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Watch a Land Rover climb 999 vertigo-inducing steps to China’s Heaven’s Gate

Stephen Edelstein
A Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400e plug-in hybrid drove to Heaven's Gate, a natural arch in China that sits at the end of a twisty road, and can only be reached directly by a steep staircase.

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Land Rover has started far from its origins. While it started out making basic utility vehicles, Land Rover now focuses more on cushy luxury models, and is making a push for electrification. So once in a while, Land Rover needs to remind people that it’s not just another automaker.

A Land Rover Range Rover Sport just climbed to Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch at the top of China’s Tianmen Mountain. Land Rover claims the Range Rover Sport is the first SUV to reach Heaven’s Gate. That isn’t surprising, considering that there isn’t really a road to this landmark. The path to Heaven’s Gate is actually a staircase with 999 steps, and an incline of 45 degrees. We hope no people were trying to climb those steps when the Range Rover Sport came barreling through.

Just getting to the steps required negotiating the 99 corners of Tianmen Mountain Road. Also known as the “Dragon Road,” it stretches for 11.3 kilometers (7.0 miles). At the wheel was racing driver Ho-Pin Tung, who has a 24 Hours of Le Mans class win on his resumé, and is currently a reserve driver for Jaguar’s Formula E race team. We’re not sure how relevant those experiences were to this particular driving challenge, though.

The vehicle used for this stunt was the new Range Rover Sport P400e plug-in hybrid model, and was completely stock, according to Land Rover, albeit with optional off-road tires. The P400e pairs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. Together, they’re rated at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. On flat ground, Land Rover claims the P400e will do 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.

Models like the P400e are the future of Land Rover. The automaker and its sibling Jaguar plan to offer a hybrid or electric powertrain in every vehicle they sell by 2020. Anticipated stricter emissions standards are causing other automakers to make similar plans. With stunts like this, Land Rover hopes to prove that its electrified models will offer the same performance as their predecessors. Because even though no customer will likely ever drive their Range Rover Sport up a staircase, buyers want to know that they can.