Range Rover’s Silk Trail expedition, planned to put to the test the brand’s hybrid prototypes, is entering the fourteenth and final country on the epic journey from Solihull to Mumbai.
The expedition recently passed through Nepal and reached the town of Mahendranagar on the border with India.
Leaving behind high altitudes and the peaks of the Himalayas, the company said the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes were driven on flatter but more hazardous roads, passing paddy fields and rain forests.
The heat and humidity, and the density and unpredictability of the traffic, have been increasing every day and Land Rover said the responsiveness of the Hybrid engine to the driver’s throttle commands, and its ability to accelerate strongly, enabled safe overtaking maneuvers on roads busy with trucks and buses.
The seventh of the expedition’s eight-week journey started by crossing a deep river ravine on the Friendship Bridge connecting the town of Zhangmu in China with the village of Kodari in Nepal. One-by-one the Range Rover Hybrids were given permission to drive slowly across the bridge with the passengers required to follow them over on foot.
Per Land Rover, on the other side of the bridge lay a journey to Kathmandu of 85 miles – but the traffic was so dense, and the roads so severely potholed, that the Range Rover again had to draw on its reserves of acceleration and its class leading (590mm) wheel articulation to ride smoothly over the bumps. Even so, this short distance took three hours to drive – an indication of the challenges that would lie ahead in the next week on Nepal’s hazardously busy roads.
The next leg of the journey, from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a town surrounded by three of the ten highest mountains in the world, was a 127-mile stretch of road demanding eight hours of driving. Land Rover explained that every foot of road space was contested by bicycles, tricycles, horse-drawn carts, scooters, motorbikes, cars, mini-buses, buses, trucks, roving cows, slow-moving water buffalo, loose dogs, and fearless pedestrians.
The Range Rover’s commanding driving position was invaluable, allowing drivers to see further down the road and recognize hazards sooner. The need for regular braking had a positive side-effect, keeping the Hybrid motor’s battery recharged, ensuring that it assisted the 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine and further improved fuel economy despite the ever-changing pace of driving.
This last stretch brought the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes to cross the bridge over the Mahakali River and into India, for the final 1,000 miles to the expedition’s destination, the city of Mumbai.