By Theodore Opara
This plug-in hybrid (PHEV) performance SUV surmounting 45-degree, 999-step staircase in a dizzying 99 turns and 999 daunting steps didn’t stop the new Range Rover Sport PHEV from completing a world first at one of China’s most famous landmarks. The petrol-electric performance SUV has become the first vehicle to climb the stairs to the natural rock arch of Heaven’s Gate.
The challenge began at the bottom of the legendary 11.3kms Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road). The showroom standard Range Rover Sport P400e took on the demanding course, with Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung behind the wheel and 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, conquering the towering 45-degree staircase of 999 steps leading to China’s legendary Heaven’s Gate using a combination of Ingenium petrol and electric battery power.
Ho-Pin Tung said “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. 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 new PHEV powertrain gives the Range Rover Sport a zero-emission EV range of up to 50kms when fully charged but Ho-Pin Tung used its advanced 221kW Ingenium petrol engine and 85kW electric motor to make short work of the road section of the challenge.
The performance SUV then showed its uncompromised all-terrain credentials by climbing the steep staircase to the natural rock arch.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.