The cold hard facts about the new Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover wanted to show how tough its all-new Discovery Sport premium compact SUV was. How tough?
Launch it to the international motoring media. In Iceland. In winter. With frequent snow storms closing roads and stranding staff and scribes.
Now that's tough.
Land Rover showed plenty of confidence to launch the Disco Sport in Iceland in winter, especially with only five hours of daylight. During Driven's 34 hours there, the average temperature was -2C, with a wind-chill factor of "oh my God, it's cold!''.
A replacement for the Freelander 2, the Discovery Sport is partially based on the company's top-selling Range Rover Evoque.
The Discovery Sport is underpinned by the Evoque at the front until the A-pillar, where it inherits its own look.
Though the Evoque is noted for the wedge-shaped rear, the Discovery Sport's exterior is more "Mini" Range Rover - and it works well.
Launched in Europe late last year, the Discovery Sport goes on sale here in mid-May.
At 4589mm long, 1724mm high and 2173mm wide, it is 91mm longer than the Freelander 2, though its wheelbase has been
extended 80mm. With a shorter front and rear overhang, the floorplan is large enough that it can take an optional third row of seats - with Land Rover calling it a 5 + 2.
During the Iceland launch, I "volunteered" a 1.82m tall Land Rover support staff member to test the head and leg room of the two extra seats.
With the second row of seats pushed forward, there was impressive room for him, or as he said, "you could drive a mate home from the pub in the seat and he wouldn't complain". But the extra seating would suit young teen to tweenie passengers better than drunk mates.
The Discovery Sport is likely to follow the Evoque by being a major player in the compact crossover market. At the Iceland event, the Discovery Sport's chief engineer, Nick Veale, said the only problem they'd encounter would be the ability to manufacturer enough to keep up with worldwide demand.
Veale said the main competition for the Discovery Sport would be European premium brands Audi Q3 and BMW's X5.
e Discovery Sport will be available in two engine models - a 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol paired with a nine-speed auto transmission, and a 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel that also has that auto gearbox or a six-speed manual transmission.
In the Discovery Sport's favour is a very capable permanent four-wheel-drive system that can take it from sand to snow with a push of a button.
To cope with the Icelandic elements, the Discovery Sports were all fitted with studded tyres which meant there was significant road noise and handling, said the Land Rover support staff, would be affected.
Landing in Iceland at dusk, we drove in the 2-litre petrol model from the airport to the outskirts of the capital, Reykjavik, on a dual highway.
But the test of the vehicle came when we turned on to the one-lane, gravel (make that snow-covered gravel) Pipeline Road that led to our overnight accommodation.
Due to high winds on the road we encountered frequent snow flurries-cum-white-out conditions, but in the trickier route we had a snow plow to follow.
Two snow storms overnight delayed our departure in the automatic diesel the next morning as we awaited snow plows to clear the road, and due to the conditions we took the bad weather route rather than tougher tracks through Cold Valley and its glaciers.
Land Rover had discovered in the early media launches that you don't want to be on that route in bad weather - with its photography crew stuck for 12 hours in the company's specially built morning coffee break ice huts and some journalists stranded on the road for hours while they waited for the weather to calm down.
That's not to say that our bad weather route was easy going. There was a combination of "gravel" road, then bitumen main roads before testing the compact SUV's 600mm wading ability across an ever-rising river.
To cope with the day-long drive programme, our vehicles had heated seats. On hand was also Land Rover's newly appointed chief interior designer, Mark Butler, who created the inside of the Discovery Sport.
He told Driven that it was important to incorporate the company's touchscreen technology, found in Range Rovers and Jaguars, in the Discovery Sport.
The vehicle was also textbook Jag Land Rover in the styling - with clean lines and subtle technology.
Though NZ pricing is still to be decided, the Evoque sells from $73,000, and the outgoing Freelander 2 goes from $65,000, so expect to see it in the late $60,000s.
The car also has Kiwi connections. The "brown" hue is called Kaikoura and Veale told Driven it had extensive testing at New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground in Cardrona.
Hopefully Land Rover NZ won't hold a motoring media launch in the snow at Cardrona as I'm still thawing out after Iceland.