Winter Tales from Scotland and Ireland [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, January 2011]
Compiled by Jeffrey Aronson
Throughout the decadesLand Rover owners have welcomed the arrival of winter. For those in southern climes it means you can turn off the air conditioners; for those in the northern latitudes, bring on the snow, ice, slush or heavy rains. My 45 year old Series II-A might leak and seemingly suck in cold drafts from the outside, but my, doesn’t it bound through snow drifts and across slick fields and roads. Defender owners share some leaks and drafts but treat winter driving with disdain. Land Rover friends with Discoverys or LR 3’s, Range Rover Classics or P-38’s share the same élan and do so in supreme comfort and warmth.
Winter storms have arrived in force this year, slamming the US Midwest, breaking the back of Minnesota’s Metrodome, and bringing early joy to New England’s ski areas. By now we’re quite acclimated to winter driving in North America, but rhis early winter has found Europe encased in snow and ice last seen in watching “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Along with much of northern Europe the UK and Ireland found themselves pounded by early December snowstorms this winter, closing major highways throughout the country, isolating many villages, schools and farms. Land Rover even made some vehicles available to authorities to help with the chaos. Correspondents Andrew Taylor from Scotland and Tony Luckwill from Ireland share their winter experiences below:
[Andrew Taylor chronicled his around the world travels for Rovers Magazine in 2009. He now lives in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland. When he moved from London he sold his “round the world” 2008 Defender 130 and replaced it with a decades-old Land Rover 90 with a normally-aspirated diesel engine. Here’s his report from Scotland ed.]
Battling the snowfalls this winter forced the resignation of Scotland’s Minister of Transportation in December; it’s been that kind of winter. My life has changed, too, from the comfort and solidity of my expedition-kit Defender 130 to life with a no frills Land Rover 90 - that means lots of Series Land Rover parts such as sliding windows, separate door tops and flat vinyl seats.
Usually the Defender is only on duty at the weekend when it hauls building rubbish from the current home renovations or collecting coal and logs, but at the end of November Aberdeenshire, the remote area I now call home, was covered with snow and lots of it. This is where the Defender comes in to its own; the low power of the basic diesel engine means little in these conditions and it just plugs through the snow at a steady pace. The biggest problem is the other traffic trying to make through the white wasteland. Unfortunately they are less sure of their vehicles and bring the flow of traffic down to no more than a 20 mph crawl; for a change it's not me and my Defender holding up the traffic!
Normally my 25 mile daily commute does not demand low range or diff locks, just steady and thoughtful driving. As the storm progressed the accumulation of snow increased and I found that a trip to my mother's house was called for as they had been stranded up a farm track for three days with no means of escape. This is the first time that the Land Rover’s full box of tricks was required. Low ratio, differential lock and steady driving assured progress through three feet of snow on a steep inclined track. The neighbours looked at the Defender with envy as they try to clear their driveways. I simply drove by with a nod of recognition.
The next time that the Defender would need to use its full capabilities was a real boon. The road to our home had gradually become narrower as the week progressed. As a result there was only enough room for two cars to pass. The problem arose when a snow plough came from the other direction. Unfortunately some plough drivers take the "I'll do more damage than you can" mentality. Unfortunately we met one such driver. As a result we were forced through a four foot snowbank at the side of the road, Naturally the plough never stopped. First gear high ratio selected – nothing. Second gear - still nothing, Low ratio first - still no joy, low ratio second -not that either. Next step, diff lock, forward- no joy. What about reverse? Success, as the Land Rover headed backwards through the bank and back onto the road! All this happened within a minute but the anguish made it seem like an hour.
Two weeks on and with still more snow falling, our purchase of a 25 year old military Land Rover (with a Sankey trailer), and driving it 500 miles home at 55 mph, does not seem like one of my worst ideas.
[Tony Luckwill, a film maker and writer, lives in Dublin, where, among his other projects, he’s preparing a book on the 21-year old history of the Discovery –ed]
My new Discovery 4 XS Commercial arrived in the first week of November 2009. At the time I was living in the UK where winter arrive early and it snowed from the week before Christmas right through until late March. With the “Snow” setting on the standard Terrain Response system the vehicle coped remarkably well although I still only used the car when absolutely necessary. It was several miles to the nearest supermarket then, but now back in Ireland I can walk to the good shops and don’t have to drive as much in this latest snowy weather that has come the earliest time in the year on record.
Being a UK XS spec model with the older 2.7 TDV6 engine my Discovery 4 comes with climate control and a heated windscreen as standard, alongside front fog lamps and rear park distance control. It is therefore not difficult to clear the windows quickly once you have got the bulk of the snow cleared off, and the condensation disappears rapidly and stays clear for your journey. It makes me wonder why such items are not mandatory on vehicles destined for Northern and Western parts of Europe.
The latest version of the NAVTEQ based “Premium” hard drive navigation system makes finding your way around very easy especially when negotiating unfamiliar city streets. Built-in Bluetooth works fine with my iPhone 4 (there were issues with earlier iPhones). The dashboard mounted screen with its multifunctional display is easy to set up and easy to read. I could effortlessly change my display settings from MPH to KPH (for the constant speed readout) and from MPG to L/100km for the fuel efficiency figures. The average economy I have been achieving is around about 39 mpg although this can rise to as much as about 44mpg and as little as 28mpg depending on the roads being driven. It is possible to get around 1000km out of a full tank in the summertime.
Having owned most of the previous Discovery types during the last few years (and having driven virtually every different model available in the British Isles in between) I admit to being a hardened Discovery enthusiast. I firmly believe that the Discovery is already a classic vehicle in its own right. I hope that Land Rover keep it going (but it does need a reduction in price as it is overpriced). I was lucky as I managed to get mine as a high specification Commercial van. This mattered because I knew I was returning to Ireland where the current coalition government partners introduced a hefty road tax that could have run to €2,100 In addition I did not have to pay the Vehicle Registration Tax of around €26,000 or the 21% Ireland VAT rate.
Perhaps these tax rates help explain why there are only two Discoverys in the car park of the apartment block where I am currently living. They do seem to be the only vehicles which can be started up and driven out of the complex without major problems. The Irish road tax system, as it currently stands, forces most people to drive superminis across the country in all weathers, instead of safe, capable vehicles like Land Rovers.
Still, being on my own I don’t need the extra seats at present and the extra loadspace comes in handy. My vehicle might be the only one in Ireland with its exact specification: manual gearbox, 2.7 engine and satnav. It appears that all Discovery 4’s come as automatics only with the newer 3.0 litre twin turbo SDV6 dieselsAs far as I know Land Rover has yet to supply the 3.0 litre engine with a manual gearbox.
This winter’s storms might cripple lesser vehicles at times, but my Discovery 4 seems to beg me to get out and tackle the snows. Once it has conquered the winter my Discovery 4 will help me explore several parts of Ireland that I’ve not visited in many years. With weather predictions calling for 0 C weather and more snow, this will be an exciting season.
[Copyright Rovers Magazine 2011]
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."