"We're turning back, the weather's beaten us." This was the start of our trip to Iceland to drive the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. That may sound like the car failed but in reality it was the only thing that kept us alive.
We knew the trip would test the cars when we saw the line-up of "Land Rover Ambassadors" going: Ben Saunders, the youngest man to walk to the South Pole and back (which Captain Scott died trying to achieve); Kenton Cool, who has climbed Everest 11 times; and Monty Halls, a former Royal Marine and master diver. Then there was little old us and some of the worst weather we've ever seen.
On our very first trip we were stopped by a police blockade as the weather was so bad the roads were shut. Since we had some intrepid adventurers with us, and a support team of modified Land Rover Defenders, they were talked into letting us go anyway. What followed was snow so heavy we couldn't see more than a few feet away, wind so powerful we couldn't open the door (nor did we want to), plus ice and snow on the gravel road deep enough to drown in. However, the new Land Rover Discovery Sport laughed in the face of such conditions.
We popped its Terrain Response System into ice and snow mode, something which was complemented with spiked tyres, and ploughed ahead into the darkness. Smashing through snow piled several feet high, driving on ice and up hills all proved no problem for the car. We could feel the power being intelligently distributed to the wheels that meant no sliding and a confidence we may not have had in a lesser vehicle. But the shocking thing was the comfort.
Outside would have killed us in minutes, yet there we sat toasty and comfortable thanks to heated seats, individual climate control and a heated steering wheel. It felt like we were cheating. For those in the back there were screens built into the headrests and individual USB power ports for the 5+2 seats – only the rear two didn't also support music playback via USB. There was also a glass sunroof that ran the near length of the roof, an electric button controlled boot, touch start and 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The infotainment system uses the brand's InControl apps UI, which features four large section icons to ensure ease of use while driving. Within those icons are smaller shortcuts that are helpful, so if you had a playlist in the music section ready to go from a previous journey you can tap the play button and get to it quickly – in this case streaming over Bluetooth from an iPhone.
Another nice quick start feature was the ability to have three preset seating alignments for both the driver and the passenger with a touch of a number in the door. There was also a manual setting of course - a nice option for those that like their seat pre-heated while they're getting the car out of the drive.
Driving the Land Rover Discovery Sport wasn't so much about driving it fast like the Sport name might suggest. We realised, after driving in all sorts of conditions, the name means sport in the more general sense. This car will let you do any sporting activity you want as it will take you anywhere you need to go, be it towing a boat along a beach or lugging a few kayaks and bikes up a mountain.
Of course there is a sports mode if you really want to get there fast too. The nine-speed automatic 2.2 SD4 Diesel we drove offered 190PS for a 0-60mph of 8.4 seconds – something which feels rapid in a car of its size. And with an Eco mode option saving on fuel is apparently not a problem, with a combined fuel consumption of 45mpg – something Land Rover claims is 14 per cent more efficient than its Freelander. Admittedly, with multiple USB charging ports, large screens and heated everything the battery is going to take a beating but thanks to regenerative breaking, Land Rover says this shouldn't be a worry.
The design of the Discovery Sport combines some of the lines found in the Range Rovers, like the smaller rear windows of the Evoque, along with the strength of the larger Land Rover Defender. The end result is a more angular Land Rover which looks like a middle ground between the two and also handles that way. You get the comforts of a Range with the resilience of a Defender.
Inside, the dial control appears out of the central unit to allow for drive mode select. The metallic edges and high gloss black finish give an expensive look to the interior, only let down by a few more plastic buttons. Overall, for the price, it's a really premium interior complimented by comfortable leather seats that we could drive in all day.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is available in the UK now starting at £32,395, running up to £42,995 for the HSE Lux model we drove. There will also be a smaller eD4 turbodiesel engine model coming out later in 2015 that should start at under £30,000.