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Off-Road Capabilities of Range Rover Hybrids Put to Test as Silk Trail Expedition Progresses Towards Mumbai

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LONDON – Sept 20, 2013: The Silk Trail 2013 expedition, after continuing eastwards for two weeks from its starting point at Land Rover’s home in Solihull in the UK, has reached the city of Astrakhan in eastern Russia.

The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes have travelled through the Ukraine and much of Russia on a mixture of asphalt highways and rutted dirt roads in the past week.

Through Europe, the Silk Trail expedition’s route has mostly followed asphalt roads, often encountering traffic congestion in towns and cities where the Hybrid’s electric motor has quietly paid fuel economy dividends. In contrast, crossing the Ukraine and Russia, many hours have been spent negotiating dirt roads that would be impassable to most other types of vehicle, demonstrating the Hybrid’s supreme off-road capability.

In the beautiful Mediterranean-style Mountains between the Black Sea resorts of Sevastopol and Yalta in the Ukraine, the expedition took a short-cut off-road tackling chalky dirt tracks carved-out during the Second World War.

At one of the many bays on the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the three Range Rover Hybrids ventured onto wild, windswept beaches which included stretches of deep sand. Through the Kalmykiya region of Russia, traditionally farmed by nomads, the convoy crossed vast, open prairies and grasslands on roads where the mud surface had been turned to slippery slurry by heavy rains. Here, the expedition vehicles made their way through a landscape where no other vehicles, buildings or people could be seen in any direction.

In the tricky driving conditions created by the mixture of water and mud, some drivers chose to leave Terrain Response in the Auto mode, others manually selected the Mud & Ruts setting – and all had to concentrate hard, picking a way through deep puddles and severe ruts.

During a stop to clean the mud-coated vehicles in the town of Astrakhan, located on 11 islands in the upper part of the Volga Delta, there has been time for the participants to appreciate the first signs of west meeting east. Here the architecture and the people are a mix of European and Asian. The expedition is now close to the cultural and commercial crossroads between Europe and Asia and the roads of the legendary Silk Trail.

The vehicle checks also confirmed the Range Rover Hybrids’ continuing reliability – the only repairs required so far have been the replacement of one punctured tyre and one chipped windscreen.

This expedition will visit 12 countries and takes in some of the world's most challenging roads, passes and trails, including part of the ancient, 6,800 km Silk Road connecting Asia with the Mediterranean. These are the first hybrids to ever attempt this challenging route and during this week, the expedition will venture into the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and then into Kyrgyzstan, accumulating another 3,200km as it continues east into Asia.