Have you ever driven a luxury vehicle over a bridge made, not of concrete or steel, but of paper? Someone sure has, and very recently. In celebration of 45 years of the Range Rover family as well as to highlight the same number of years of Range Rover innovation, Land Rover's flagship Range Rover luxury SUV – piloted by Land Rover Experience Chief Instructor Chris Zhou -- crossed a bridge made of paper in Suzhou, China.
The event was held ahead of the Guangzhou Motor Show in the country. It surprised everyone to know that this Land Rover-commissioned bridge – made from high quality paper from specialist British manufacturer James Cropper PLC -- features no glue or bolts to hold it in place.
It took around three days to construct and complete the hand-built paper bridge in Suzhou, an ancient water city known for its bridges and is even dubbed as ‘Venice of the East’. After the event was completed, the Range Rover became the first premium SUV to cross such bridge, just as it became the world’s first luxury SUV when it was launched in 1970.
In 1972, the Range Rover became the first vehicle to cross the Darien Gap in Central America and in 1989, it became the first 4x4 to feature ABS anti-lock brakes. In 1992, it became the first to feature both Electronic Traction Control and electronic air suspension to the sector.
The paper bridge crossing was also held to highlight the Land Rover's latest slew of all-terrain technologies, which were instrumental in achieving the delicate feature. Range Rover comes available with an array of features – like Terrain Response 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control (APTC) -- that allows it handle any terrain type.
For instance, the Terrain Response 2 features an auto mode that optimizes a number of Range Rover's settings to improve all-terrain capability, sans input from the driver.
On the other hand, when the Ranger Rover is negotiating a difficult or slippery terrain, APTC maintains a set speed from 1 mph to 19 mph sans any pedal inputs, thus allowing drivers to focus on steering. APTC can be activated while the Range Rover is on a stop or on the move and can even be operated in reverse gear.
This technology -- the first in the auto industry -- allows the vehicle to pull away on tricky surfaces like slipper wet grass and deep sand by ensuring minimal wheel spin. What also helped the Range Rover achieve the paper bridge crossing feat was its lightweight body made from aluminum.
In fact, when the latest fourth-generation model debuted in 2012, it was the first all-aluminum SUV. Remarkably, it featured weights savings of up to 420kg. According to Steve Messam, artist and paper bridge designer, while it is true that paper structures that could support people were built before, this was the first time that a paper bridge would be made for an SUV to cross.
He remarked that the paper bridge in Suzhou is pushing engineering boundaries, just like the Range Rover. He described the ease and composure with which the Range Rover crossed the bridge as "genuinely breathtaking.”
Meanwhile, Nick Rogers, Director Group Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, remarked that they picked China as the perfect place to celebrate 45 years of Range Rover since they consider the country an important market for the luxury SUV.