The UK dealer launch of the Grandland X at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, December 6th 2017.
We've had 'soft launches', we've had 'virtual launches' and we've had
'no launch at all' for new models over the past few years, but this was
an old-school product launch, with the chance for the UK dealer network
to get hands-on with our new car, the spectacular Grandland X. It was
held at Millbrook, an amazing place near Bedford. It's a 700 acre
proving ground and world centre of excellence for the automotive
industry, with a high-speed bowl (sadly not open to us on this occasion)
and an alpine handling course, as well as numerous sections of road
designed to test every part of the many top secret prototypes that were
lurking around every corner.
So with an event start time of 9:30 our dynamic duo (DP & Stig) were on the road by 5:30, scoffing the DP's freshly-made bacon baps, in the mighty Insignia Grand Sport, the powerful LED headlights in full effect and very effective at waking up middle-lane dawdlers on the M6/M1. Despite the roadworks, 50mph zones and a quick Costa stop en-route, we arrived at just after 9 to be greeted by our first surprise - the cameras on our phones were covered by security stickers to protect the secrecy of the cars using the high-speed bowl and tackling the Belgian Block Pave - we can tell you that we spotted a huge number of 'Lynx&Co' SUVs and a massive Rolls Royce SUV in full camouflage paint - the grille was a bit of a giveaway! And to answer the question - if you pulled the sticker off the word 'void' magically appeared and all phones were checked on departure... one of our party was nervous...
Inside the main building and after sausage baps and Barista-made coffee (it would be rude not to) we were transitioned into the main theatre for the dramatic stage show - lots of smoke, lights and music, all very well done. Next we were split into our groups and transitioned to our activities - we did the 'Overview' first which gave us a real in-depth look at the car, learning all about its technology (there's lots) and trim/specs etc. Big up the presenters on this bit, who really knew their stuff and made it all very clear.
Next up for us, the bit we were really looking forward to, the drive experience. Outside there were about 25 cars, in either 1.6 diesel or 1.2 petrol - our first run was in a 1.6 120bhp diesel auto. We were led in convoy up and around the alpine course by an Insignia driven at a spirited lick and we all kept pace (apart from a few plodders who appeared to be Driving Miss Daisy) and were able to very quickly discover that a) the car handles superbly and, b) the diesel auto is a fine combination of power and smoothness.
Run 2 was in a 1.2 manual and, to be honest, we were both a little concerned that the size of the car would overwhelm the engine - fears that quickly gave way to astonishment. If you didn't know it was a 1.2 you'd swear it was much bigger, with loads of low down grunt that was easily capable of hauling us up the rollercoaster roads of the alpine course.
Now, an admission. In a previous life our very own Stig & Social Media Team Leader, TJ, worked for an automotive events company and spent many, many days at Millbrook on various Press and Fleet days. So as well as telling tales of being forcibly escorted out of the venue by Security when his event de-build overran and the top secret cars wanted to come out to play, and of passengering Jason Plato while blasting round the handling course in a Nissan 300ZX, TJ has done many, many laps of the alpine course himself and knows it very well. Remember when James Bond rolled his Aston in Casino Royale? TJ can show you where they filmed it. He can also show you where to get 'air' on the alpine course and demonstrate that it takes a brave, brave driver to do it. This is mainly because the crest that gets you airborne is followed immediately by a very tight left - if you've taken off you need to stop VERY quickly. And anyway, we wouldn't be able to do it because we'd been told about driving too fast and 'taking it easy'... dear reader, of course we tried, of course DP Crump bailed, and of course Stig did it. Just don't tell anyone.
We had grand day, and Grandland X is a great car. It rides beautifully, handles well and is loaded with clever kit. It's also a classy looking car and has loads of room for anything you can throw at it. We were amazed at the performance of the 1.2 petrol engine and we look forward to our demonstrator hitting the road very soon!
If you'd like to know more, drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll happily answer any questions.
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