The team at Land Rover have been pitting their new Range Rover Sport PHEV against a series of incredible challenges to prove it’s a vehicle that’s capable of much, much more than the typical urban school run.
Tackling the legendary hill-climb at Pikes Peak, crossing inhospitable deserts, and even taking on the world’s most notorious downhill ski race – the Range Rover has performed outstandingly – but its final challenge is truly the stuff of legends.
The Dragon Road
Welcome to ‘The Dragon Road’ – 6.8 miles (11km) of hairpin bends that twists up Tianmen Mountain in central China. The term ‘breath-taking’ is often over-used, but The Dragon Road is exactly that – even a steady bus ride to the top will send your heart rate soaring, and local drivers say tourists regularly scream as they take a brave look out of the windows. For most of the drive, you’re less than a few feet from a deadly vertical drop into the mist that surrounds the mountain.
The road involves 99 hairpin bends – representing the widely held Chinese belief that there are 9 palaces making up heaven. When you’re at the top, there are another 999 stone steps that take you to ‘Heaven’s Gate’; an enormous natural rock archway that’s shrouded in local mythology.
The team at Land Rover decided that the 99 hairpins didn’t represent enough of a challenge for the Range Rover Sport PHEV – so they decided they’d tackle all 999 steps too – taking their SUV up the 45-degree slope to Heaven’s Gate itself.
To offer some context, the steepest road in the world can be found in North-West Wales. At its most severe point, it has a gradient of 37.5 degrees – for just a few meters.
Simulated test runs in the UK saw the Range Rover Sport’s front wheels lifting – with the very real possibility that the vehicle would tip, rolling back down the mountain. If that were to happen, a driver’s chances of getting out at the bottom would be virtually zero.