Taking a break from horses, several hundred people a day visit a back corner of the Kentucky Horse Park to sample up to 510 horsepower in the form of sleek, handsome, $100,000-plus Range Rovers at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Nobody is content kicking the tires and running their hands over the polished Burr Maple Prussian Blue wood trim interior of the 10-car fleet.
They want to muscle a Range Rover over an obstacle course built for this purpose: steep hills, muddy slopes leaning at a 22-degree angle, two ponds and a log-hewn seesaw that lofts drivers seven feet up before crashing back to Earth.
"A very cool experience," said Gregor Stöckl, an Austrian equestrian who managed to balance a Range Rover for several seconds in the middle of the seesaw, tottering only slightly. "But it's too expensive — too much of a car for me. I'm just a poor sportsman."
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He jumped out of the car and pedaled away on his bicycle.
The truth is, for all of their ability, most Range Rovers tackle nothing more adventurous than a trip to the grocery store. No more than 20 percent are expected to leave the road, said Jeff Swett, one of the driving instructors riding shotgun with test drivers Tuesday.
But to truly appreciate a Range Rover — which is probably necessary before someone drops $103,000 on one — Land Rover, the British company that makes the cars and is a sponsor of the Games, believes you should experience them in their natural element.
Swett let a Herald-Leader reporter take a dark blue Range Rover Supercharged for a spin. (Test drives are free; bring your driver's license). The dashboard, with multiple video displays and countless buttons and dials, resembled the helm of the Starship Enterprise.
"See this?" Swett said, pointing at one of the many things that lit up. "We have five modes of terrain response talking to six different systems in the car. We can do good weather, bad weather, mud and ruts, sand and desert, and rock crawl."
The car jerked forward (the Herald-Leader reporter's fault, not the car's) to climb the 30-degree incline of a hill, looked straight into the sky, and dropped down a 35-degree incline. This was followed by slopes that dramatically tilted up the right side of the car.
"Feels like we're going to tip, right?" Swett asked. "We're not," he said. Land Rover declines to say how great an angle its cars can safely handle without tipping for fear that someone will try it at 60 mph with a lot of luggage piled on the roof, he said.
Driving onto the seesaw, which the reporter did not know was coming, the car fish-tailed slightly. Swett said calmly, "Steer to the left, no, the left, the left, left, left."
The car vaulted up and then down, not matching the grace of Stöckl's balancing act.
Philipp Stubben, a German tourist, did balance a Range Rover on the seesaw and moved through the entire course with brisk confidence. Back home, Stubben said, he drives a much smaller, simpler car. But the Range Rover's complex controls didn't faze him.
"I didn't look at any of the screens," Stubben said. "I thought it would confuse me. I just drove."
The free Range Rover drives will continue during daytime competition hours throughout the Games.