LAND ROVER BIGFOOT SAYS SNOW, WHAT SNOW?
Timely visit to arctic wastes demonstrates how to deal with snow, Land Rover style
The chance to drive Bigfoot, or one of two, um, Bigfeet built by Land Rover Special Vehicles, is the highlight of the Nordic Adventure programme run by the brand's events team and open to anyone (well, anyone with deep pockets...) who fancies a few days of luxurious accommodation and incredible off-road driving.
Finnish what's started
Our sampler visit to Finland is somewhat truncated, both by Finnair's inexplicable reluctance to leave Heathrow and a tighter schedule for this press trip. And while it seems daft to fly out of a snowbound London to visit ... snowbound Finland at least the Finns seem able to cope with more than a light dusting of snow without going completely bonkers. That'll be that famously chilled Finnish demeanour in action then. That or the fact they live with it for months on end.
Evoque as we head north from Helsinki for our meeting with Bigfoot.
Our late arrival means we miss the night drive through frozen forests but the fact I get the Evoque stuck turning into the hotel's driveway demonstrates my English snow driving skills are probably best left untested, at least until the morning.
If you go down to the woods
We get a taste of some of the night drive route the following morning and it is, frankly, absolutely stunning. The Evoque - studded tyres in place - is more than able to keep up with its grown up Range Rover brothers and the magical quality of the frozen Finnish forests is breathtaking.
gatecrashers Jaguar- have been laid out for us to explore the abilities of the Range Rover line-up. The Evoque proves chuckable and fun (we'll have another crack atthat Nurburgring lap...) while powersliding a Range Rover surrounded by wood panelling and ruched leather feels improbable, totally inappropriate but rather good fun.
The car we're all excited about has a field all to itself though. Mainly because anything else here - Range Rover included - wouldn't get more than a few metres before getting stuck.
One might feel precarious way up here on massive 38-inch tyres but, in all honesty, the Bigfoot does everything it can to imbue you with a sense of indestructibility.
A full roll cage helps, ditto the hugely over engineered sense that nothing will stop it. And not much will.
Snowman, not actually abominable
Originally built by Land Rover Special Vehicles as support for press events around the world, the Bigfoot first saw action in Morocco but has since trodden soil in Iceland and other varied and extreme environments across the globe. A bit of snow shouldn't be too much trouble then.
Takes a while to get going though, the earlier five-speed 2.5 TD5 Bigfoot lacking the anti-stall of its later six-speed brother. And once under way even with fleet footwork it'll take you 33 seconds to reach 62mph. Not that you'd want to on the compacted ice with these tyres apparently, their comfort zone being softer ground of sand, snow or mud.
The Bigfoot is a truly physical vehicle to drive, as you might expect given the way it looks. It's the first vehicle we've driven here with a clutch and it requires a good shove at that, and having grasped the long, fiercely vibrating gear selector it takes firm, deliberate action to shift into the next gear. By which time there's a real possibility you'll have come to a complete standstill. Even with much of the bodywork removed the steering lock is seriously limited too.
Our chaperone suggests getting a feel for it all by following in the tyre tracks already made around the edge of the vast, snow-covered field that's acting as Bigfoot's playground today. There's no huge gradient, or any obstacles as such, just limitless metre-deep powder in the centre. "Go on, put your foot down and just drive into it," comes the order.
That same sense of peace, of floating suspended on millions of snow crystals and carving in smooth arcs across a pillow-soft surface is there, the low sun glinting through the cloud of snow in my wake. Which is all very poetic considering all I'm really doing is hooning about in a snowy field in an over-tyred Landie. Still, simple pleasures.
The Finnish Land Rover Nordic Adventure costs a not insubstantial £4,976 based on two people sharing. A rather more affordable £99 winter driving course is available across the UK at any one of 10 Land Rover Experience centres.