|Photo courtesy: Brad Nelson|
The Toyota 4Runner Trail edition (below) and Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland (above) were two vehicles with the extremely useful Hill Descent Control that I drove on the more challenging red course at Calamigos Ranch. The temptation is to step on the brake pedal, but you must resist, because that will override the HDC system. The vehicle does it all while HDC is operating - it controls acceleration and braking as needed with the ABS brake system controlling the speed.
The Honda Pilot Touring edition performed very well on the less-rough but still tough blue course by absorbing much of the bumpy terrain while in 1st or 2nd gear. The Chevrolet Avalanche which looks like it's made for off-road, has a long wheelbase meaning it required some backing-up to make it around the tight hairpins but otherwise was flawless.
|Photo courtesy: Myles Regan|
In summary, this off-road exercise showed what manufacturers have done technologically to take the risks out of driving on challenging terrain and reemphasized that being cautious at low speeds makes it much more safer to handle unpredictable, demanding conditions. Being familiar with and knowing how to operate all the features in your vehicle prepares you and makes you ready to have them at your fingertips when needed thus making you a better and safer driver.
It was a whale of a good time (pun intended) as my experienced off-road journalist passenger, Greg Whale who joined me on a few of the excursions, kept us on course. Also, my thanks to Chrysler's Scott Brown who made extra sure that I navigated his Jeep with precision utilizing all the gadgets.
Note: There were 19 vehicles available to review, including a 4WD Kia Sportage, on two off-road courses of varying difficulty and due to time constraints, not all could be driven.