Here at Almelhem Auto Service, this is a question we’re asked by owners of Range Rovers at our Kuwait and Dubai branches. Some of these individuals are unfamiliar with the history of the Range Rover, and of the Land Rover brand. The current iteration of the Range Rover may seem like a luxurious vehicle built for the boulevards of a major metropolis, but it is capable of much more than that.
For much of the 20th century, Land Rover built a reputation on the extreme offroading accomplishments of its vehicles. These feats were achieved not only by the military, but also by adventurous individuals who crossed the rough terrains of Africa and Australia. A quick search of “Land Rover Defender” will produce many images of a Land Rover climbing a mountain or crossing a desert.
The original Range Rover, released in 1970, was brought to market with the intention of providing a capable offroader that could also handle the daily tasks of the average consumer, in comfort. It provided more comfort than the utilitarian Land Rover Series. In its first years of production, it was equipped with two doors and a vinyl interior. Later in its production run, the Range Rover was equipped with luxury features, such as leather seats and plush carpeting.
In 1994, after 25 years of production, the classic Range Rover was replaced with the P38. This is when air suspension was first introduced to the Range Rover, and a first for Land Rover. The air suspension provided a comfortable and plush ride. Despite the luxury provided by the air suspension and supple interior fittings, the Range Rover was still equipped with solid axles front and rear. In the offroading community, front and rear solid axles are considered essential for extreme offroading. This generation of Range Rover was still exceptionally capable offroad, although it was plagued with reliability issues.
In 2004, the first fully modern Range Rover was released, the L322. It came equipped with fully independent suspension, air springs and a sophisticated traction control system. Since Land Rover knew they had a reputation to live up to, they put it through rigorous testing in a variety of terrain. To compensate for the lack of solid axles, much development was put into the traction control system. The intention was to use technology to conquer terrain, while also providing comfort on city roads.
So, can the Range Rover go offroad?
Yes. Yes it can. There is a caveat, which we will get to in a second. There are many places to explore around Dubai, and even some areas in Kuwait. In Dubai, the first desert many are exposed to is Al Qudra. We take our Range Rover there all time. It goes places that surprise many of the guys in the Jeeps and FJ Cruisers. The air suspension is adjustable, and provides an extra two inches of lift. This gives the vehicle not only more ground clearance, but also improves the approach and departure angles. This really helps when descending a steep dune. The Range Rover also has a Terrain Response mode which can be adjusted to suit the terrain. Since its being used in the desert, “Desert Mode” is selected. It works well in many instances, but in others, it’s a bit too restrictive. You will only notice this if you’re an experienced offroader and start pushing the vehicle hard.
In the mountains and wadis near Dubai, the traction control on the Range Rover works tremendously well. All doubters and naysayers will be impressed. Our Range Rover is equipped with a locking rear differential, and it works in sync with the traction control. The vehicle rolls over severe undulating trails with ease. It makes offroading easy.
Considering all these capabilities, there is one enormous caveat that has to be mentioned.
The tires on most Range Rovers not only don’t have sufficient ruggedness, they don’t have enough sidewall height. Sufficient sidewall height is required for driving the vehicle on low tire pressures. Low Tire pressures are used to increase traction in sand and other offroad conditions. Tire pressures for offroading will be discussed in another blog post in more detail. The stock tires on a Range Rover can take you offroad, but it will limit what you can do, and will cause you to get stuck more often than you should. On our Range Rover, we put tires with bigger sidewalls, and it transformed the vehicle. It became much more capable offroad.
There are many places to explore around Dubai, and you can visit them in comfort, while in your Range Rover.