World-wide Land Rover vehicles are respected and revered for their luxury, endurance and incredible abilities to conquer the hostile conditions of nearly every region on the globe. We have experienced Land Rover capabilities by first hand encounters conquering the deep jungles of Belize during Monsoon season in mud so deep you can barely see the wheels. We have ascended 16,000 feet ascensions of the pure rock mountains of Argentina. We have survived the hostile serpents of asphalt freeways of Southern California. Every experience has shown Land Rover vehicles are equally rugged as they are luxurious, as they are most recognized all over the United States.
With all of this world wide recognition you might think this vehicle company would rest on their laurels and enjoy the success, but you would be wrong. The designers, engineers and leaders all saw a gap right smack dab in the middle of their lineup. They didn’t have a mid-sized offering.
That has changed with the introduction of the Land Rover Discovery Sport. This mid-sized luxury SUV fills the gap between the Ranger Rover and the Land Rover Evoque with the luxurious features and rugged country abilities that are expected from every vehicle that carries the Land Rover name.
To prove the point we ventured to the frozen glaciers and lava rock strewn landscape of Iceland to test the mettle of the new Land Rover Discovery and came home with a new appreciation of Iceland and Land Rover engineering.
Driving Iceland is just as you might expect lots and lots of Ice. We were warned over and over to be very careful. Even walking was treacherous. As is the case with most Nordic countries, studded winter tires are a must and our Discovery Sports were shod with special tires for the testing. However, these tires would have been futile without the Discovery Sport’s Terrain Response system of four-wheel drive. Selecting between the four settings, General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts and Sand, the Discovery Sport was ready for anything as we traversed the Kaldadalsvegur highway, which was marked Ofart (impassable) and closed to all traffic. We had gotten special permission to drive this road thanks to help from the British ambassador to Iceland who was tagging along on our adventure.
Terrain Response dose more than just change the four-wheel drive systems as we might believe from old 4X4s. A sophisticated control system, it precisely tailors steering, throttle response, gearing, the center coupling, braking and the stability systems to collectively give the vehicle the best advantage over the conditions the vehicle is encountering.
Streams and rivers will only slow you down with the Discovery Sport’s ability to ford water as deep as 23 inches. We were able to see firsthand Discovery Sport’s water fording abilities as we crossed the Icelandic river, Hvita toward our destination, the Ok Glacier.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is engineered and designed to fit quite nicely into the Land Rover family. The 2.0-liter Turbocharged engine offers exceedingly good performance on the highway as well as keeping an eye on fuel economy through the ECO mode. Producing 240 horsepower, this four-cylinder gasoline engine offers the on road performance needed for the highways and byways of America. The Discovery Sport also has the muscle of 251 lb-ft of torque to conquer steep ice covered snow banks, climbing them as if a mere speed bump.
Rest assured Land Rover designers understand that owners spend their time driving wrapped in the environs of the passenger compartment and expect high levels of refinement from Land Rover. The Discovery Sport may be a mid-sized SUV but it doesn’t disappoint on luxury. The leather wrapped seats are firm, yet supportive. Even following our hours of tension filled driving on ice we emerged at each stop enthused and ready to continue.
The Discovery Sport is offered in 5-2 seating configuration for those owners who might need additional seating for the youngsters in the third row seating. Theater style seating, the second row sits two inches higher than the front, offers better visibility and instills a more comfortable atmosphere for rear passengers.
Following in the Land Rover/Jaguar design credo, the rotary shifter emerges from the center console as the push button start is depressed. It is a nod to the new uncluttered dash, as is the numerous well designed buttons and switches for Terrain Response, traction control and other driver controlled systems.
One of our most critical features, a good feeling steering wheel, is addressed quite well. A driver holds the steering wheel 100 percent of the time while they are driving (or they should). The Discovery Sport’s wheel has a thick rim providing a firm grip, offering good steering feel and feedback. The steering wheel mounted buttons are easy to manipulate and uncomplicated to learn.
It is true that few owners will ever venture to Iceland or even further off-road than the parking lot at the ski village. However, nearly all SUV owners say it is comforting to know that that their vehicle can go to the deeper reaches of the jungle if they chose that adventure. Land Rover takes their reputation and their heritage quite serious and though the Discover Sport features luxury in the highest degree this SUV can get to the back country and more importantly get back. Most of us will be quite happy to favor the experience within the Discovery Sport’s cabin as we traverse the asphalt jungle of paved roads. But it is a comfort to have little spark in the recesses of our minds to know if the trail gets rough we can conquer the terrain.