What do the Ducati Multistrada V4 and Land Rover Defender 90 have in common? Well, both can take you to the far reaches of the planet in a manner and style unlike any other vehicle on sale today.
The past two years have been tough on everyone. But now that the world has opened up, revenge travel seems to be trending. After being confined within the four walls of their homes, people have been itching to travel. It’s only natural that humans wish to be set free from the shackles of a lockdown, and, if you’re an adventure enthusiast you know all too well just how important it is for your soul to leave the city behind and take solace in the mountains. Every adventure lover knows that the mountains hold a special kind of power over us. The majestic views, the smell of fresh air, the sounds of rivers gushing, and the serene & calm energy can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. Luckily for us, we have the mighty Himalayas within reach.
At our annual track test, we had a fine collection of some of the best cars and bikes launched in India this past year. However, there were two that stood out to me the most. No guesses here, it was obviously the Ducati Multistrada V4 and the Land Rover Defender 90. These two vehicles are the epitome of luxury adventure machines. After experiencing them on the track for the jury round, it felt as if we weren’t doing justice to these magnificent engineering marvels. That’s when Shivank and I decided to take them to Spiti. It was almost an instant decision, and because the price of petrol has gone through the roof right now, we had to first convince Dhruv about our impromptu 1,500km road trip. This is our 15th-anniversary issue, a significant milestone for autoX, and the issue just wouldn’t have been complete unless we truly celebrated the wonderful machines that set our hearts racing and leave a lasting impression on us. And so, it didn’t take long for Dhruv to give his nod of approval.
The new Ducati Multistrada V4 is perhaps one of the most advanced ADVs on the planet. We had the V4 S, which is a fully-loaded hardcore adventure motorcycle that comes with everything an adventure rider could dream of. This fourth-generation Multi is now sportier and more touring-oriented, while, at the same time, being stronger and more capable in off-road use. It’s also easier to use in urban areas, as the bike is lightweight and compact. At the heart of this two-wheeled Italian beauty is the new 168bhp V4 Granturismo engine that will excite everybody. Not only is it now the most well-rounded full-size ADV, but it’s also the best-looking by far. The bike looks sporty and purposeful, and you will always look back at it whenever you park it and walk away.
The Land Rover Defender 90 is the twin-flame to the Multistrada V4. It is also one of the most technologically advanced SUVs on the planet and is one of the most capable luxury cars to take you anywhere that you want to go, whether it’s on the tarmac or over boulders and mountains. It’s also one of the best-looking SUVs in the world. The 90 is smaller and more compact than the 110, and it looks like it belongs in the wild. The car we had came with the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol, which is good for about 300bhp and 400Nm of torque. Besides the brilliant power delivery of the engine, it also sounds amazing. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and, of course, comes with 4WD.
Both these vehicles have loads of history and are amongst the most legendary vehicles in the world. As we embarked on our epic trip, Shivank and I came to the conclusion that they are also among the best vehicles that we’ve ever driven and ridden in our entire life.
Half of the drive up to Manali from Delhi consists of straight highways towards Chandigarh and then further towards Roopnagar. The roads are quite nice and the Defender 90 and the Multistrada V4 showed off their high-speed cruising capabilities here. I stuck to driving the Defender for the most part, because once you sit inside the car you really don’t want to leave. It’s such a comfortable and luxurious environment to be in. You also sit in a high position, with a clear view of the road. Shivank was having an enjoyable ride on the Multi as well. Its new V4 engine is one of the most enjoyable we have ever experienced, and it offers superbike-like performance. While Shivank blasted down open stretches of road, I calmly followed and it felt almost as if we were VIPs because all eyes were on us, and other drivers even cleared the way for us on more than one occasion. This is the impact that these machines have when people lay their eyes on them!
We hit the lower foothills of Himachal around noon, and it was a beautiful day. Once Shivank saw the twisties coming up, he politely waved goodbye and quickly pulled away from me – I knew exactly what was going through his mind. The Defender continued to make me feel relaxed and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive up to Mandi. The Defender 90 really makes you feel as if you own the road. Every time I overtook a Mahindra Thar, I could feel a pair of envious eyes fall upon me.
At Mandi, we switched vehicles and finally I got to ride the Multistrada V4 on the mountain roads. The V4 blew me away with its agile and athletic handling capabilities. It really is the sportiest and most performance-oriented ADV that I’ve ever ridden. It’s a long and tiring ride to Manali, but I don’t think any other bike had ever kept me this engaged and zoned in for so long.
Sky is the Limit
The next morning, we left Manali very early. I was back in the Defender again and we made our way up to the Atal Tunnel. This cuts the journey to Spiti down by two hours, and once we came out of the tunnel we were met with the most beautiful views of the Lahaul valley. The roads are tarmac up to a certain point but then the climb to Spiti becomes one of the best off-roading adventures. The Defender showed of its off-roading prowess and I barely had to do anything to make sure it cleared the obstacles in my path. All I had to do was provide steering inputs. The Defender goes over anything with grace and style, and you will barely feel anything at all. While other cars and SUVs moved at a crawling pace, the Defender just strolled right over everything. You don’t need to be a very experienced driver to manoeuvre in this harsh terrain because the Defender does everything for you, and it climbed up the mighty Himalayas without breaking a sweat and all the while keeping me in the lap of luxury.
Halfway to Spiti, we switched vehicles again. I will admit that I didn’t think the Multi V4 would take very well to these hostile roads, but I was soon proven wrong. The new V4 is truly just as capable as any off-road motorcycle. In Enduro mode, the bike would just fly over these mountain trails. Standing up ergonomics are great and with all the safety tech in place, the ride becomes incredibly confident. The suspension can really take a beating and the engine is sprightly enough that you feel as if you’re riding a rally-prepped machine. It’s almost unbelievable. As we climbed higher, it truly seemed as if the sky was the only limit for these two machines.
Nothing Like It
We reached Spiti quite comfortably. We have taken this same road before on many occasions, but I cannot recall a time that we did so with such ease, and in such comfort. I don’t think another trip to Spiti will ever be the same. Both the Defender 90 and the Multistrada V4 are unstoppable forces. To say that they are the most incredible vehicles we have ever experienced would not be an overstatement. They both carry an incredibly high price tag of course, but during this trip, we discovered that the experience they offer is truly unmatched and cannot be replicated by anything else.
This was the trip of a lifetime and will be my most memorable for some time to come. If anything, this trip was a proper celebration and homage to the capabilities of the modern automobile, and the advancements in technology that have been made over the years. For the past 15 years, autoX has been covering the automotive industry, and these two vehicles are the perfect examples of just how far it has progressed. As we reached the top of the world with this wonderful duo, we could only imagine what will transpire in the next 15 years to come.