When I first received the invitation to attend the Iceland Land Rover Discovery Sport event, a little thought cloud appeared over my head filled. Inside I was thrashing a new Land Rover over rugged, desolate terrain, with an ear-to-ear grin and a belly full of fish.
When I was finally there in person my first day started off with fish for breakfast… I was off to a good start. I wasn't until the drivers' meeting that we were informed off-roading in Iceland is “strictly illegal.” Iceland looked fantastic in a slightly Fallout 3-esque way, but if we can't off-road, why the hell did Land Rover, of all companies, bring us here?
When I met my Disco it was fitted with Pirelli winter tires that had been studded by the guy who does WRC tires. This made me think two things: at some point, I need to try this out on tires that are at least legal in the USA, and secondly that if they bothered to do that, we might be getting into something serious despite the “no off-roading” rule.
After a few minutes of driving around on desolate highways in the middle of volcanic rock plains, we made a left turn and drove past a sign. On the sign was an Icelandic word that was mostly K's and quite probably impossible to pronounce unless you were raised on a longboat. Beneath that word was the word “Impassable.” Okay, perhaps this isn't going to be a gentle drive through the country.
The road was a road by only the loosest definition. It would be classified as a trail at best in the states, and would most likely also just be called “impassable.” That said, between the great approach/departure angles of the Discovery Sport, the Disco's sublime traction control, and those fancy, bespoke tires, it was actually rather easy to stay in perfect control the whole time. There were a few times when I thought things might get a bit hairy, but the Rover's differentials sorted those problems out for me, no matter whether it was a steep and icy descent, a very uneven hill-climb, or a deep water crossing. The differentials reacted so quickly, so precisely, and so minutely that it took some serious effort to feel them doing their thing; brilliant.
Yes, this may be the cheapest and most mass-market that Land Rover gets, but it's still a proper Land Rover. This is why we all respect Land Rover: it's a company that's built on an image of an ultra-rugged off-roader, the venerable Defender, that has moved into a more practical and consumer-friendly market segment without ever losing its core. It may be a little absurd that people are paying thousands of dollars for these hardcore features that they will almost certainly never use, but that's the price of authenticity, and if they didn't want that they could just go buy a CR-V like everyone else.
That said, if the Disco Sport buyer did go get a CR-V, they'd also be missing out on a lot of luxury and practicality. It has the usual assortment of luxury gadgets like heated and ventilated seats, but it also goes the extra mile with rear heated seats and a USB charge port for every seat in the vehicle. Speaking of seats, despite being on the smaller end of the mid-size crossover segment, the Disco Sport seats seven, courtesy of a pair of folding seats in the back and a sliding and reclining second row. The back two seats are even big enough for humans who have four limbs. It's primary competition only seats five, and the Disco also offers more cargo capacity...
Basically, it's the Honda Fit of the Luxury Mid-size crossover segment. Bear with me for a moment. They are both enjoyable cars to drive, and they are both very capable at what they're meant to do, but their primary selling point and differentiation from the competition comes from packaging. You can fit 10” lumber in a Honda Fit if you fold all the seats down, and that's something I'd like to see you try in any other subcompact. The Disco Sport seats seven, and that's something that a BMW X3 simply can't do.
Unlike the Fit, the Disco Sport is also perfectly proportioned. The design maximizes the interior space without making the car look weirdly tall or hilariously boxy. The rising character line runs by a broken C-Pillar that lends a slightly aggressive edge to the looks, and the grill is just pure Land Rover. This is a hit.
The only drawback is the engine; it's a 2.0L turbocharged I4 that produces 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque and it's merely adequate. This will certainly be a good choice for a large number of the Disco's buyers, but it will also turn off enthusiast customers who have always aspired to a Land Rover and are excited by the $37,050 base price. An optional V6 with some more grunt would make this particular Rover capable of being everything to everybody.
Get ready to see these everywhere; between the practical packaging, the attractive styling, and the reasonable price, every upper-middle class neighborhood in the country is about to be covered in more Land Rover tracks than the Falkland Islands.