Land Rover Discovery Sport
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.