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It typically takes five hours to make the 350-mile westerly drive from London to Paris. But there's nothing typical about Land Rover expeditions and the recently completed New Discovery Trek - designed to celebrate Land Rover's 50th anniversary. Since a simple five-hour drive would be much too easy, Land Rover sent its new '99 Discovery model to Paris the long way - going all the way around the world in the process.
Departing from London on June 1, an international group of 31 journalists, representing 12 countries, teamed to drive the two new Discovery versions - a four-speed automatic V-8 and a five-speed manual Td5 (five-cylinder turbodiesel). As a result, the cadre of adventurers arrived at the Paris Motor Show on Sept. 28, having traveled some 20,000 miles to get there.
World's most ambitious 'test drive'
Considered the world's most ambitious new-vehicle test drive, the expedition was designed to give this significantly upgraded version of the Discovery a final "shakedown" before it goes on sale in late fall.
The preproduction Discoverys were driven across Western and Eastern Europe to Istanbul, and then across Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. Travails included temperatures of more than 122 degrees, along with hair-raising road hazards such as ox carts; lurching, overloaded trucks; and camels. From Calcutta, the vehicles were shipped across to Australia, where the teams drove the brutally rutted Gunbarrel Highway to Ayers Rock and then on to Sydney. Along the way, participants camped in freezing temperatures and were coated by the pervasive red Australian "bull dust."
Next, the vehicles were air-freighted to New York and driven to Central America, where they encountered rough roads, high temperatures and heavy rains. Following the trans-Atlantic shipment to Spain and the final leg across the Alps, the two vehicles and their 1-ton equipment trailer arrived at the Paris Motor Show just in time for the world premiere of the new Discovery. By then the vehicles had traveled across four continents and 27 countries.