Hybrid Range Rovers: Still smooth as silk

Hybrid Range Rover prototypes reach halfway on epic journey

The Range Rover convoy has taken a variety of punishing conditions in its stride.
The Range Rover convoy has taken a variety of punishing conditions in its stride.

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition has reached the halfway point between the home of Land Rover in Solihull, UK, and its destination in Mumbai, India.

Twenty days after setting out, the Range Rover Hybrid prototypes have reached the deserts of central Asia on the ancient Silk Roads that inspired the name and route of this epic journey.

The convoy has covered 8411 kilometres and in its third week it travelled through Kazakhstan and much of Uzbekistan.

The Range Rover Hybrids, in their final validation test before sign-off for production, have taken in their stride a variety of punishing conditions: asphalt surfaces riddled with deep potholes and layered with small stones; mud tracks that have been dry and rutted or wet and slippery; and dusty desert trails sometimes hard as gravel and sometimes soft as sand.

While coping with such mixed terrains, in temperatures ranging from 17C to 43C, the vehicles have between them suffered just one cracked windscreen and four punctures.

Unlike other hybrids, the Range Rover carries a full-size spare wheel and tyre.

With its parallel 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine and 35kW electric motor, the Range Rover Hybrid models have returned impressive fuel economy for a vehicle so spacious and powerful - and so heavily laden, including roof-rack mounted expedition equipment.

Fuel economy has been put to the test on the waterlogged mud tracks of the Kalmykiya grasslands in eastern Russia, so sticky that they were impassable to other vehicles, yet the vehicles are still recording more than 40mpg on asphalt highways and busy urban roads through Russia and Uzbekistan.

With 29 days to go to reach Mumbai, the convoy rested in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent.

The second half of this journey will feature the deserts, highlands and lowlands of Kyrgyzstan and China; winding tarmac roads climbing into the thin cold air of the Himalayas; and a gradual descent through Nepal to India. The expedition is due to enter Kyrgyzstan, the 11th of 14 countries on the route, two days after leaving Tashkent.

- NZ Herald

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