Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport

NZSUV - - Contents - STORY AND IM­AGES BY CHRIS LORIGAN

Un­der­pinned by some of the most in­no­va­tive and ef­fec­tive rough ter­rain tech­nol­ogy avail­able, the Dis­cov­ery Sport is a lux­u­ri­ous, re­spon­sive and fully loaded ma­chine.

Want to glide along the tar­mac in lux­u­ri­ous com­fort with the whole fam­ily and then head off into the gravel, sand, mud or snow? Easy.

Dis­cov­ery means ad­ven­ture, ex­pe­di­tion, get­ting the hell out of the crazy towns and cities and into the world, and so I headed to­ward the Waikato for a cruise around a place I don’t know too well. I stopped in at the Hunua Ranges along the way and I’m glad I did.

The Dis­cov­ery Sport is smooth and solid. It rides like it’s built for the high­way, and the power and re­spon­sive­ness from its su­perbly re­fined and ef­fi­cient two-litre turbo diesel is proof you don’t need big en­gines to en­joy some grunt. It leaps off the start line and ef­fort­lessly pulls ahead of other traf­fic when chang­ing lanes in the mad­ness of mo­tor­way driv­ing. Be care­ful, though, be­cause it’s easy to speed.

On the open road, han­dling is rea­son­ably taut – I had to re­mind my­self it’s an SUV with a higher cen­tre of grav­ity, yet I’d still like a lit­tle more stiff­en­ing here – and steer­ing is firm and di­rec­tional, like a Euro­pean sa­loon. Power de­liv­ery out of cor­ners will put a smile on your face. I spent most of the day cruis­ing the wind­ing back-coun­try roads and had a great time. I felt safe, vis­i­bil­ity was ex­cel­lent, and even though I was cos­set­ted com­fort­ably in a fully-loaded high end ve­hi­cle I didn’t miss out on an en­gag­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The soft sus­pen­sion can be a bit floaty, the car bounc­ing a lit­tle over lumps in the road, but this I could for­give in such a well-rounded pack­age, plus it had its ad­van­tages later in the day.

Of­fi­cially part of Auck­land, Hunua Re­gional Park is a place lo­cal campers, tram­pers and moun­tain bik­ers en­joy ev­ery week­end – steep hills cov­ered in na­tive bush and op­por­tu­nity. It’s rough gravel get­ting in, and so I utilised the Ter­rain Re­sponse tech­nol­ogy, flick­ing on the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s Grass/gravel/ Snow but­ton to make the go­ing re­ally easy as I climbed into the for­est and in­stantly felt a mil­lion miles from the malls and may­hem of mod­ern life.

I even found a cou­ple of tucked away places down over­grown off-road-ish tracks in my search for a fu­ture pri­vate camp­site or pic­nic spot. The first was a bit dif­fer­ent be­cause the ob­vi­ously in­fre­quently used gravel road was cov­ered in moss; I could have been any­where, and some­how it re­minded me of Fiord­land.

The Dis­cov­ery doesn’t have low range gear­ing for truly trac­tion­less driv­ing, but the slip­pery ground as I per­formed a tight U-turn would have had your av­er­age two-wheel-drive car spin­ning wheels and per­haps need­ing a push or tow be­fore you could get the tired kids home.

❝The Dis­cov­ery Sport just rolls over the lumps like a moun­tain bike over spilled peas❞

That softer on-road sus­pen­sion I men­tioned is trans­formed into a real plus once you leave the con­crete. The Dis­cov­ery Sport just rolls over the lumps like a moun­tain bike over spilled peas – not that I’ve tested this. It comes with three Ter­rain Re­sponse trac­tion set­tings suited to the ground you en­counter on your way to a favourite out­door spot: Grass/gravel/snow, Mud/ruts, and Sand ad­just the ve­hi­cle’s throt­tle re­sponse, power/torque set­tings and the like to en­able the SUV to bet­ter adapt to the con­di­tions with­out the driver need­ing to worry too much. It’s very clever, and some­thing Land Rover has been at the fore­front of for decades.

In fact, they’ve de­vel­oped a clever, cutting edge new tech­nol­ogy that re­ally helps with off-road progress. It’s called All Ter­rain Progress Con­trol (ATPC), and I guess it stands in for low range gear­ing. Ba­si­cally it al­lows you to set speeds as low as

1.8kph, like you would cruise con­trol, mean­ing the Dis­cov­ery Sport will main­tain that speed as the driver picks their way across tricky ground. This max­imises the ve­hi­cle’s con­sid­er­able 420Nm torque at low revs and the driver can fo­cus just on find­ing their way across, over, around and through ob­sta­cles. Very use­ful in­deed.

I next en­coun­tered an over­grown track you’d or­di­nar­ily avoid. With the Dis­cov­ery now in Mud/ruts mode just in case (this au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages the Hill De­scent Con­trol, which eases the ve­hi­cle down steep slopes us­ing the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem), I dis­ap­peared down the trail be­neath the ferns. It was nar­row, a lit­tle lumpy and slip­pery, but the Dis­cov­ery’s big torque at low revs in the first and sec­ond of its nine gears meant the go­ing was easy. I soon found a sun-filled clear­ing near a stand of na­tive trees and stopped to soak in the si­lence. If I’d had a tent with me I would have stayed the night, but I set­tled for open­ing the Ther­mos and un­wrap­ping my ham sand­wiches in won­der­ful iso­la­tion. It was peace­ful, scenic and re­fresh­ing – a great place to take the kids when they want to camp, run free among the kauri trees and ride their bikes in a piece of ar­che­typal New Zealand land­scape.

I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have parked up and walked down the track to get to this spot – if the kids had been with me they prob­a­bly wouldn’t have ei­ther. If I’d been driv­ing my two-wheeldrive sta­tion wagon I’d have soon been look­ing for help.

As I drove back out to the gravel road I could feel the Dis­cov­ery Sport look­ing for trac­tion, find­ing its feet across all four wheels as the sys­tem gripped where grip was needed; at one point I crawled out of trou­ble af­ter won­der­ing, need­lessly, whether or not it would cross a short piece of rut­ted, wet mud okay. It did.

I’ve driven al­most all of Land Rover’s prod­ucts over the years, both on-road and well off it, and there’s some­thing about the com­bi­na­tion of sump­tu­ous lux­ury and tech­no­log­i­cal tough­ness that I can’t help but ad­mire. You can glide along the tar­mac in lux­u­ri­ous com­fort with the whole fam­ily – there’s even an op­tion to add two ex­tra seats – and then, if whim takes over, head off into the sand, mud or snow. And on wet tar­mac, which is a pretty com­mon oc­cur­rence where I come form, the full-time four-wheel drive means you won’t be pulling into traf­fic with your wheels spin­ning.

I left Hunua and headed south into the Waikato where I spent a bit of time just cruis­ing around en­joy­ing the ve­hi­cle. I chose to ig­nore the Sat-nav, set­tle back into my heated leather seat and just fol­low my nose. Be­cause it’s not un­til you get lost that you can truly dis­cover.

Yeah, bit lost.

The Hunua Ranges. There are so many out-ofthe-way places to ex­plore in NZ, and a great SUV like this will get you there in style and com­fort.

Gravel, pot­holes and cor­ru­ga­tions are not a prob­lem; sus­pen­sion seems bi­ased to­ward soak­ing up the rougher stuff.

Thick, wet mud can be haz­ardous. The Dis­cov­ery Sport found its way; big lowrev torque is a mas­sive plus.

Load ca­pac­ity is ex­cel­lent, boot op­er­ates at the push of a but­ton or by ges­ture alone; great legroom through­out, too.

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