Although the climb to the top of Imogene Pass from Tomcat Mine was clean enough for a Subaru Outback to make the trek, we took comfort in knowing we had Land Rover's Terrain Response 4x4 system. With it set in Rock Mode, we climbed to the weather-worn mountain tops of Imogene. We discovered the altimeter in our LR4 goes up to only 10,000 feet. During our descent from Imogene Pass, we found playing with the Surround Camera system was pretty interesting-and distracting. It works with cameras on the front bumper, side mirrors, and tailgate, but when put all together on the single nav screen, it gives you full access vision to everything on the trail around you. The problem is that the information doesn't help the driver, who is looking out the front window and checking the mirrors. Still, being able to see any obstacles in front of all four tires, and to scroll up and down, right or left, is impressive. (There has to be a way of combining this with Nissan/Infiniti's top-view computerized system to get this vehicle to rock crawl all by itself.) The remainder of the trail ride followed Imogene Creek down the mountain, back into the treeline, eventually into the small, old-world mining town of Ouray.
Day 2: Black Bear Pass Range Rover HSE/SC
Heading out of Ouray, the 550 Highway is a spectacular high-mountain, two-lane road with many dangerous corners and steep drop-offs, all without guardrails. It provided us with ample time and opportunity to test out the chassis dynamics of the 2011 Range Rover. Unlike the LR4 (built on a ladder frame), all Range Rovers are built on unique reinforced unibody chassis that offer surprising stability for such tall and solidly built vehicles. The standard four-corner airbag suspension is impressive through hard-cornering acceleration as well as aggressive braking. However, we had the most fun in the supercharged Range Rover, where the 5.0-liter V-8 is rated to produce 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. That's combined with an advanced Adaptive Dynamics program that continuously monitors and adjusts each air spring to provide the flattest and smoothest ride possible. The system's predictive capability allows it to prepare and deliver the perfect suspension settings based on steering input, throttle position, and brake force, over a set period of time. It's about as close to a harmonious integration of all the powertrain systems as you can get in a vehicle. And the same software and sensors that provide the Range Rover with confident street dynamics are programmed to provide the most traction and 4x4 capability at much slower speeds as well. Wwe put them to the test heading up Mineral Creek trail, past Engineer Mountain, and to Silverton for lunch.