Posted By Lawrence Ulrich @
We took a long pull of that adventure on The Great Divide Expedition, tackling a grueling 660-mile route along Colorado’s Continental Divide in a caravan of bone-stock Range Rovers.
The trip followed portions of Rover’s similarly epic Old West journey in 1989, not long after introducing its original Range Rover to America. (We Yanks had long been denied that Range Rover, which helped pioneer the luxury SUV beginning in 1970 in England and international markets).
Today’s prospectors do need to strike it rich; the 2015 Range Rover starts around $85,000 and peaks at just over $185,000 for the SC Autobiography Black edition. But where Great Divide aptly describes most luxury SUVs – they’re good at one thing, but not the other – the Rover straddles two worlds like nothing in its class.
Our Rovers’ aluminum hoods were adorned with a map of the route from Denver to Telluride, created over months of planning and scouting. Stick to paved highways, and you can knock off that 330-mile run in six hours.
Thinking of those hardy settlers and their monumental challenges, I’m feeling a little guilty as I tiptoe a $120,000 Rover down the slope and into a rocky, rushing streambed. But only a little guilty.
Instead of using ropes to lower this luxurious “wagon,” the automated Hill Descent Control can walk the Rover down the most perilous slope with no need to touch the brakes. The Terrain Response System is set to low range and rock-crawling mode, the air suspension cranked to a maximum 11.7-inch ground clearance. If I get hung up on a rock, sensors will boost the car a touch higher to clear the obstacle.
But as Land Rover’s intrepid driving instructors remind us, we only need a handful of those horses to do the job. From our fun-loving, yet dead-serious wingmen, we learn that this is more about brains than pure brawn. It’s Tortoise vs. Hare, with the safe, careful plodder guaranteed to beat the hothead who doesn’t look before he leaps.
That message is driven home along one postcard-worthy pass: We spot the rusty bones of an old Toyota FJ in the gorge hundreds of feet below, deposited there after a long and almost certainly fatal plunge to the bottom.
For the handful of owners who’ve secured a spot behind the wheel, this Rover trip is especially exclusive. But you don’t have to own a Rover, or have any off-road experience, to get a taste for yourself.
Myself, as I clamber over boulders and avoid raking tree branches across the precious metal, a familiar thought strikes me: If I owned this six-figure SUV, I’m honestly not sure I could subject it to such a trial.
As with 200-mph sports cars in which most drivers will rarely top 100 mph, people buy a Range Rover in part for what it might handle, whether that’s unexpected foul weather or that long-dreamed-of wilderness adventure.
Yahoo does not promise to publish any stories or provide coverage to any individual or entity that paid for some or all of the costs of any of our writers to attend an event.