In 1993, Land Rover wanted to do away with the low-range gearbox that was commonly used on steep declines when off-roading to save on weight and cost in the vehicle that would become the Freelander. To do this, the company needed to create a new system that would keep the vehicle from rolling down hills too fast. This system would make it possible for the Freelander to have relatively the same off-road capabilities as the rest of Land Rover’s well-known vehicles.
The Development of Hill Descent Control
Land Rover created a system that simulated a low-range gear through the use of the anti-lock brakes. Think of it like cruise control at very low speeds designed to make it easy to travel down steep grades safely. As revolutionary as this system was, it wasn’t perfect right off the bat. Users complained that the set hill descent speed was too fast for many situations. However, Land Rover knew it was on to something.
After some tweaking of the system and plenty of consumer feedback, the company slowed the vehicle to what’s called a walking pace. As the system gained popularity, other automakers adopted their own hill descent control systems until now it is commonplace on many SUVs and trucks. Basically, anything with off-road capability comes with hill descent control these days, from the ravenous Ford F-150 Raptor to the Nissan Rogue. As these hill descent control systems have progressed, automakers have made the speed with which the vehicle travels downhill adjustable, providing more control to the driver.
Why is Hill Descent Control So Helpful?
The reason hill descent control is so helpful is that it makes traveling down steep hills off the beaten path extremely easy. Before hill descent control systems, you had to put the vehicle in low gear and use the engine to keep the vehicle at the correct speed. This required some skill. With hill descent control, basically anyone can safely pilot a vehicle down a steep grade.
Hill descent control was kind of a catalyst for other special off-road systems that make safely traveling off pavement much easier. After developing hill descent control, Land Rover went on to create All Terrain Progress Control, which is like a low-speed cruise control for off-roading. Essentially, the system helps keep the speed and power consistent which can be tricky to learn if you’re a novice off-road driver. It simplifies crawling over tough terrain and steep hills in much the same way that modern hill descent control systems simplify going downhill.
Check out the video below to see All Terrain Progress Control in action.
Interested in vehicles with hill descent control? Check out these models we've driven.
Land Rover Range Rover