While you can spend days poring over statistics about torque, horsepower and suspension, the only way to truly gauge a vehicle's performance is to push it to the limit in the real world. This is exactly what Land Rover has been doing with their all-new Range Rover Sport in a series of "Driven Challenges" that began this year at the world-famous Pike's Peak International Hill Climb. After setting the world record for a production vehicle on that course, the next step for the feisty SUV was to go off road in one of the harshest climates on earth.
The Empty Quarter is the largest sand desert in the world. Sharing borders with Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates it covers over 250,000 square miles, making it nearly as large as the state of Texas. Rife with scorpions and camel spiders, and with temperatures regularly reaching 115 degrees Fahrenheit, it is an incredibly arid and severe terrain. Taking a production vehicle untested into this type of climate may seem like a doomsday scenario, but Land Rover was confident the Sport could handle the challenge. Enlisting Moi Torrallardona, an experienced off-road rally driver, Land Rover embarked on a journey to set a new benchmark and establish the record for the fastest desert crossing by a production vehicle in history.
With Torrallardona at the helm, a team of expert desert drivers was brought on board to help plan the journey. The Empty Quarter is notoriously difficult to navigate, with the landscape rapidly shifting between hard packed sand and flowing soft dunes. Even with a highly trained navigator any journey through this landscape poses endless unforeseen obstacles and promises difficulty. To capture this epic, one-of-a-kind crossing, a documentary film team was embedded with the crew. You can see the documentary here.
Equipped with a 5.0 Liter LR-V8 engine, the Sport packs a lot of power but that is not all it takes to undergo such an impressive task. The sport comes equipped with the new Terrain Response® 2, which automatically adapts to the terrain, instantly delivering the best performance. Combine that with an all-new four corner air suspension system and the car produces incredibly dynamic handling that can easily conquer any off-road task. This package of performance and handling gave Land Rover complete confidence that the Sport could make it across the Empty Quarter quickly and in style.
Starting before sunrise on the 4th of November, Torrallardona and his navigator set off on their journey. With only a single stop to meet a support team for refueling and maintenance, tensions were extremely high. The sport blazed across the sweeping landscape of the isolated Arabian Peninsula reaching speeds over 51.87 mph. The team arrived to the finish line to cheers and a sigh of relief from the crew, having crossed 849 km in only 10 hours and 22 minutes. The Sport has set the benchmark to challenge any who may dare venture across the imposing expanses of the Empty Quarter and squarely proved that this SUV can handle it all.
(Photos: Greg Stefano)