Range Rover Chases a Rocky Mountain High by Charging Up Pikes Peak

Paul Dallenbach faces his demons

If I ever want to drive up Pikes Peak in Colorado fairly fast, I guess I'll buy a Range Rover.

That's my takeaway from this five-minute video showing the 2014 Range Rover Sport setting records for both production-standard SUVs and standard vehicles of any kind on the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course. In June, performance and stunt driver Paul Dallenbach, who has won several events on Pikes Peak, took 12 minutes and 35.61 seconds to climb the hill, traveling at an average speed of about 60 miles per hour.

It's a twisty track with dense forest below. This is Dallenbach's first time back since he crashed there last year during a race while driving a different type of vehicle. Footage of that accident is re-run, and race officials, a safety crew member and a Pikes Peak Ranger are on hand to discuss how perilous the course can be.

The clip—the first in the automaker's "The Driven Challenges" series—makes every effort to play up the drama and danger. And while it's a solid piece of work, I still felt dissatisfied.

I mean, they'd never post the video if Dallenbach drove off a cliff and smashed the SUV in a flaming heap on the rocks below, now would they? We know that he and the SUV are going to be just fine, which makes the whole approach feel strained.

The film uses cinematic tools to build suspense where none really exists in the first place. Misty mountain tops and fast-moving cars are intercut with lingering shots of worried or thoughtful faces. Moody musical cues suggest danger in every note. The intensity peaks, so to speak, around the 2:15 mark, with the scene cutting from the starter to Paul … from the starter to Paul … from the starter to … just drive the damn truck already!

Contrast this with "Desire," Jaguar's 13-minute branded film from a few months back. (Jaguar and Range Rover are part of the same company.) "Desire" stars Damian Lewis as a mysterious "delivery man" searching for the new owner of a red F-Type sports car. There's action, gunplay and a twist at the end. Of course, it's complete fantasy, a schlocky story and utterly derivative at that. Yet on first viewing I found myself riveted by the tricky plot. I really did want to see how it all worked out, and those 13 minutes raced by.

Dallenbach probably was a bit on edge in that Range Rover on Pikes Peak. He'd crashed there recently. The potential for disaster was real. Still, in the video, a happy denouement is assured. Subtract any true tension, and what remains is a film about a guy driving a truck up a hill. The fact that it's a most impressive hill, and that he set some obscure speed records, didn't particularly pique my interest.

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