Is this a launch? Not exactly. But I am about to take part in the last leg of Land Rover’s 2013 Silk Trail Expedition – a glorious 16,000km PR stunt.
It’s one that’s also acting as the final prototype evaluation for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport hybrids that are set to go on sale in 2014.
Welcome to India.
I arrived yesterday. I think. The jetlag is interesting, not least thanks to the surprisingly jarring extra half-hour in the time difference between Jaipur and the UK. But that’s nothing compare to the vibrance and colour of the place – India really is a country of extremes, all set to the background noise of an entire populace leaning on their car and bike and truck horns. The pedestrians and the livestock just mingle.
The three diesel-electric hybrid Range Rovers taking part in this awesome endurance test have already completed over 15,000km, and appear to have weathered challenges including oxygen starvation (at one point they were 5,500km above sea level – nearly double the anticipated 3,000m ceiling of their design) and accidentally being sunk in rivers (the water was up over the bonnet of one of the cars, but it’s still going) with remarkably little difficulty.
But while the most arduous off-roading may already be over at this point, they do still have to survive the next three days in Indian traffic – which even with all the notorious stories, really has to be seen to be believed. I’m yet to get behind the wheel, but the journey from the airport and brief tour on a bus yesterday suggests I’ll have developed the peripheral vision of a housefly by the time I leave on Monday. Or I’ll be in trouble.
Anyway. This last section of the Silk Trail will see the Range Rover Hybrids arrive – triumphantly – in Mumbai on Saturday, after a final 1,000km of driving. We’re setting off in about half an hour. For once I genuinely mean this: wish me luck.