Magazine article The Spectator

Motoring Snow Patrol

Magazine article The Spectator

Motoring Snow Patrol

Article excerpt

The American poet Robert Frost wrote memorably of pausing on his pony in the snow and looking longingly into woods that were 'lovely, dark, and deep', regretting that he had promises to keep and 'miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep'.

In another poem he described a woodland path as the road not taken; instead, he took 'the one less travelled by/And that has made all the difference'. I felt he was with us in spirit in Finland last week as I gazed into the mysterious depths of snow-clad, brooding conifers and wondered at the fragile, frost feathered glory of a birch wood. He would have left in disgust, however, when he saw how close we - I - came once or twice to rudely penetrating those mysterious depths and shattering the frosted glory.

Rather than pausing on a silent pony, I was struggling to restrain well over a thousand horses of assorted Jaguar XKR-S, Range Rover Vogue, Sport and Evoque engines, not to mention the awesome plodding power of the almost unstoppable Bigfoot. We were sampling Land-Rover's Nordic Adventure, a four-day holiday for the paying punter to test what his or her Land-Rover product will do under extreme conditions (with a dash of Jaguar thrown in).

They've done sand in Morocco and in September-October they're on safari in Tanzania, but this time of year it's snow and ice driving in the frozen (minus 22c) north.

All you do is find a snowfield in the middle of the forest, create a circle of ice for drifting the XKR-S, and a slalom and handling circuit for the Range Rovers, add Land-Rover off-road instructors and Finnish world ladies' champion rally driver, Minna Sillankorva, for the Jags, then stir in the two Bigfoots to see what you can do in deep virgin snow.

No, I hadn't heard of them, either. Bigfoots are a pair of Land-Rover 110 station wagons enhanced by about £50,000-worth of suspension, heating, cooling and transmission modifications plus fat 38-inch tyres on 15-inch wheels, with pressures of 7-8lbs.

The idea was to show what can be done to a standard Land-Rover if you put your mind to it. The answer is: a lot. If ever you get stuck in sand or mud or snow, seeing one of these things lumbering towards you like some benign mastodon would be the answer to your prayers.

Other highlights included the new baby Range Rover, the Evoque, which proved it's more than just the environmentally acceptable face of the Chelsea tractor by spiritedly keeping up with its big sisters. …

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