The route, which linked Europe and Asia more than 2,000 years ago, meanders 10,000 miles across some of the world’s least hospitable terrain. In other words, Land Rover territory.
As a final shakedown of the coming Range Rover Hybrid, a team of Land Rover drivers and engineers is in the midst of a 52-day, 14-country expedition that will lead them from the company’s home base in Solihull, England, to Mumbai, India, and the headquarters of the automaker’s corporate parent, Tata Group.
As of 18 September, the three-vehicle caravan had logged 23 days and 5,226 miles, which puts it at the halfway point on the Silk Road. The convoy is presently navigating some torturous topography across central Asia. The team traversed open grasslands, muddy two-track trails and rocky desert passes across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and seen the outside temperature touch 43C (100F). Of course, such conditions are somewhat easier to suffer within the leather-lined opulence of a Range Rover, but there is no question that for man and machine, this is no cruise down Rodeo Drive.
The Range Rover Hybrid employs a 3-litre turbocharged diesel V6 engine and a 35kW electric motor, which together produce 335 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite the Hybrids’ prodigious off-road capability, they have proven admirably frugal.
Damage-wise, the team has so far endured only four punctured tires and a cracked windshield. But the convoy has 29 days to go to Mumbai, and the most difficult part of the journey lies ahead – the desert lands of Kyrgyzstan and China, and a little mountain range called the Himalayas.