If you think you can’t cross continents in a Land Rover Discovery Sport, here’s one way to start.
-By Anand Mohan
When the Land Rover brand came into existence three years after the Second World War, a sturdy go-anywhere vehicle was required in the UK. The first prototype was built on a Jeep chassis and ever since, this iconic British brand has been known to traverse the toughest of terrains. In recent years, however, the demand for SUVs has increased so much and the potential customer’s requirements from an SUV have changed too, as a result of which Land Rover is now building more vehicles for the road than off it.
Now don’t get me wrong, the entire range can roll its sleeves up and get itself dirty when you need it to, but the SUVs look so premium and come with such great paint jobs and shiny parts that you wouldn’t dare try to rough them up – the Evoque, Velar and the Range Rover are prime examples of capable off-roaders that you’d rather keep on the road. The Defender, Land Rover’s most hardcore off-roader was discontinued in 2016 and the new one is only expected sometime next year, so the Discovery Sport takes up the premium brand’s affordable go-anywhere duties on its shoulders now. But can it go anywhere? We put it up to the challenge.
This particular variant comes with a 2-litre petrol engine that makes about 90 horsepower more than the base diesel Discovery Sport. 237 bhp is more than enough punch to pack for strong highway cruising ability in an SUV that’s comfortable with even 150 horsepower and the extra spring in its stride is evident the minute you step on the gas. Acceleration is relatively effortless and the 100kmph mark comes in about eight seconds, overtaking on the highway is easy and you can settle yourself at high cruising speeds all day. Low speed ride is a bit stiff, but at triple digit speeds, the Discovery Sport feels planted and rides really well. Long distance touring won’t be even a little strenuous. The turbo-petrol mill has a strong midrange with 340Nm of torque giving the Disco a wide powerband and it really feels at home on the highway, so much so that I begin to forget that we were aiming to go off the road and not on it.
A few hundred kilometres later, a detour into a village took us through broken roads and here’s where the Land Rover’s rugged suspension soaked up a beating as we pummelled through the hinterland. A little ahead was an abandoned construction site, where the trails were just perfect for this SUV. The story of this location has travelled from ear to ear, and one can’t with absolute certainty stand by the accuracy of it, but anyway, here’s why this place is the way it is. A few hours away from Pune, in the nineties, a builder purchased agricultural land from farmers in the area, large enough to build a massive township, with views of a beautiful lake on one side and surrounded by hills on the other three. He even built himself a nice house overlooking the entire township. He borrowed heavily from banks and started construction. That land, many say, was not meant for construction and apparently an indefinite stay order on the project crippled the builder’s finances. One day, he couldn’t handle it and jumped into the lake. Acres and acres of land with half built houses have been lying here for decades now and no one wants to touch it, except when you’ve got a good off-roader at your disposal, of course. The trails are not accessible for cars and there isn’t any reason for anyone to come here unless they want to play, so it’s a nice proving ground for a 4×4.
The Discovery Sport gets Land Rover’s All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) with drive modes to alter responses to suit driving conditions. There’s one for gravel, sand and snow, and mud and ruts can be tackled with differently too. It isn’t a rock climber like a Wrangler, but you can hustle this beast a fair bit on such terrain.
The strong torque of the petrol engine works to the Discovery Sport’s advantage on such terrain. The SUV doesn’t have a very long wheelbase – 2741mm isn’t much considering it is a seven seater. This is good when you are off-roading. It’s got a wading depth of 600mm and while the ground clearance isn’t the highest for an SUV, 212mm does just fine until you are rock crawling. Crucially, the rear axle gets 239mm of clearance, the part of the car most drivers forget about once the first half has cleared an obstacle With an approach angle of 25 degrees and a departure angle of 31 degrees, the Disco Sport is more than capable to go boldly to remote locations in.
The suspension is rugged enough to take a beating, and strong sidewalls on bulbous tyres are not just good on a dirt roads, but cushion you well from the harsh surroundings. Moreover, the Discovery Sport doesn’t look dainty, it feels built to last and when the doors shut with a nice thud, you know you are in a safe vehicle
That said, it’s not all brute with no luxury inside. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, you get two way climate control, luxurious interiors, a nice touch screen infotainment system with crisp audio from an 825 watt Meridian surround sound system, a panoramic sunroof larger than on most vehicles you might have driven in and a large boot with the last row folded flat. The Discovery Sport is ideal for someone who loves the outdoors and doesn’t want to give up on luxury while exploring. The best bit is the prices post GST. For an SUV that used to cost about Rs.58 lakh when launched, it is now priced at Rs.50.85 lakh, ex-showroom. You might have all the money in the world, but there’s still joy in saving some when you can.