The new plug-in hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport has become the first vehicle to climb the stairs to one of China’s most famous landmarks – Heaven’s Gate.
Driven by Le Mans class-winner and Panasonic Jaguar Racing reserve and test driver Ho-Pin Tung, it took a dizzying 99 turns and 999 steps before the petrol-electric performance SUV reached the natural rock arch.
The epic challenge began at the bottom of the legendary 11.3km Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road).
The showroom standard Range Rover Sport P400e took on the demanding course, with the Terrain Response 2 system in Dynamic mode.
At the summit of the road, the Formula E driver optimised Terrain Response for the second part of the challenge which involved conquering the gruelling 45-degree staircase climb, using a combination of petrol and electric battery power.
“I’ve experienced Formula E, Formula 1 and won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but this was without doubt one of the most demanding driving challenges I’ve ever faced,” said Ho-Pin Tung. “The Range Rover Sport PHEV performed brilliantly as it inspired real confidence on the mountain road and climbed the stairs up to Heaven’s Gate effortlessly.”
The Dragon Challenge is the latest in a series of adventures completed by the Range Rover Sport after the PHEV model made its debut in a race against two-time open-water swimming world champion Keri-anne Payne and endurance athlete Ross Edgley in Devon, UK.
Previous exploits include a record-setting hill-climb at Pikes Peak, USA, a record crossing of the ‘Empty Quarter’ desert in the Arabian Peninsula and a 2,170m descent of the legendary Inferno downhill course in Mürren, Switzerland.
The Range Rover Sport PHEV has a zero-emission electric (EV) range of up to 31 miles (50km) when fully charged, but Ho-Pin Tung used a combination of its advanced 300PS Ingenium petrol engine and 116PS electric motor to make short work of the road section of the challenge.
Phil Jones, Land Rover Experience expert, said: “This was the hardest Range Rover Sport challenge I’ve ever been involved with because, until we reached the top, we couldn’t categorically say we would succeed. By making it to the summit, we’ve proven the phenomenal capability of the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid like never before – with a genuine world first.”