Off-road

Every Range Rover must excel off-road and the permanent 4WD system has a 50\50 torque-split center diff and low-range option. It also has Terrain Response 2, which is an enhanced version of Land Rover's traction system with individual settings for grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl. It also has a new Auto mode that senses the conditions and opts for the best of the five settings.

Just as useful is the air suspension, which will raise the body by 5.7" to improve its ground clearance to 11.6".

A graphic in the central display shows you the percentage of differential lock as you maneuver through an obstacle. You can also feel individual wheels being locked and released as grip is found at any corner.

Wheel travel has been extended by the new suspension, allowing 10.2" of movement at the front and 12.2" rear, providing exceptional articulation in the harshest conditions.

We should also add Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Hill Start Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control and Roll Stability that serve the driver as you tackle off-road obstacles.

In short, the Range Rover feels as unstoppable as ever. This is just as well when you're aiming $100k between narrow trees on a sandy path with rocks jutting through. The high approach and departure angles meant we were able to clear everything northern Arizona threw at us.

If we're honest, it appeared as if the car was quietly laughing at us. There was a hint of derision each time we climbed a sand bank, crossed a creek or traversed rocks. Was that all we had?

We were greeted by many perplexed stares as we negotiated our way past campsites, gold prospectors, hikers and target shooters. It appears that luxury SUVs are an unusual sight in Arizona's woodland. Little did they know we were enjoying air-conditioned massages while using the five surround cameras in the $1550 Vision Assist Package to watch the vehicle behind, check obstacles ahead and clearance on each side.

If we'd had tents onboard it would've redefined glamping. However, all our electronics needed charging each night and memory cards downloaded, so we afforded ourselves the charms of The Motor Lodge in Prescott (themotorlodge.com) - a boutique motel we chanced upon. It's close to downtown and comprises individual cabins with a cool '50s motoring theme. If Bigfoot should draw you to Prescott we highly recommend a stay.

Bigfoot

After a full day's drive and several hours plunging into the Prescott scenery, our BFRO guide Tim Zamiski could finally do his thing. Unfortunately, he hadn't bargained on herding cats as our group of ADHD sufferers toyed with cameras, phones and garments.

Although quiet-natured, Tim's piercing eyes told a story. It was about a man who wished he hadn't volunteered for this assignment, yet was resigned to seeing it through.

His first advice was to observe a noise protocol. I believe the phrase was "shut up and listen," but I might have misheard.

Tim menacingly swung a pickaxe handle, his eyes flicking from face to face as he silently decided who to leave in the forest. The axe handle is a key tool in the Bigfoot researcher's arsenal, used to make "knocks", which is thought to be a form of Bigfoot communication. It also served to get our attention.

As we hiked through the woods, smashing the undergrowth underfoot, we became aware that Tim was able to avoid snapping branches or crushing pinecones. He had the agility of a mountain lion, seeming to float above the foliage like a camouflaged Jesus.

With eyes constantly on the swivel and ears tuned to the forest's calls, we'd stop to inspect sandy areas. The soft sediment would allow us to identify telltale footprints. Somehow, Tim could traverse the narrow trails without disturbing its sandy corridor, while we stumbled into the trough, eliminating any chance of forensic examination.

During one such exploration, Tim chanced upon a small footprint. It was a distinctive humanoid shape, with recognizable heel and toe impressions.

This deep into the forest, with only ATV tracks, hiking boots and animal tracks as evidence of life, this was an anomaly. There was only one footprint and steep banks on either side.

The chance of a barefooted child wandering in this environment and altitude was unlikely but Tim couldn't rule it out. He was eagle-eyed in spotting it but equally quick to dismiss it as inconclusive.

What impressed us about our BFRO insider was how much evidence he rejected. For some reason we expected every snapping twig and animal feces to be heralded as proof of Bigfoot's existence. However, Tim was the opposite. He dismissed everything, clearly irritated by hoaxes and misinformation that only confuse the public. Tim and the BFRO want only hard evidence to prove the animal's existence.

We received some interesting insights into Bigfoot behavior, generally prefaced by the acknowledgement it's supposition rather than fact. But Tim did suggest the Bigfoot community may migrate through Arizona, being found at higher climes where deep snow had closed the roads to us that time of year, but also moving down to the desert in search of prey. There's even a theory about hibernation, and that each community follows different patterns.

Food sources seem to indicate an omnivore, living off flora and fauna as it becomes available. However, its movement, socialization and communication remains theoretical. Yet its existence is beyond doubt in the mind of Tim and his fellow researchers.

Stood in the woods, overlooking a deep valley, armed with our FLIR thermal camera (see sidebar) and night vision goggles, we were tooled-up to find Sasquatch.

I tried my hand at "knocking", using Tim's axe handle on a nearby rock: the hollow sound echoing through the valley. Tim also demonstrated a Bigfoot call, preferring one that rises in pitch and intensity. If anything had been tempted to respond, it remained quiet, while Alex's attempt to mimic would have sent them running for the undergrowth.

Not since I asked my first girlfriend to show me her boobs have I ever wanted to see something so much. Yet we scoured the forest and hillside opposite without reward. The NVG and thermal turned night into day as the image intensifiers brought amazing clarity. But even the deer and turkey we'd seen in daylight were refusing to make an appearance.

Armed with our gadgets, knocks and calls, the best tool in a Bigfoot researcher's belt is patience. You spend hours listening, waiting, hoping, tuning into the forest. Sometimes you get a result, but on this occasion we didn't

Buoyed by the popularity of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot, Tim reports increased interest in his research. The BFRO organizes field trips for the curious, instructing them in the same track and observation techniques he demonstrated to us. You can find details on the organization's website, along with maps of recent sightings and reports. There's a form to submit if you have a sighting, which will be investigated by researchers like Tim, who seem to approach each with healthy skepticism.

What was refreshing was Tim's optimism. It's what makes the TV show so addictive. Faced with disbelief or ridicule, having scant evidence, Bigfoot proponents know it's there. "I just want to prove to myself that it's real," Tim explained. "I don't want to prove it to the world or to science, just myself.

"We go out maybe twice a month to search and investigate. Maybe we hear a call or a knock, maybe we find footprints, or maybe we don't. At worst we find nothing, but we're in a beautiful place enjoying the scenery and nature, so it's always a good weekend," Tim explained.

Switching off our equipment and returning to the vehicles, you had to wonder if we were alone. Were we being watched by something smarter than ourselves? As I fired up the V8, heated the seats and set the navigation, I knew it wasn't smarter. Yet we all desire simplicity, and I decided we should find space in our cynical lives for some of the optimism the Bigfoot researchers show. It was refreshing and certainly tempted us to return for another trying at 'Sasquatching.


2013 Range Rover Supercharged

Layout longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive

Engine 4999.7cc LR-V8 32v quad-cam, DIVCT Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing, supercharged

Transmission ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic

Brakes six-piston Brembo front calipers, 15" rotors f, 14.4" r

Wheels & Tires 21x9.5" ten-spoke Style 4 wheels, 275/45 R21 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric SUV tires

MSRP $99995 (inc D&D) $114930 as tested

Performance

Peak power 510hp at 6000-6500rpm

Peak torque 461 lb-ft at 2500-5500rpm

0-60mph 5.1sec

Top speed 140mph

Weight 5137 lb

Wading depth 35.4"

Economy 13/19/15mpg (city/highway/combined)

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