• Jun 12, 2006

Over the last few years, the concept of 'brand building' has driven itself to the top of the list as arguably the key to automotive marketing and advertising. As such, driving schools have come to the fore among premium brands as favored tools in automakers' effort to build brand loyalty, exclusivity, and that crazy little thing called 'buzz.'

One such example is Land Rover, the Blue Oval's luxury-lined UK off-road division, which has taken its Land Rover Experience global, establishing off-road driving centers around the world, from Dunkeld, Scotland to Johannesburg, South Africa. One of Land Rover's newest Experiences is located in Asheville, North Carolina, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on George Vanderbuilt's Biltmore Estate. Naturally, when the opportunity knocked go get muddy for a few days on the grounds of America's largest private home earlier this Spring, we convinced the powers that be at Weblogs Inc. to loosen the company purse strings for airfare, a room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, etc.*

Click on the jump for more of this Travelogue entry and original photographs!

*(It is Weblogs Inc.'s official policy to pay its own way to all press junkets. Gifted trips are not accepted)

Upon touching down at Asheville's diminutive airport, we were greeted by a Land Rover rep in a supercharged Range Rover Sport, at which point we were driven to the Biltmore in burgeoning (and surprisingly hip) Ashville, and given a tour of the 8,000 acre property, thereafter checking in at the Inn. While we were keen to get a look at the Biltmore house itself, we came to get dirty, and to learn a little bit off-roading and marketing the Land Rover lifestyle.

Sadly, as the evening was already drawing close upon us, mucking about in Britain's finest off-road togs wasn't on the menu for the day, so we repaired to the adjacent winery for a brief tasting before heading to dinner. Given its majestic surroundings, it's understandable that Estate's winery has the reputation of being the most visited vintner in the States. And though only the most generous (or foolhardy) of drinkers would classify us as knowledgeable oenophiles, a good glass of the Estate's Château Reserve Claret was hardly lost on us.

Over a fine meal at the Inn's dining room and a few post-dinner cocktails out on the veranda with a smattering of Land Rover and Estate p.r. folks and instructors (along with a couple of other journos), it became clear that the Biltmore and Land Rover are an exceptional match, as perfectly and gloriously incongruous as LR's vehicles themselves. After all, who would figure on a four-star dining and lodging experience in a region suspected by outsiders for a high 'Dueling Banjos' contingent? Similarly, what person in their right mind could rationally expect peerless off-road ability from something with the interior ambiance of some of the world's best luxury sedans? If improbably, both find a good measure of success in their own way as outposts of upper-crust civility when dropped in the middle of beautiful (if occasionally inhospitable) terrain.

Keep your eyes peeled for more Autoblog Travelogue installments, as with we learn how to lash Land Rovers to trees, get up on two wheels, and in general, flex the Cool Britannia boxes for all their off-road worth, and in the mean time, be sure to click on the photos for high-res images!

[Sources: Land Rover Experience; The Biltmore Estate]

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is where I saw the SC version up close. We happened by one on the way to the winery for some tastings and jazz. I wish I had the extra money to do the Experience. The grounds seem to a good place to do this srt of thing.

      • 8 Years Ago
      As a resident of Asheville, NC, I can assure you that it's been years since we sodomized all incoming tourists (or at least those with "pretty mouthes"). Since the beauty of the scenery and quality of the roads in this area draws people from all over the world we quickly learn to ignore the self-rightous rantings of those from more populated areas. It doesn't hurt that you spend a ridiculous amount of money on Asheville t-shirts. Excellent writing however, and in the next installment maybe we can hear more about the vehicles instead of how much money you spent in the winery.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am in Charlotte and definitely going to visit this place. I drove by Asheville on the way to the Tail of the Dragon (http://www.tailofthedragon.com/index.html), which is on the NC/TN border and is simply LEGENDARY. I sense some amazing photo ops for my BMW in front of that place.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Oh man, you guys were up here in Asheville? If only I had known.

      Asheville proper is quite non-hillbilly. The surrounding area, however, is completely different.

      I'm interested to hear the rest of this story.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Are those diesel Discovery 3 Land Rovers?
      If so, how's the power?