By Yamin Vong
INCLUDING the six hour transit in London’s Heathrow Terminal 1, it took us about 23 hours to get to Reykjavik Keflavik airport, Iceland.
We were four Malaysian journalists invited to join the international media test drive of Land Rover’s new Discovery Sports.
The Discover Sports is an all-new car. The front till the A-pillar uses some Evoque components while the rest is totally new, including the ingenious All-Wheel Drive-line and the rear axle.
The Disco Sports was launched at the Paris Motor Show a few months. At the salon, we could only see and touch. Now, here was the actual thing and the real test — the road test by automotive journalists.
When we stepped out of the plane at 4pm, it was already dark. In the winter, Iceland gets dark from 4pm and the morning sun only breaks through at 10am.
Cold air was blasting from the dark. Snow drifts piled up along the road. If you weren’t careful, it was easy to slip on some patches of slippery ice where the snow had melted and then frozen back.
Together with the Indonesian and Singapore contingents, we were briefed on house rules of the test drives and paired up with each other.
“Don’t worry about getting stuck and freezing to death,” said the man (well, he didn’t say it in exactly so few words).
“Each car has a tracking device and we’ll know exactly where your car is. If you’re stuck, stay in the car and we’ll come to get you.
“We’ll be accompanied by real 4×4’s, Defenders, to support us,” he said.
Tony and I paired up for the SD2.0, the 2,000 cc petrol and off we went to the wild yonder.
I took the first turn at the wheel and it was very easy – firstly, there was the lead car to follow, secondly, there was an excellent GPS software loaded into an iPhone that was connected to the Disco Sport’s display.
Then Tony took the wheel and it was also uneventful.
The fun only started at the third sector when I took the wheel again to what looked like an off-road track.
Snow was gusting across the track. It was pitch black and had been that way since we started at 6pm. Thick snow drifts lined both sides of the track. There was also an ominous pipeline running beside the track.
Suddenly, the car went off the track and into a snowdrift. Tried to reverse out. Cannot. It was high centred, bellied up in the snowdrift. A support crew in a Discovery pulled me out in a jiffy.
Drove again. Again went off the track into another snowdrift. Again had to be pulled out.
Within the hour, I got stuck the third time and this time at a faster pace. The pipeline loomed up and Tony screamed “ahhh the pipeline … we’re going to hit the pipeline.” I was also worried. Didn’t want to burst an oil line and start a fire and be burnt alive.
But the snowdrift was thick and deep. It caught the car and stopped it in time. This time, a Defender came and helped us out with a gentle pull and I assisted by driving the car gently.
After this third, unceremonious event, Tony was getting embarrassed and worrying about the damage that I had single-handedly brought to the Malaysian reputation for off-road driving ability.
But by then, I had got the hang of the all-wheel drive and 9-speed automatic transmission system for the Disco Sports.
And from then on, in the next obstacle, a 15 per cent gradient on a snowy and slippery road, we made it without further ado when we saw cars in front of us being towed up, or having to re-try the slope.
I’ll go into that in the test-drive report in the near future.
More Flood reports:
The main job to do after the floods is to clean up. You have to clean up even before you start rebuilding.
This is a big challenge for the town councils and the Federal government’s rubbish department under the Ministry of Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government.
The Housing and Local Government minister who signed off on a new year’s statement last month that read like it had been prepared by incinerator lobbyists should now realise that landfill is the best solution to flood debris.
Technically, flood debris can be categorised as demolition debris and/or construction debris. Local councils affected should be helped to immediately designate sites for the flood debris.
Flood debris is a good material for filling up and converting low-lying land into future play grounds, recreation parks or, after 10 years to settle, even low density housing.
What Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the KPKT Minister might consider, if he hasn’t done so already, is to get the budget to clean up the flood affected cities.
He has the estimated tonnage of waste, 100,000 – 200,000 tonnes. He needs a budget to hire sand transport contractors to transport the debris. He must get his municipal waste professionals into Kelantan and other flood affected areas to identify possible locations for landfills – within a 5 km – 10 km radius to maximise logistics efficiency – and to designate them as authorised sites. He’s got to do this as soon as possible so that the cleaning can be done within three months, and not two years.
In the context of the rising US dollar and the cost of business, do you see the big difference between tyre shops and petrol stations?
The fuel station associations are complaining about how they are losing money on their stock when the government adjusts fuel price downwards in tandem with world oil prices. They have no choice but to complain because the government controls their selling price.
On the other hand, there is no price control on tyres.
As a consequence, many tyre shop owners are selling their tyres at a discount today because tyre prices are falling worldwide.
They want to reduce their current stock of tyres and minimise the price shock.
That’s why the government needs to use this current oil price drop as the opportunity to return market pricing power to the private sector.
Thanks to the Petroleum Development Act, Petronas was established in 1974 and today is a world class company, F1 including.
The government should make this fundamental de-regulation of fuel distribution. It will both strengthen the National Automotive policy as well as boost the automotive market for clean diesel cars.