Volkswagen has a new challenge for its record-breaking I.D. R electric car. After smashing the overall record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and setting a new record for electric cars at the Nürburgring, the I.D. R will head to China to tackle one of the country’s most challenging roads.
The Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road winds it way up China’s Tianmen Mountain via 99 hairpin turns. The road starts at 656 feet above sea level, climbing to 4,265 feet above sea level. That’s nothing new for the I.D. R, which was designed to race to the 14,115-foot summit of Colorado’s Pikes Peak. At the top is the entrance to Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch that is a popular tourist attraction in China.
The road up Tianmen Mountain is normally open only to buses, according to Autocar, so there is no official record for VW to shoot for. Land Rover previously sent a Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid up the road, but the run wasn’t timed (the SUV then drove straight up the 999 steps to Heaven’s Gate). To give the I.D. R and driver Romain Dumas something to aim for, Volkswagen will stage an online competition to set the fastest virtual time. Dumas will then try to beat that time in real life.
The I.D. R is powered by two electric motors — one for each axle — producing a combined 680 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen hasn’t said whether any mechanical modifications will be made for the Tianmen Mountain run, but the I.D. R will receive a new red color scheme, contrasting the gray it wore at Pikes Peak and the blue it wore at the Nürburgring.
Volkswagen built the I.D. R to set a new record for electric cars at Pikes Peak in 2018, but ended up beating the overall record. Dumas covered the 12.4-mile course in 7:57.148, beating the previous record, set by a gasoline car, by about a minute. VW took the I.D. R to Germany’s famous Nürburgring racetrack in 2019, where it set a new record for electric cars. The car also set a new record at England’s Goodwood Hill Climb in 2018, and again in 2019.
The I.D. R’s latest record attempt will take place in the world’s largest market for electric cars. VW plans to launch the first of its I.D. family of electric road cars in China in 2020 (Europe and the United States sales are planned as well), and expects electric cars to make up 50 percent of its Chinese sales by 2035. Volkswagen plans to be building 1 million electric cars a year for global sales by 2025.