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  • JP Magazine
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  • Four Wheeler

Land Rover's Great Divide Expedition - Colorado High Way

Posted in Events on December 3, 2014
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Photographers: Courtesy Land Rover

Some of our favorite trails in the entire world are those cutting atop, across, and through the high mountain passes, ghost towns, and mining camps of the Colorado Rockies. Steeped in history and rife with color, these trails have it all, from jaw-dropping scenery, enjoyable wheeling, and long-abandoned relics of 19th-century high-elevation mining operations. So when Land Rover approached Four Wheeler to ask if we wanted to partake in recreating the 1989 Great Divide Expedition, we jumped at the chance. After all, Four Wheelerwas there 25 years ago the first time Land Rover outfitted a caravan of otherwise-stock Range Rovers with roof racks, lights, and aluminum winch bumpers and set them on a 1,000-mile journey to span the most challenging portion of the Continental Divide as a launch event for the 1990 Range Rover. With front and rear solid axles, a slinky coil suspension, a fuel-injected 3.9L V-8, and great ground clearance relative to its 205/60R16 tires, they were well equipped to tackle the obstacles of the Great Divide.

However, we couldn’t help but wonder how the modern Range Rover would fare over the same terrain. After all, Land Rover has aggressively targeted the high-end luxury SUV buyer, especially with its new Range Rover. Had off-road performance become a casualty of the brand’s increasing focus on in-cabin comfort and amenities? Would we leave more sheetmetal on the trail than on the vehicles? Would we spend all day changing out low-profile tires shredded by granite gitchas? As it turns out, no.

Outside of Leadville and up London Mountain, the first wave paused to look over the remains of the North London Mine before heading up Mosquito Pass. Some summer weather frosted the peaks in snow and kept the clouds well below the 13,188-foot pass.

Given the fact most invitees were ham-fisted journalists from lifestyle-type publications with little or no off-road driving experience, we have to first give props to the instructors from the Land Rover Driving Experience program. One instructor was assigned to each vehicle. They were not only fun to hang out with and had a wealth of off-roading tech and tales, they were quick to offer driving assistance and spotting to any novice driver who needed it. But more to the point, we were really impressed at how well the Range Rover can wheel. With almost 14 inches of wheel travel out back and 12 inches up front, a locking rear diff, low range, and a seamless and unobtrusive four-wheel-drive system, it’s actually among one of the better wheeling OE vehicles we’ve ever piloted. Sure, the breakover angle isn’t as good as a two-door Wrangler and the low-profile tires are its Achilles’ heel, but the Range Rover plain works off-road.

We get that a lot of people are gonna be haters because of Range Rover’s $100,000-up sticker price, heated/air-conditioned/massaging front seats, and mostly image-conscious buyers. But putting prejudice aside, it flat-out is a good off-road vehicle. Unlike many new 4x4s that use electronic enhancements to make an IFS/IRS off-road capable, the Range Rover system is seamless and invisible. There’s no preponderance of wheel slippage, jerking, throttle chopping, or other shenanigans. In fact, if we didn’t know better, other than constantly trying to spot sharp rocks that would take out the P275/45R21 tires in a heartbeat, you’d think you were driving a proper solid-axle 4x4 with a rear locker. And for blue-collar guys like us used to wheeling old iron on hardcore trails, that’s about the best endorsement we can give a vehicle we’re lucky enough to get to drive, but know we’ll never be able to afford.

That said, if you’ve got the ducats and you’re in the market for something like that, rest assured the Range Rover has the off-road prowess to match its luxury. If you want proof, read on for the rest of the trip report.

Our second wave left Aspen en route to Taylor Pass. The trail climbs through Aspen forests, which, by late summer, are already turning the trademark gold many visitors associate with the state’s higher elevations.
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In addition to a few Land Rover LR4 support vehicles, our caravan of ten Range Rovers was accompanied by one of the original, fully restored ’90 Great Divide Range Rovers.
PhotosView Slideshow

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