Many automakers claim their vehicles can handle all types of off-roading, but few back up those reports with record-breaking adventures quite like Range Rover. For its latest feat, the brand decided to show off the capabilities of its new Range Rover Sport by taking it on a trip through Arabia's Empty Quarter. Widely acknowledged as one of the most rugged locations on the planet, this desert posed the perfect challenge for the off-road vehicle - and the automobile passed with flying colors.
An impressive feat from Range Rover
A Range Rover Sport was able to complete the 527-mile journey in 10 hours and 22 minutes, which was a new world record. That pace was set in a standard vehicle with no major upgrades to the engine or tires. In fact, the only modification was made to the underbody, which received an additional layer of armor to prevent sand from interfering with the systems.
Even though the Range Rover had to be outfitted with just a few key features to make it across the desert, it didn't take much for the automobile to keep up with driver Moi Torrallardona. At 47 years old, Torrallardona has competed in the last 10 runnings of the Dakar Rally, as well as a number of other off-road driving races, and is accustomed to traversing some undesirable terrain.
"This unique way of driving requires a vehicle which has the same skillset - it must be both incredibly fast but also agile, responsive and well planted," Torrallardona said. "The Range Rover Sport is exactly that. It is massively capable and is truly the best tool for conquering the desert."
Arabia's Empty Quarter
Also known as Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter is a section of the Arabian Peninsula consisting of some of the world's most hostile terrain. The region boasts a few expanses that are among the hottest and driest on Earth. Although there are groups that call the desert home, it is largely unpopulated - except for a few sections that literally struck it rich with the discovery of oil.
In total, the Empty Quarter takes up about one-fifth of the Arabian Peninsula and covers an area of more than 225,000 square miles, according to National Geographic. Most of it is located in Saudi Arabia, but sections spread into Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps most telling is the fact that it holds half as much sand as the Sahara Desert despite the latter being about 15 times the size. That means anyone trying to get through the Empty Quarter has to contend with an insane amount of sand, which poses a problem for visibility and maneuverability, as well as the intense heat.
Crossing the desert
Getting through harsh terrain like the desert is no easy feat. As anyone who has gone dune bashing can attest, sand is one of the most fickle types of land out there, so going over it requires intense focus, a capable vehicle and a driver who is up for anything.
"The challenge of the desert is like nothing else, it is a brutal, unforgiving and sometimes deadly environment," said Torrallardona. "Desert driving requires a unique combination of speed, finesse and technical skill. It is crucial that you tackle the dunes with precision. Knowing the right time to go full throttle and the right time to slow down takes experience and clear judgment."
Now that the Range Rover Sport has proven it can handle the desert, and showed it could excel at the punishing climb it took up Pikes Peak several months ago, it should move to the top of the wish-list for many off-road drivers.