23 January 2019

Born to be Wild

Born to be Wild

When you really think about it, the term horsepower has shown incredible staying power over the years. It was first conceived by James Watt in the late 1700s, when the Scottish engineer was looking for a way to compare the power of steam engines to that of his trusty pack horses. 


Remember, this was also a time when 10 chains equaled a furlong, four pecks would get you a bushel, and 52.5 gallons equaled a particularly unappealing-sounding hogshead, so it’s really not that difficult to imagine horsepower being every bit as obsolete as those terms are today. And yet, more than 200 years later - long after all those other measurements were killed off by the very sensible metric system - horsepower somehow lives on.


I think I now know why. No term before or since brings with it such moving imagery; the beauty of a wild horse in full flight, skin pulled tight over hard-working muscles, a perfect combination of performance and poise. The sight so perfectly captures everything we imagine when we think of power it could likely never be replaced, at least not entirely, by a modern, more sensible description. And so it’s hard not to run the mental calculations when we catch a glimpse of our first wild brumby; a gigantic grey-flanked mare running hard across a windswept field, each falling hoof igniting a tiny explosion of dust. See, the INFINITI Q50 Red Sport that has been making such light work of the sinuous and silky mountain roads that wrap themselves around the Snowy Mountains is home to the power of 400 horses (298kW), and just one in full flight is impressive enough. 


Which makes it the perfect car for this particular adventure. The stunning Kosciusko National Park, which stretches across the NSW alps, is home to more than 6000 wild brumbies that roam free across the rugged countryside. It also happens to be the home of some of the finest driving roads this vast country has to offer, which is exactly why we chose INFINITI's own wild child, the Red Sport, to head off in search of these incredible animals.


The day had been spent exploring the boundaries of the Q50’s staggeringly potent twin-turbocharged V6 engine and its 475Nm of scenery-bending torque, which is fed to the rear wheels via a slick seven-speed sports automatic so intuitive and quick in its shifts that there’s rarely a need to take over via the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. But as evening fell and the searing heat of the day had finally lifted from the air, the horses came out of hiding. One at first, then dozens, even hundreds, each a part of its own mob patrolling a particular section of the park.


The horses, all descended from animals belonging to Australia’s earliest settlers (some of them probably owned by The Man From Snowy River himself), aren’t without controversy. Plenty think their numbers - now totalling more than 8000 across NSW and Victoria - have grown too large for the delicate alpine eco-system to sustain, campaigning for a sizeable cull of the population. But plenty more think they are both a tourist draw and a welcome addition to the Australian landscape; a place they’ve been roaming for almost 200 years.


As night set in we set off down the mountain for our overnight accommodation, the park around us coming alive in the way that only areas filled with nocturnal beasts can. As the Q50 powered around yet another bend, a huge animal was illuminated by the headlights, it’s vast dark-haired flank suddenly filling the windscreen. 


While the potent engine had proved a talking point all day, it was suddenly the bite of the brakes that most grabbed our attention. The Q50 screeched to a stop what felt like centimetres from the slowly crossing mare. She paused for a moment, eyeing this strange newcomer at the helm of the INFINITI. And then, unbothered, she wandered on. Just as others like her have done for the better part of two centuries. And as others likely will for centuries more. 


Watch the video below.

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