I know that look. I’ve seen it before, and I don’t like it. While we sit in our gleaming new 2013 Range Rovers somewhere in the lost hinterlands of southern Utah called Hog’s Canyon, two very serious hikers in German-flag emblazoned gear stare at us with bemusement. Like humans watching a squirrel trying to water ski. Or how aliens must look down at us when we’re smashing sub-atomic particles together. What the hell do these tender-footed city folk think they’re doing out here in the backwoods of Utah, in a soccer mom SUV? Our eyes meet, locked. Unblinking. A staring contest as High Noon showdown. Which is fitting, considering the Wile E. Coyote landscape surrounding us is about as wild, wild west as you can get.

Before us a hole the size of an oil drum has been dug out of the ground, first by rainwater and then exacerbated by mechanical wheel. It looks harrowing. It just doesn’t seem possible that this cube of shining opulence we’re driving, especially in stock street tires, will be capable of getting up and over this 10-foot wide ditch. After all, the indulgence we’re enjoying is dizzying. While the German hikers are getting wind-whipped and rosy cheeked by dropping temperatures, we’re sitting in a womb of pampered luxury. Semi-aniline leather wraps every surface, perfectly stitched around wood veneer trim. I’m taking turns having cold and hot air blown through the perforations of my seat while it massages my tired back (I’ve been driving for an exhausting three hours, after all), and in the “chiller box” in the rear cabin a Fiji water is kept frosty to quench my parched palette. I’d prefer champagne as is surely the box’s raison d’etre, but the execs at Land Rover put the kibosh on that idea. From where I’m sitting high up in the Range Rover’s Command Seating Position, these hikers are the fools — we’re the geniuses. Or so it seemed at first, this enormous crater in front of us now summoning doubt in my resolve.

Given the Range Rover’s perennial superstar status, it’s not surprising past customers didn’t want Land Rover to change too much of their flagship vehicle. Their “Don’t change it, just make it better” request was Land Rover’s mantra as they rolled up their sleeves to re-imagine the fourth generation vehicle. Unlike many models that are rebuilt from the ground up, Land Rover kept its cash cow almost entirely intact — the biggest advancement being the use of an all aluminum chassis that dropped 700 lbs from its bloated scale. Exterior wise the SUV maintains form, playing a bit with the headlight design while growing wider, longer and a bit shorter. Of course you have to wonder if the minimal change was due to restricted engineering funds, or just a function of Range Rover’s market — a silver-haired contingency who prefers their change at a glacial rate.

Continue reading Luxury Off-Roading: Conquering Hog’s Canyon after the Jump…

“As I look at the gaping hole before me, I begin to feel reservations about Range Rover’s all-terrain pedigree…”

But Land Rover’s decades earned reputation as a serious off-road builder lies in the balance. As I look to my spotter ahead giving directions, I begin to feel strong reservations about the Range Rover’s all-terrain pedigree. Even after increasing ground clearance with the push of a button from the default 7.5 inches up to 10, I’m still worried. My spotter, a pleasant chap named Ken, assures me that we’ll be fine — and instructs me to dial the Range Rover’s gamechanging Terrain Response 2 (TR2) system from “Mud & Ruts” to “Rock Crawl”.

Not that I have to choose, as the TR2 system in the new fourth generation Range Rover now automatically deduces which setting is best given the current topography and then selects it. Besides the aforementioned “Mud & Ruts” and “Rock Crawl” settings, the TR2 can select between “Normal”, “Wet Grass/Gravel/Snow” and “Sand”, altering variables like throttle mapping (to allow more travel on the gas pedal in rocky conditions) and gear shift points. But Ken wants us to experience the nuances of the various settings ourselves, so I turn the dial on the center console all the way far right, and slowly inch towards the gaping hole.

The 2013 Range Rover conquering the wilds of Hog’s Canyon, Utah…

The only human beings we’ve seen for godless hours, the German hikers now eye us with what can only be deemed malicious curiosity. You can see the smiles of Schadenfreude from our perch behind the driver’s wheel; they can’t wait to see us lodge a rear tire impenetrably into a gorge, and strand our $100,000 luxury sled in the rocky mire.

I edge the front right wheel into the drum hole and then gently thrust up and out of the barrel. With a petroleum-fueled rumble the Range Rover’s nose drops down then straight up like it’s conquering an oncoming North Shore wave. I can’t see anything, only sky and the tips of trees. Despite the size of the ditch the bottom does not empty out, a testament to the SUV’s considerable clearance. Now Ken is barking orders at me. Everyone seems concerned that I don’t stop moving the vehicle and give away precious momentum, so I press a bit more on the throttle and juice the 375-horsepower 5.0L V8. And as easy as it would surmount a Whole Foods parking berm the Range Rover’s 510 lb-ft of torque lurches the truck forward, up and over the ditch to a smattering of applause and whoops. I look at the hikers triumphantly; they stare back like dazed barbarians in puffy Patagonia jackets.

It is then that I realize that if cars could cry, urban Range Rovers would spend a good amount of their time weeping in valet parking spots. Much like modern computers — which despite boasting enough power to execute hostile takeovers of megabanks are instead used to post photos of kittens on Facebook — most Beverly Hills Range Rovers live a life unfulfilled. An existence that could be spent climbing craggy Himalayan peaks is instead spent hauling spoiled co-eds to Soul-Cycle. I feel their ontological pain. But for those who dare to confront the muddy shores of the world — be it in the soggy clay of Kanab, Utah or elsewhere — you’ll be glad to know your Range Rover is up to almost any task you can throw at it. German hikers be damned.

This article originally appeared in AskMen

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