Off-Roading

Land Rover utilizing Red Cross all-terrain experts for Defender testing

Land Rover enlisted the help of the Red Cross to test the 2020 Land Rover Defender.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The Defender is coming back. Long a poorly kept secret, Land Rover gave enthusiasts a peek at the vehicle's development before the Land Rover Defender makes its way onto dealer lots.

The setting is Dubai and the drivers are members of the elite all-terrain experts from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Surrounded by sand dunes and the twisty tarmac of Jebel Jais highway, Dubai is a playground for off-road enthusiasts who also want to check out their vehicle's on-road prowess.

That's exactly what the IFRC drivers did.

2020 Land Rover Defender

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Land Rover worked with IFRC drivers as a part of Defender development.

IFRC fleet drivers piloted the 4x4s over soft sand dunes, climbing steep ascents, pitching down side slopes, and conquering blind crests. This is similar testing to what was conducted by Rolls-Royce during development of their SUV, the Cullinan.

As temperatures climbed over 100 degrees, the drivers took to the 12 miles of hairpin turns of the Jebel Jais highway climbing to over 6,500-feet of elevation up to the top of Jebel Yibir mountain, the tallest point in the United Arab Emirates.

The new Defender has already undergone over 745,000 miles of testing as part of its development.

Land Rover debuted the 2020 Land Rover Defender at the Frankfurt Auto Show earlier this year.

At the end of the Rebelle Rally, participants drove their vehicles to Broadway Pier in San Diego for a public car show and their awards ceremony.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

The recipe for a Rebelle Rally team is straightforward. Take two adventurous women and combine them with analog navigation skills, basic emergency vehicle rescue techniques, and an off-roading-worthy vehicle. Add in a dash of hardiness, good communication skills, and a sense of humor. Marinate for 10 days in California and Nevada's forests, mountains, and deserts. On the last day, bake in the heat of the sun.

The journey itself is anything but simple. Rebelle Rally founder Emily Miller and her team spent months discovering and plotting the course for the navigation challenge, which had its beginning at Lake Tahoe and its end at the Imperial Sand Dunes near the U.S.-Mexico border. Desolate wasteland, tight corners, bulging dunes, craggy trails, and flats were all on the menu. Though the teams likely didn't take the time to stop and enjoy the views, Miller joked during the end-of-event celebration in San Diego on Saturday, the scenery was spectacular.

2019 Rebelle Rally team navigation Rebelle Rally participants were unable to use modern technology to help guide them on the course.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

At the beginning of the journey, temperatures hovered near freezing. By the time the teams reached the dunes, it topped 100 degrees in the abundant sunshine.

The course consisted of a number of check points which garnered the teams points. Green check points, all of which were mandatory, were the easiest and marked by flags. Blue were harder to find with only a few of them marked by flags while the rest were designated by posts. Black check points proved the most difficult with no official markings indicating that the team had arrived at the destination.

2019 Rebelle Rally Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Team 207 ran a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross in the event and ended up with second place in the Crossover category.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

How many points the teams earned depended on how close they were to the correct coordinate positioning when they signaled in that they had arrived. They competed in two classes – 4x4 and Crossover. At the end of the race, the team in each category with the most points would leave the desert as the winner.

The 2019 Rebelle Rally ran 1,700 miles and featured 76 women paired up in 38 teams from 67 cities in 20 states/provinces in six countries. The vehicles were as diverse as the drivers themselves, with everything from stock vehicles to specially modified rigs.

None of the going was particularly easy. Team 200, driving a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, suffered during the Johnson Valley stage getting three flat tires. They could only carry two spares, so the teammates had to patch one of the punctures and hope for the best heading to Glamis, California and the final day of the competition. Taking on an extra tire would have resulted in a 50-point penalty and the standings were tight.

2019 Rebelle Rally Land Rover LR4 Team 164 had to be towed back to Base Camp after rolling their Land Rover LR4.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Team 210, driving a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek, lost their clutch during that stage, putting them out of the competition, but the event's mechanics were able to replace the clutch overnight making them able to complete the event though they no longer were eligible for points.

On the last day of competition, Team 164 rolled their 2013 Land Rover LR4 in the Glamis dunes, causing multiple windows to break, the windshield to crack, and airbags to go off. The Rebelle Rally support team was able to rescue the team quickly and towed their Land Rover back to base camp.

Later that evening at dinner, longtime Rebelle Rally competitor and 35-year Army Veteran Rachel Ridenour presented the Land Rover team with a large sticker featuring the image of a rolled over SUV and a phrase favorited by Forrest Gump. In front of the Rebelles, as term Miller uses to refer to the competitors, Ridenour reminded the group of a favorite saying of hers, "There are two types of off-roaders. Those that have rolled and those that haven't rolled yet." The crowd roared with laughter and applause.

2019 Rebelle Rally End Day Stage Glamis Rebelle crossed the finish line at the end of each day not knowing how many points they had earned. They would be told several hours later.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

The Rebelle spirit of survival and overcoming obstacles is something that Miller doesn't just promote. She lives it as well. As a respected off-road racer and adventurer in her own right, the competition is just as personal for her as it is for the competitors.

Though Toyotas, Jeeps, and Land Rovers are often thought of as the champions of the off-roading space, the teams piloting them did not come out on top in the Rebelle Rally results.

When all was said and done, Team 190 driving a stock 2019 Lexus GX 460 took top honors in the 4x4 category. The Crossover class was won by Team 200 in their 6,000-pound Sapphire Blue Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

"This Cullinan is a hundred percent more capable than I thought it would be," said Team 200 driver Emme Hall during the awards ceremony Saturday at Broadway Pier in San Diego. "I thought we were going to have to go really slow through a lot of things. I thought we were going to have problems in the dunes. I thought it was going to be too heavy … Every single time, every day, it proved me wrong."

Each year, the Rebelles prove a lot of people wrong, including themselves, by rising to the challenge and pushing themselves and their vehicles to the limits.

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Land Rover now offers Teen Drive Experience courses at three U.S. resorts.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Driver's education is in dire straits. The driver's ed programs that were commonplace in American schools in the 1970s have been reduced to being a rarity. With parents being relied on more to train their children to become good drivers, in a world with that work schedules that allow few spare hours to make it happen, families are turning to companies to teach their kids to drive.

Who will teach your child to drive off road?

The Land Rover Teen Drive Experience aims to help ease the teaching burden and give gives kids another way to have fun behind the wheel, perhaps exploring a new passion along the way.

Land Rover Teen Drive Experience The course features a series of obstacles designed to help teens learn how to handle an off-roading experience.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The custom off-road driving instruction program is designed for teens age 14 and older at Land Rover Experience Centers, located at Quail Lodge in Carmel, California; Equinox Resort in Manchester, Vermont; and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

As part of the experience, teens have the ability to pilot a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque or a Land Rover Discovery Sport, both subcompact SUVs, on a course specifically designed for beginner drivers. Each vehicle is equipped with custom cameras inside to monitor all activity as well as an additional brake pedal on the front passenger side of the SUV, which is accessible to the in-car instructor at all times.

Each drive experience includes one hour of instruction:

  • Familiarization - This section includes setting up and adjusting controls such as the seat and steering wheel, seat belt fitting, mirror adjustment, blind spot awareness development, secure door closure, and safety checks for all occupants.
  • Setting Off - During this section, drivers learn to develop spacial awareness and instructors ensure that the driver is comfortable with steering, braking, vehicle spacing, throttle control, and acceleration.
  • Low-Level Obstacles - The obstacles in this section of the course were developed specifically for the teen driving experience. They include a hill ascent, slalom, figure eight, cone course, low articulations, braking obstacles, a descent, and backing up for garage parking.
The teen driving course is priced at $275. An advanced session, for drivers that have already completed the hour-long course, can be purchased for $425 and includes an extra 30-45 minutes of instruction that includes a water crossing as well as driving through mud and ruts.

Land Rover Teen Driver Experience Teens get to experience a number of off-road conditions that they wouldn't get a chance to as part of regular driver's ed classes.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

In addition to the teen off-roading experience, Land Rover will be offering family bundles that allow the entire family to join in the off-roading experience.

Drivers must be at least 14 years old and have a minimum height of 4'8". No previous driving experience is necessary. A parent or guardian must be present in order for a teen to participate.