The Range Rover Sport Seriously Climbed Heaven’s Gate
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport has already established itself as a do-it-all SUV that can tackle the roughest of terrains. Still, the folks over at Land Rover probably didn’t feel too confident about adding its ability to conquer China’s daunting Dragon Road in Tianmen Mountain in any one of the SUV’s brochures. Nobody’s done the challenge before because it’s thought to be impossible. The road itself is notorious for its 99 turns, but if that isn’t enough, it culminates with a 999-step, 45-degree angle concrete staircase that leads to the absolutely mesmerizing Heaven’s Gate rock formation. Eager to prove everyone wrong, Land Rover went to China to see if it could make history. Well, it was either that or disaster. Either way, it made for quite the stunt.
This Was America’s First Taste of Range Rover
It was 1987 when Range Rover first invaded America’s shores. But unlike any previous British invasion, this luxury SUV offered comfort and convenience for citizens brave enough to associate with anything related to The Crown. And brave they would have to be – the Range Rover cost $30,000 in 1987, a hefty sum back in those days. Range Rover didn’t expect to find many of these brave souls, either, as only 5,000 examples were initially allotted to the U.S. each model year. What’s more interesting is how novel the concept of a premium SUV was at the time. MotorWeek’s host, John Davis, opens this segment by saying, “It seems no one though a luxury 4x4 could succeed in the U.S.” Boy, how times have changed.
The times have also changed the definition of luxury. Compared to a modern Range Rover, or even the least-expensive compact car from 2017, this SUV is downright spartan. It has cloth seats, laughably basic gauges, and low-buck plastic panels covering nearly every inch of the interior. The “luxury” touch consisted of wood trim on the door panels. Despite the relativity of luxury, the Range Rover was far cushier than most SUVs of the 1980s. Only the Jeep Grand Wagoneer could really compete.
But like modern Range Rovers, the 1987 model was far more capable off-road than its competition. Coil-spring suspension and solid axles gave it good articulation while its full-time 4WD system with low range kept all four wheels turning. Power came from a Buick-derived, all-aluminum 3.5-liter V-8 with an electronic fuel injection system. The old V-8 made a then-respectable 150 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Of course, that’s nothing compared to Range Rover’s current 510-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. Power was routed through a four-speed automatic transmission.
Despite its flaws, the 1987 Range Rover started a trend that continues today. Luxury SUVs are definitely ingrained into modern car culture and won’t likely be going anywhere anytime soon.
In 2013, Land Rover introduced a totally new generation of its flagship Range Rover and Range Rover Sport SUVs. The brand is known to produce some of the finest premium off-road luxury vehicles in the world and it did not come as a surprise to us when the world bestowed it with praise, as has been the case with Land Rovers historically.
Yes, the Range Rover has grown into a mature off-road vehicle and is in league of its own, when it comes to luxury motoring. While, the Range Rover sits at the top of the food chain, its smaller sibling, the Range Rover Sport, has had its fair share of successes. MotorTrend magazine honored the RR Sport with the coveted ’SUV of the Year’ and now Four Wheeler Magazine has awarded the Range Rover Sport with "Four Wheeler of the Year" for 2013.
This is the third time a Land Rover SUV has won this award after intense and grueling testing both on tarmac and on rugged terrain designed to test the off-road capabilities of the vehicle.
"It is a great achievement for the very luxurious and performance oriented Range Rover Sport to be named ’Four Wheeler of the Year,’ by the country’s oldest four-wheel drive enthusiast publication," said Kim McCullough, Brand Vice President, Land Rover North America.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2014 Range Rover Sport