When I had the option to go off-road with the Land Rover fleet during Monterey Classic Car Week earlier this month, I was ecstatic to take out the powerful behemoth that is the 2012 Range Rover Sport. Upon climbing into the driver’s seat alongside Land Rover’s certified off-road expert, who had been prepping the course in the rocky hills overlooking the Quail Golf Course, I engaged the integrated Terrain Response system, which optimizes the vehicle’s various performance abilities at different levels to suit the selected trail conditions, including General Driving, Sand, Mud and Ruts, Grass/Gravel/Snow and Rock Crawl.

After choosing the Mud and Ruts option, I changed the vehicle’s six-speed adaptive auto transmission into sports mode with the CommandShift feature and began pushing the four-wheel drive system into action along the dirt track, pushing the Sport into 35-degree ascensions with little to no effort, which was definitely a surprise. While the vehicle’s traction system was more than adequate when scaling uneven terrain and powering down onto plateaus, the onboard Dynamic Stability Control combined with the Terrain Response was the most welcome surprise, especially when conquering the 40-degree descents without a foot on the brake and allowing the built-in technology to slowly lower the SUV to the ground.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to get into water on this trip, I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push the 2013, which arrives later this fall. For the 2012, the Sport contains a standard 5.0-liter direct injection LR-V8 and produces approximately 375 horses of power and 375 lb.-ft. of torque; 0-60 mph will take you about 7.2 seconds. The Supercharged variant relies on the standard Range Rover Supercharged 510-horse LR-V8 and can go 0-60 in just under six seconds.

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