While you can spend days reading over statistics about torque, horsepower and suspension, the only way to truly gauge a vehicle’s performance is to push its limits in the real world. Land Rover has been doing just that with their all-new Range Rover Sport (watch the video) 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 severe place. 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, Rover embarked on a journey to set a new benchmark and establish the record for the fastest ever desert crossing by a production vehicle.
With Torrallardona at the helm, a team of expert desert drivers was brought in to plan the daunting 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 drive 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, the results of which can be seen in their documentary.
Equipped with a 5.0 liter LR-V8 engine, the Sport packs a lot of power but that's not all it takes to undergo such an impressive task. The car also comes equipped with the newTerrain Response® 2, which automatically adapts to the terrain. Combine that with an all-new four corner air suspension system and the car produces dynamic handling that can easily handle any off-road task. This package of performance and handling gave Land Rover complete confidence that the Sport could not only make it across the Empty Quarter, but do it quickly and in style.
Before sunrise on the 4 November 2013, Torrallardona and his navigator set off. With just 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 crossed 849 km in just 10 hours and 22 minutes. The Sport has set the benchmark to challenge any who may dare venturing across the imposing Empty Quarter and squarely proved that this SUV can handle just about anything.
Photos by Greg Stefano