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You know you’re in a special kind of vehicle when the hood is designed for water to pass over it easily. The knowledge is comforting, but there was little likelihood that our windshield would get wet as we drove through the high desert of Navajo country along the Arizona-Utah border in the new 2013 Range Rover (from $83,000 to $130,950; landroverusa.com).
We headed west from our base at the Amangiri resort (rooms, from $1,050; 1 Kayenta Rd.; 435-675-3999; amanresorts.com), outside of Page, Arizona, on the bone-dry Route 89, driving it at speed, thanks to a 5-liter V-8 engine. But that changed just past Kanab, Utah, where we left the tranquility of a paved road and headed into formidable Hog Canyon. A light drizzle turned the sand and clay covering the rock face we were climbing into slippery paste. So varied was the landscape, we faced the daunting prospect of simultaneously switching through a variety of terrain-response modes and keeping the vehicle on track.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
Pushing the top of the rotary control that governs terrain-response options put the Range Rover into auto mode. Remarkably, the vehicle automatically analyzes a wide variety of sensory inputs to determine road conditions, switching modes on the fly as circumstances warrant. Hog Canyon proved unnerving in many spots as we climbed to more than 5,000 feet, but the Range Rover—with its mix of luxury (the body has been streamlined for a more modern look; its all-aluminum construction shaved 926 pounds off its original frame, contributing to a more comfortable ride) and ruggedness—was up to the challenge.
While not all terrain is as tough as Hog Canyon, car manufacturers are working to increase a driver’s ability to navigate through tough weather and road conditions, providing an extra level of assurance and confidence. It is a notion not lost on Jaguar, for example, which recently introduced an all-wheel-drive model for the first time. And Audi has its new Allroad, which is an overall treat to drive. Check out more of our favorite all-wheel-drive wonders.