Mark Higgins chases the almost five meter long Range Rover Sport with a tight left turn around the straw bales of the prepared off-road track. The digital speedometer shows just under 70 km/h. A flag of dust and small stones flies at the stern. "Feel the Range swerving slightly at the stern?" he asks. I nod - and he grins: "He doesn't. It's the rear-axle steering that gives you that feeling."
Unlike the previous scramble with the Range Rover Sport plug-in through the rough terrain in the Catalan area of Les Comes, which was about the soulful slow progress over hill and dale, Higgins should show what the Range Rover Sport in has terrain if you kick it properly. All in pure electric mode, of course. And it only brings braked power to the wheels. As a hybrid, the range has a lavish system output of 375 kW / 510 hp and a maximum torque of 700 Nm.
However, the permanent magnet synchronous motor integrated into the transmission only creates 143 hp. Not much, it seems, to push the SUV's 2.7 tons live weight. In purely electric driving mode, the top speed is a maximum of 140 km/h – a far cry from what can actually be achieved here off-road. And the official WLTP range of 113 kilometers purrs off-road more than it actually does on the road. But when scrambling, the electric horses are just as completely sufficient as for wild rides through the pampas.
Higgins knows what he can expect from the Range Rover Sport. The stunt driver is a three-time British Rally Champion and has provided cinema audiences with adrenaline rushes in four James Bond films. Here in Catalonia he should show what the Stromer can do on sand and gravel - even if hardly any of the real range buyers would ever abuse the paintwork of his jewel, which costs at least 142,300 euros. But he could if he wanted to. And that is also a selling point.
But before the fast lap, it's off-road. And there is plenty of that here in the Catalan hinterland. Narrow, stony and washed out paths with tight curves. Rocky, i.e. smooth climbs off the beaten track. Quarries, red, muddy soil, slippery surfaces, side slopes of up to 30 degrees and gradients of up to 32 degrees and up to a point 600 meters above sea level - a paradise for off-road fans.
In addition to your own sensitivity for the steering, accelerator pedal and brakes, the construction and electronics of the Range Rover Sport help you to get where you want to go off the beaten track. It can be pumped up to a height of up to 274 mm above the ground. Different drive programs for different surfaces have been standard for a long time. A camera system on top of a hill in the central display that shows the way ahead will be appreciated by those who find it irritating to see nothing but blue skies in front of them. Other cameras show what it looks like directly below the doors and how far the distance to the abyss is. And the steering rear wheels ensure a small turning circle and that even tight switchbacks are no problem.
Down the hill almost automatically at a preset speed – Hill Descent has long been standard on other SUVs too. What is new about the Range Rover Sport is that it also works in the opposite direction. Select the program, set the desired maximum speed on the steering wheel, keep your feet off the gas and brakes – and off you go. The vehicle anticipates potholes, ruts, larger stones and the like and automatically adjusts the speed accordingly. As with the hill descent control, the driver only has to steer. Land Rover has dubbed this new system Adaptive Off-Road Cruise Control. The engineers at Land Rover have thought about the smallest details. Anyone who often travels in a convoy on dusty roads knows how deep the dirt can penetrate, which the vehicles in front whirl up in large flags. The Range Rover stays clean inside - thanks to the interior air purification system called Cabin Air Purification Pro - it effectively filters out dust and enriches the air with humidity.
The battery charge is more than enough for a good hour of off-road parcours - despite the significantly higher stress than on the road. In the end, the 31.8 kWh storage tank was still 67 percent full. That would easily have been enough for another round. Just not the time - Mark Higgins was already waiting.