“Of course, everyone who buys one of these will just drive it around Chelsea...”
...yawned every overfed motoring journalist on our recent trip to Iceland, where Land Rover was showing off its new Discovery Sport.
And while it may be an obvious cliché, it is true that most people won’t use the new Disco to its fullest extent. Because unless you actually live in Iceland, at the top of a very steep hill accessed only by a snow-filled goat-track, it would be very difficult to test this car to its fullest every day.
And while its off-road capabilities are really quite something – more on that in a minute – they’re not really the point of the new Disco.
It replaces the Freelander as Land Rover’s smallest, most affordable model, squaring up to the likes of the BMW X3, the Volve XC60 and the Audi Q5.
But while most of its competitors will seat five in comfort, the Discovery Sport has a crafty slanted seating arrangement that fits two more seats in the back, giving it an edge on the school run. As nerds, we were pleased to note that each seat comes with a USB charging port.
The interior itself stops short of the sort of luxury you’ll find in the Disco’s Range Rover cousins, which is to be expected because a Range Rover Sport costs almost three times the average UK salary, but it’s still a very nice place to be, with plenty of leather and heated seats as standard.
Add the 17-speaker Meridian sound system our model featured, and you’re basically driving around in a high-end hi-fi that can climb mountains.
There’s plenty to muck about with on the dashboard, too – the InControl app-nav system links to your smartphone (Android or iOS) via a cable, offering control of your apps via the in-dash screen.
Like Apple’s CarPlay it’s limited to a handful of apps at the moment, but there are some interesting third-party additions already, including Stitcher radio, Parkopedia, Hotelseeker and Mileage Tracker Pro.
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The tech that really makes a difference to the Discovery Sport is of a much more oil-and-metal sort, though. The rear suspension has been radically redesigned to improve handling (and allow for those extra seats at the back), and coupled with a nine-speed automatic gearbox this offers assured, sporty handling.
Our only testing so far has been on roads that had a fair bit of snow and ice on them, but the Discovery Sport felt very confident in the few corners that were dry enough to take at speed.
The more Evoque-esque body has given the Sport a more aerodynamic profile, with noticeable results: even travelling at speed with metal-studded snow tyres attached, it’s surprisingly quiet inside.
So let’s say you conform to car journalist stereotype and use your Discovery Sport exclusively for the school run and Waitrose. But then let’s say that one day you find yourself stifled by the luxuriously padded routine of upper middle class suburban existence and set off, howling with a long-suppressed thirst for adventure, for the Cairngorms. Will you be alright?
If anything, too alright: like the Range Rover Sport we drove earlier this year, taking the Discovery Sport off-road is a piece of cake.
Pick a setting on the Terrain Response System, press the pedal and it will clamber steep, snow-covered hills with no bother at all. At the top, engage Hill Descent Control and it’ll intelligently manage your speed all the way down, without skidding.
With a 600mm wading depth and hugely accomplished traction and stability control, it’s basically a matter of sitting there and deciding how fast you want the scenery to go by.
The Disco Sport isn’t just a safe cocoon for its occupants, either. Where once 4x4s came adorned with a crown of bull-bars and winches, the Sport’s bonnet features a 110-litre ‘pedestrian airbag’, with deploys within 60 milliseconds if the worst happens.
The InControl system automatically alerts the emergency services if the airbags are deployed, and Autonomous Engine Braking helps make sure they don’t.
We drove the 2.2-litre diesel, which goes on sale in January, but a slightly more affordable front-wheel-drive version will arrive later next year. We’ll bring you a full review once we’ve had some more time with it on UK roads, but we're already seriously impressed.