We never tested the Discovery Sport’s capability to clamber over rocks and boulders, but we did test its maximum approach angle of 25 degrees heading off an ice sheet and across a fast-moving stream that pushed up near this model’s 24-inch water-fording maximum. And if you really want to push it, Land Rover says that the front bumper can be removed.
One odd disappointment is that you can no longer see the front corners so as to place the vehicle exactly where you want it when emerging over a crest or around a tight trail bend.
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A (plush) seating layout that makes sense
But we’re definitely willing to accept that. Because through a fair amount of white-knuckle driving as we took on the icy conditions, the front seats of the Discovery support held us snugly in place and left our backs in good shape as the seat heaters covered most of the seat. Overhead, the panoramic roof—shockingly large, at first glance—let enough light in during the super-short five or six hours of Icelandic daylight.
As for the second-row seats, they’re actually good for adults, with more than six inches of fore-and-aft adjustment. We can see that Land Rover chose full contouring and seat comfort over perfectly flat seat-folding, and we applaud that (there’s plenty of flexibility as it is). As for the third row that will be a standalone option in the U.S., it’s going to be kid’s stuff—not because its legroom is so scrunched and access is difficult, but because Land Rover’s stadium seating places the third row so high as to make headroom impossible for taller adults.
While the instrument panel is stark and almost T-square-like at first glance, it’s finely detailed in all the right places, and we warmed very quickly to its functionality, which has soft-touch surfaces wherever you’d expect it, as well as clear, tactily satisfying knobs, dials, and buttons. Door grips are solid and secure, and there are plenty of small spaces to stow stuff.
The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport will be offered in three different guises: SE, HSE, and HSE Lux. We spend most of the day in an generously equipped but not quite fully loaded HSE Lux model, adding up to a bit over $46k.
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What has us especially intrigued is the base SE model, which at $37,995 has the potential to be a market disruptor against mainstream-brand crossovers such as the Jeep Cherokee Limited V-6 and GMC Terrain Denali. Compared to the Cherokee, the Sport is about the same size on the outside but feels much roomier inside. Can we see the Discovery Sport pushing up against loaded Subaru Outbacks or Ford Explorers? You bet.
The Discovery Sport is going to earn its way onto a lot of shopping lists, in a way Land Rover hasn’t managed before. It’s a vehicle that doesn’t look dramatically different at first glance but is quite thoroughly rethought, in nearly every way—ways that are going to be meaningful for families: It’s more spacious; there’s a lot more safety equipment; it drives in a way that’s more nimble and carlike. And for all those reasons and more, we see it as the start of a new surge at Land Rover.