Land Rover Discovery Sport Review – Chopta and beyond
Sand, mud, rocks, snow, rivers and forests, when associated with 4 wheels the first name that clicks in our minds is Land Rover. But in our country, we associate Land Rovers to more contemporary things, mall parking, weekend parties and high end client meetings. But what if you wanted a car that could be luxurious and rugged, powerful yet efficient, sedate yet magnificent, exciting yet practical, all at once?
Meet the Land Rover Discovery Sport. A creation of the automotive masters of Coventry that promises the pleasure of having all types of cars in one. We put this to test and here is our Land Rover Discovery Sport Review.
Surely the Discovery doesn’t match the sheer size of the bigger Range Rover but I have to say it isn’t small either. The proportion of the car are absolutely perfect taking into consideration the sort of narrow roads and heavy traffic an urban dweller fights in metropolitan cities. Its width is 50mm more than the Range Rover Evoque at 2170mm. Also it is taller by 89mm and longer by 135mm at 1635mm and 4600mm respectively.
The Discovery Sport that we have with us is the top of the line HSE Luxury variant with all the dressings. This includes a contrast roof and bonnet appliqué, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps with LED day time running lamps, 18 inch alloy wheels coupled with a set of incredible Pirelli Scorpion tires (fitted to our car), fixed glass panoramic sunroof, 17 speaker Meridian HiFi which is beautifully put together, rear seat entertainment package with two headrest mounted monitors and separate remote controls also you get separate noise cancellation headphones which are a boon on those long journeys and the Terrain Response system which can take you almost anywhere.
Step inside and you will mistake the Discovery Sport for the more luxurious Range Rover. Windsor leather seats, soft touch plastics, brushed aluminium panels, there is a sense of high quality everywhere you touch. The steering is nice and chunky to hold, there is a pair of sizable paddle shifters behind the steering wheel so you can be in full control of the gearbox, the instrument dials are large and are placed in deep within the console and feel very premium with well illuminated graphics and an MID screen which pops a lot of information the moment you press any button on the driver’s control area.
The gear selector knob rises when you press the start button. The start button, to be honest isn’t placed ergonomically. It is virtually out of the driver, but it isn’t hard getting used to it. The front central armrest is large and wide, it does slide forward to accommodate arms of short people like me who push the driver seat much nearer to the steering wheel. It also has a good sized cubby hole where you can connect your ipod and USB devices. The seats are amazingly cushioned, great support, soft on the side bolstering, isn’t a hard experience on very long journey.
Both the driver and passenger seats are 8 way adjustable with triple memory function. The dash is placed at a good height. It has this strange sort of rugged surfacing on the top to prevent any reflection on the windscreen while driving under direct sunlight which indeed is very clever. The dash otherwise is covered in soft touch leather with contrast stitching. The glove box is average size and can accommodate a 1-litre water bottle with ease.
Central console is very well laid out with the 8 inch in-control touch screen on top which provides all the information of the vehicle, navigation, temperature settings, ambient lighting and multimedia. You can also control various mobile based applications on the infotainment touch screen by synchronising your mobile handset with in-control app. The air-conditioning vents are placed right below the touch screen followed by the climate control system. I like the way they have integrated the temperature display into the selector knob. The last time I saw that is when I was in an Audi TT and it feels very modern indeed.
Land Rover’s in house Terrain Response System takes it position at the bottom of the central console. The system is inclusive of the General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts and Sand mode. Also there is a separate button which says ECO. Yes, a mode made for the people who want to keep their accountants happy. The ECO mode alters the use of air-conditioning and manages braking and coasting energy regeneration to maximize efficiency.
The rear seats are astonishingly spacious. I had heard rumours about the rear seats of the Discovery Sport not being spacious enough but then I guess the people claiming it would have been sized in surplus of 6 feet 5 inch. Now the first thing that clicks to the mind when you sit in the rear seat is that it is as well made and spaced as the ones on the much larger Range Rovers. The knee room with the seats pushed all the way back is tremendous, so much so that I can make a 4 year old stand in front of me with the front seats positioned as per my preference, for reference I am 5 feet 8 inches tall.
The middle row reclines back so that the passengers can enjoy a relaxed nap while on the way to their distant picnic spot or client meeting. Luckily the car we have at our disposal has an optional 5 + 2 seating arrangement that is there is a 3rd row of seats. The middle row once slide to the centre of its position the knee room at the 3rd row is decent to carry adults on short journeys, also there is enough shoulder room for 2 adults to sit together. There is a dedicated bottle holder, a charging point and an individual air conditioning knob for the 3rd row passengers, very clever.
Fold the 3rd row down and you have a boot which is good enough to carry luggage of 5 passengers going on a weeklong trip. Slide the middle row a bit further and you have room for an ice box and luggage for a few days more. The boot is largest in its segment; in fact, it is sizable enough to be competing with the cars a notch higher.
I know I have delved deep into technicalities and it is time for me to pack my bags and leave. But which route will throw enough challenges to understand this car perfectly?
I was 12 years old when my grandfather promised me that he’ll take me to a place that no one found in books, newspapers or television. A place where there is so much peace that you could hear the breath of a person sitting besides you. No telephone connectivity, no electricity and no disturbance from the outside world. A few days later, I was there, astounded by the sight. And so was my life’s first adventure with nature in the most hardcore manner. 12 years later, I have a very good reason to revisit the memories I have of there.
A small village amidst the beautiful meadows of the upper Himalayan region, 400 km drive from my home towards the scenic state of Uttarakhand. But, we have a challenge. There have been miles of forest fires and hundreds of landslides everywhere. Somehow, with the Land Rover Discovery Sport at our disposal we were confident that we would make it. We start our journey from New Delhi late at night so we could slide through the highway with lesser traffic and let the turbocharged engine breathe much cooler air than boiling day time. Within a few hours of driving on the National Highway 58, I found all the 3 passengers asleep in contentment. The suspension of the Land Rover Discovery isn’t what we’ll refer to as supple, it is stiff but the setup is such that it smoothens out all the potholes and other surface undulations with ease. This is more prominent at highway speeds. Doing between 70-80kmph on the highway the ride quality was absolutely sublime and with the cabin insulation being top notch it really felt like being wafted in a luxury limousine and not a proper off road machine.
We reach Rishikesh by sunrise, a quick fuel up, some breakfast with the customary tea break and we head towards the twisty section of the Garwal range. The electronic power assisted steering doesn’t have a dead feel to it like the power assisted steering in other cars. It does feel heavy at average speeds but it rewards you when you are driving on the twisty sections like the ones we were driving at. The suspension tightens up on these types of roads and holds the structure to prevent any sort of body roll. The side bolstering on the seats make sure that you are snugly held while you’re at the act of playing with the apexes on the road.
We had now arrived at a point where we had to cross a 1.5ft deep tributary of the Alaknanda River to be able to make it to the road across it. With a water wading depth of 600mm it was a breeze for the Discovery Sport to make it across the stream. The Discovery Sport does gain a lot of attention in this part of our country which is famous for the Boleros and Sumos, it is like a waking dream wish fulfilment to experience this car for those SUV aficionados. We reach Chopta by evening with wolves howling in our surroundings and sheet of bright stars in the sky, rented a room in a house made of local wood, filled with spiders and other exotic insects. The night was very scary indeed.
The next morning was hazy and cold, unlike what it is down in the plains. -1 degree Celsius temperature, I thought of giving the Discovery Sport a bit of a warm up. A dab on the start stop button and in a flick of a second the engine fires up, no problem at all. Being sceptical of the older Land Rover products built before 2008 this one feels much more reliable and compliant.
We start our trek to the Chandrashilla peak early in the morning, an 8.5 km climb from the village of Chopta. The climb is steep and isn’t really for people who haven’t trekked before, also it is a part of the Nanda Devi National Park which is spread across over 630 sq kilometre area and is identified as a world heritage site under UNESCO’s World’s Network of Biosphere Reserves, so we were bound to encounter some vertebrates and we did. Wild hamsters, Musk Deer, Pheasants, Jungle Cat, Chital, Blackwinged kite and many more. Walking through the lush green forests and beautiful meadows, half way through we found a small shop selling packaged food.
We sat down and chatted over how to reach the summit which to be honest looked very tricky. The slopes were steep, the weather wasn’t favourable and the lack of oxygen was dreadful. But after travelling hundreds of kilometres away from our establishments there seemed no looking back. The moments with my late grandfather telling me to triumph the Chandrashila peak when I grow up were going in the back of my head. It all then seemed that there was little left although there was a lot of distance to go still. We reach Tungnath, the highest Shiva temple in the world. It is believed to be built over 1,000 years ago and has a rich legend linked to the Pandavas.
The place was deserted, everywhere we laid our eyes on we could only see the rocks and the sky. The sheer silence gave me flashback of the place I had of 12 years ago. We then marched towards the Chandrashilla peak, an extremely risky trek with an alluring view of the valley. Two hours of non-stop climbing in absolute isolation we finally reach the summit.
At 4,500m it is the highest peak in the Garwal Himalayan Range. The prospect of the world from the peak is mesmerising. It was extremely cold, the wind blew strong, headache was pronounced with the lack of oxygen but nothing could beat the excitement of being on top of the world.
I had discovered a new place out of constant yearning for ages. As we reach back to our camp with the Land Rover Discovery Sport parked besides it I instantly fell in love It really is a thing of beauty. The dual tone roof and body look cohesive, the big glass roof is the window to the most spectacular cliffs we’ve seen on our way till the top and the comfort that this car has really impressed me.
The engine, being a diesel, is supremely refined and is quite at low revs which allowed us to enjoy the rustling sounds of nature that we were surrounded with.
Long story short. Of all the adventures we had while the Discovery Sport was at our disposal, the most interesting one was definitely the car. Yes, the place was fantastic, but the Disco Sport made our journey special.
We’ve taken it over very rough surfaces, through river stream and over sand, apart from the usual Indian roads; the Discovery Sport hasn’t ever lost its breath. At 187 bhp it isn’t the most powerful SUV you could buy at that price but the power output is effortless and linear, there is hardly any turbo lag and is more-so supported by the 420 Nm of torque that pulls the 2 tonne weight quite easily.
We managed a fuel figure of 16.2 kmpl on the highways and 11.5 kmpl on the Himalayan twisties considering there were 4 passengers on board and a boot full of luggague. It really has been supremely comfortable; it’s big on the equipment list and very easy on the pocket as well. It sort of feels artificial to me as it has the qualities of every car. It indeed is all the car you’d ever need.
Pictures: Archit Kishore