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Land Rover Discovery Sport: The Future
We spend time in Iceland with the future of the Land Rover brand
Iceland. January. Drive. Climb. Snorkel. Hold on a minute. SNORKEL!?
So came the call from Land Rover in the run-up to Christmas 2014. You couldn’t say no. Who would turn down a chance to spend time with Land Rover’s newest edition, the Discovery Sport, in advance of its launch across the world. But SNORKEL? In January? In Iceland? They had to be kidding, right? Wrong.
Thing is with Land Rover, they mean what they say and they say what they mean. Throughout their history, they’ve proved this with what is surely the most enduring and well-loved brand these islands have ever produced. Worldwide, Land Rover has been and remains a byword for stalwart. I have personally sat around camp fires as diverse as those in Africa’s high veldt and the Amazon Rainforest and argued with burly locals the relative merits of the Land Rover and other wool-dyed off road vehicles. The Land Rover ALWAYS comes out on top.
It might well be that the brand, with its stratospheric success these last few years, its association with Jaguar and the opening up of new lucrative markets in Asia and in the Americas – has become as associated with super hi-end SUVs like the Range and the Range Sport. Many folk have cocked a snook at the Evoque too. But anyone who really knows what they’re on about recognises that these vehicles are not only superbly targeted at their respective punters – they retain the core values of the overarching Land Rover gene pool. The Evoque may look more at home on the boulevards of Beverley Hills and Buckhurst Hill, but if you were so inclined this miniature could traverse the Mojave and be quickest to High Beech via the dirt tracks of Epping Forest too.
Similarly, both the full-fat Range Rover and its ostensibly-sporty cousin can not only pull away from the lights faster than a Lamborghini Countach ever could, it can have you in Oligarch-like luxury while you’re doing it – and still with the right choice of rubber will take you anywhere you want to go on this old green planet.
So know this – for Land Rover to bring out a new car is a big deal and it carries a high stake. And you know there will be as many naysayers as rabid enthusiasts to meet any iteration of the new. It’s like that when you love something deeply.
The Discovery Sport is nothing like the Discovery. It’s more of a weigh station between the Evoque’s sleek urbanity and the Disco’s load-carrying brawn. From every angle it generates the impression that it has taken elements of each of Land Rover’s current range and kind of shaved them off. For us it’s not as visually stunning as the Evoque or the Range. It somehow looks more domesticated. There remains a whiff of the Freelander, which was for many the least desirable and loved of the Land Rover family. But this is more recognisable in terms of design and attitude to the ridiculously successful Land Rovers we mention above.
So, back to Iceland. It is mental. We picked up our Discovery Sport with a flotilla of other members of the international press corps and were sent on our way – with nothing more than some sat-nav coordinates and pat on the back. It was comforting somehow that gathered among the other Disco Sports were polar explorer Ben Saunders, diver and TV presenter Monty Hall and alpinist Kenton Cool – each one of them Land Rover ambassadors and the sort of physical specimens that makes you instantly feel a little bit ragged.
Anyway, as if on cue from Solihull HQ, as soon as we turned off the Reykjavik highway and into the tundra the Thickest Blizzard Known to Man swept in – whipped up by gale force northerly winds. The Discovery Sport dealt with the prevarications of an invisible road, sudden plunges into powder stashes and huge craters filled with slush admirably. Much more so than your correspondent who, fresh off the plane with a serious bout of snow blindness, was more than a little concerned. The controls of the Disco are incredibly intuitive. A whole range of settings allow you to deal with these sorts of conditions without undue stress – and the engines and gearboxes- remarkable technical achievements in every way – made it easy to feel as if you were a real explorer. The cabin is trick. Seven seats. Super comfortable ergonomics. Pleasantly muted lighting. In the blizzard we were at once engaged with the driving experience and removed. It was like an extreme edition of Winter Watch. Without Bill Oddie’s wheezy tones spoiling things.
We were driving in some of the most extreme conditions you will ever experience. And we had a comfortable laugh.
Cars, all cars, really, are aggregations of vast technical achievements. The fact that I can get in even my mid-range Japanese estate car and drive to the other side of the world is an incredible achievement. With Land Rover, you know that you are able to drive to the other side of the planet and do it comfortably. That is why they are so popular and why people loves the brand. Inherent in the Land Rover line is this ability to do, go and be wherever it wants. It was the reason we loved the Defender.
And we will end up loving the Discovery Sport too.
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