Ascending the steps built into the Heaven’s Gate natural rock arch that sits atop China’s Tianmen mountain is no easy task. Not only are there 999 of them, but they’re also placed at a steep 45-degree angle. Which makes the fact that a car just traveled all the way up the incline pretty impressive.
The Range Rover Sport PHEV has just become the first vehicle ever to achieve this feat. Before the hybrid SUV even reached Heaven’s Gate, it had to contend with the treacherous, seven-mile ‘Dragon’s Road’ that leads to the steps.
The road gets its name from the way it wraps around the mountain like a “white dragon.” It contains 99 sharp turns and cliffs with vertical walls.
No modifications were made to the Range Rover, which was controlled by formula E driver Ho-Pin Tung, of Panasonic Jaguar Racing. Tung said this was one of the most demanding challenges he’s 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,” Tung explained.
The SUV used its Terrain Response 2 system to complete the run. Range Rover says the feature adjusts the vehicle to engage the optimum settings for any given driving conditions, based on information provided by the driver.
The Range Rover Sport PHEV combines a four-cylinder engine and an 85kW electric motor. It boasts 398 bhp and 640Nm of torque, a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph. Judging from this test, it also appears to be pretty good at climbing mountains and steep steps.