First drive: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport in Iceland
I’ve never had to wear a coat that weighed as much as a goat before, but that’s exactly what we had to do as soon as we landed in Iceland. We were flown all the way there for the new 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport media drive. Heading out in Land Rover-provided winter clothing, we trundled out of the airport to the waiting cars in the middle of the evening, just as a snow storm was setting in.
That first evening, the snow storm got so severe that the road to our hotel was closed by the authorities, but after some prodding by Land Rover’s men of action, our loose convoy was let through because we were driving, well, Land Rovers.
Even then, at some point visibility dropped to almost nothing, and we had to wait for a snow plow to clear the trail to the “adventure” resort. But we all made it just fine, in time for dinner.
Iceland in January only gets 5 hours of daylight, and that too very cloudy. We had to wait till the next morning to get a good look at the car. However, we set off at 9 am, and the sun only comes up at 10:30 am, so we drove on gravel trails in the dark for a bit.
The conditions on the snow-covered gravel trails were slick, but the Discovery Sport was managing it just fine, set to Snow/Gravel mode on the Terrain Response system and with a bit of cheating from the non-standard winter tyres. Go a little too hot into sharper turns and it understeers before a bit more steering input brings it back in line. And there’s the occasional tail-wagging even on straight roads, taken care of with suitable amounts of steering in the opposite direction. All this was happening at speeds of 50 kph or less. Driving on snow is nothing like driving on sand.
Of course, the inevitable happened. The wannabe rally-champions in our Middle Eastern group tailgated, flashed and cut us off to speed ahead. We counted at least three who eventually fell off the road or beached themselves on snow embankments, needing to be rescued by the lifted Defenders that were shadowing the route. None of these were the fault of the car.
There were sections of tarmac with light snow where we could go up to the speed limit of 80 kph. Given the snow tyres, there was a fair bit of road rumble drowning out any wind noise that may have been present, but the ride was reasonably smooth over the uneven pavement.
After a lunch break, the route then took us within sight of a dormant volcano. The mountain trails were barely the width of the car, with steep drop-offs on one side and a cliff-side on the other.
To add to the challenge, the snow was deeper on this section, so the car’s traction control was working overtime to reduce the obvious wiggle in a straight line while we sawed at the steering wheel.
There’s a limit to what the electronics can do though, and yet help out in many other ways. At one point, we slid and got beached on a pile of snow in the middle of the trail. We simply switched to Mud/Ruts mode, backed out a bit, and were on our way.
Heck, we even drove through a fast-flowing river at one point, with water reaching halfway up the doors, but without any leaking inside.
Doing conservative speeds, at no point did we feel like we needed more power, as the 240 hp 2.0-litre’s turbo torque carried us up snowy inclines, helped along by the 9-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. Of course, we’ll probably feel differently on our dry roads, especially when hauling five adults and two really tiny kids in the three rows of seats.
You’d have to get the higher-spec versions to have the adaptive suspension like our test cars. The Terrain Response system is standard, but low-range gearing is not offered.
All versions will come with a new capacitive touchscreen that finally brings the corporate interface bang up-to-date, making it — at least for the moment — a fancier infotainment system than in any Range Rover.
And that’s what the Discovery Sport is really — a Range Rover-lite, with a bit less premium trim in the cabin and a lot of Evoque bits under the skin, all to bring it at a price-point that’s very within reach. The only problem we could foresee is people confusing it as a softer replacement for the larger Discovery LR4, when it is just a smaller sister model. Even a few wannabe rally-drivers at our event didn’t know as much.
For detailed specs and prices, visit the Land Rover buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Land Rover.