts” preset, and the car simply lifted itself out and over the technical area with ease. The system’s infinite ability to adjust to traction conditions is absolutely astounding–there are few other systems in the market today that can rival its capability.

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The powertrain of our Range Rover was also a notable feature. Our 2014 model had the new “base” engine, a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 delivering 340 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. Derived from the new Jaguar F-type line, it wouldn’t seem that such a performance-oriented engine would impress off-road as well. Despite this, power delivery was smooth, immediate, and very torquey throughout the nearly 2-hour expedition, and never once did the hefty Range Rover feel underpowered. The engine was so quiet, in fact, that our passengers kept wondering whether the engine was even running when we stopped on the trails for instructions. Impressive, too, was the paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic ZF transmission in our vehicle–shifts were imperceptible, and being able to flick the left paddle to shift down on steep slopes made engine braking effortless.

After scaling long, steep slopes, enduring several 15-20 degree side tilts, and weaving the long, stately Range Rover through dozens of off-road hairpins, the lesson culminated in one last maneuver: a hairpin left turn that would lead us directly into an oak tree if taken too quickly. After locking the wheel past the vehicle’s pivot point, I placed the Rover’s rear wheels on a root system, causing the car to lose rear traction and swivel about twenty degrees to the left, giving us the perfect position to avoid the oak.


Just fifteen minutes after conquering the technical turn, we were back on paved roads in high-range and in normal ride height. The Rover floated effortlessly over the pavement, the engine pulling strongly but with almost no interior noise. As I sat in my massaged and heated leather captain’s chair, the true versatility of the Rover struck me–it’s a more than capable off-roader, family hauler, luxury cruiser, and performance vehicle. And suddenly, that $106,000 price tag starts to make more sense.

Please enjoy this video review of the 2013 Range Rover.