Written by: Robert Nichols
Photography by: Robert Nichols
What’s in a name? Is it merely a way of distinguishing between people, places and things, or is there more to it?
To many, a name reflects the sort of person you are likely to be. For instance, if you share a last name with some past dictator or villain, people will form unflattering opinions about you. The same is true if your last name is shared with someone perceived as noble; people’s expectations of you will be heightened. The same can be said of automobiles. If I say, “Yugo”, immediately you envision a small communist-era car that is equal parts poor engineering and ugliness. But, if I say Land Rover what pops to mind?
When I think about Land Rover I picture an arduous jungle trek through South America, or an exploration for some long forgotten culture in a remote corner of the globe. But why does my mind immediately think of that?
It all started back in 1955 when a group of students approached Land Rover with a proposition. They had planned to become the first humans to drive from the English Channel to Singapore. This would be one of the longest overland expeditions ever undertaken. It is important to remember that in the post war era there weren’t always proper paved roads to be used, and the roads going through remote areas may have been little more than difficult footpaths. Many had tried to do similar journeys before but all had failed – the main reason being they brought the wrong vehicle. The students asked if Land Rover would supply them with two vehicles, promising that this journey would result in a large amount of positive publicity. Land Rover agreed, the trek was successful, and history was forever altered.
From that time onward, whenever someone thought of an overland adventure, they would almost certainly have had a Land Rover in mind. This is more than just good publicity; it is largely based on fact. We have all seen the pictures of expeditions through jungles, desserts and mountains; pictures wherein we have had our first glimpse of some secluded tribe, or previously undocumented landscape. More often than not a Land Rover was in the shot.
Fast forward to today, and the world has been thoroughly explored and mapped. So how can a company whose reputation was gained in the wilds keep moving forward? Well, how about leading the way in terms of luxury? Land Rover and the higher end Range Rover have become the most luxurious SUVs ever built.
Last week I had the opportunity to test drive the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Compare that to the 1948 Land Rover Series One in the photos above and you would be forgiven for thinking they came from two very different sources. The Series One was a basic vehicle, with no pleasantries whatsoever. The Discovery, on the other hand, coddles you in the lap of luxury. You are kept safe in the quiet confines of the vault-like cabin, completely isolated from the noise of life outside the vehicle. Everything you interact with feels well designed and solidly built. The armrests and seats are perfectly cushioned and driving aids like adaptive cruise control take most of your stress away during appalling traffic.
The only unpleasantness you are forced to endure is the uncharacteristically unrefined, some would say harsh, gear change from 1st to 2nd and a bit of turbo-lag from the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The 9-speed ZF transmission is known for being a bit crude and not up to the standard of a vehicle that costs nearly $60,000. Land Rover is aware that this is an issue and for the 2016 model a new powertrain has been built that promises to be as silky smooth as the ride quality in the 2015 version.
The athletic and poised ride is one area that the Discovery really sets itself apart from lesser SUVs. Driving over the worst un-kept roads didn’t upset the ride quality all that much. On the highway, the silence and smooth ride lulled me into going far beyond the speed limit without realizing it - until I began to wonder why traffic appeared to be going slower than usual. A new multi-link suspension is responsible for the bulk of this refined ride, but not to be overlooked is the electric power-assisted steering which provides the driver with just enough feedback.
The engine has enough power for daily commutes and despite the added weight of the four wheel drive, the Discovery Sport returned better fuel economy than I expected. According to the computer the best trip I logged was a scant 6.5 L/100km. The bulk of my driving in country roads and city streets netted an average of 9.8 L/100km. At normal highway speed in heavy traffic I achieved 7.9 L/100km.
I will admit I was very tempted to do some serious off-roading, but did not fancy the idea of getting a pristine press vehicle stuck in the middle of nowhere nor did I want to scratch and dent it. So I compromised and drove it on a local farm through the orchards. According to the technical specs I could have waded through 600 mm (2 feet) of water. That is great news for ones who live in flood-prone areas. This mildly challenging off-road test still gave me a good idea of the history of this brand and an inkling of how good the terrain response system really is. Gone are the levers and locking hubs of old 4X4’s, instead there are a few buttons that allow you to cycle between four all-terrain settings: General, Mud and Ruts, Grass, Gravel and Snow. There is also a Dynamic setting for more spirited on-road driving. The system alters the steering, throttle response, gearbox, center-coupling, braking, and stability systems to match the selected driving conditions.
As I was on rutted mud paths and in fields, I opted for Mud and Rut mode. The vehicle responded by delivering more torque and less speed through the transmission, so as the revs built instead of building momentum the Discovery produced copious amounts of low down torque. It was remarkable how serene the whole experience was. The Discovery never once had me questioning whether I would need to call a tractor to pull me free.
When you select one of the off-road modes, the 8” information and entertainment screen displays an overhead view of the vehicle. The system also senses and alerts you to any possible obstacles that are close to the vehicle. The screen will highlight the area in which the danger is located and even tell you how close you are to it. My only obstacle was tall grass, but the system still alerted me. It is easy to see how invaluable this would be when trying to cross a rock strewn field or a dense forest track.
The technology goes well beyond the advanced four-wheel drive system to include: hill descent control that maintains a set speed while negotiating steep inclines off-road; gradient release control to progressively release the brakes when setting off on steep inclines; roll stability control detects the onset of a rollover and applies the brakes to the outer wheels to bring the vehicle under control; dynamic stability control corrects oversteer and understeer by reducing engine torque and/or applying brakes to individual wheels as needed; electronic traction control reduces torque and/or applies a braking force to individual wheels to prevent wheel spin; and engine drag torque control helps to prevent lock-up under heavy engine braking in slippery conditions by increasing engine torque to the affected wheels. Clearly then Land Rover is still looking for ways to build upon their off-road legacy.
The infotainment and navigation systems have been updated and work well. The 11 speaker stereo is fantastic and there are dials, buttons and touchscreen controls for the entertainment and climate controls. The interior has a simple and stylish layout, nothing outlandish, it just exudes class.
The Discovery’s interior is covered in the highest quality leather dyed to a colour called Tan Windsor; the leather also features bold and stylish stitching which is mimicked in the dash and door panels. The front seats can be heated or cooled to enhance your comfort, and even the back-seat passengers can warm their seats on chilly morning expeditions to the mall or hockey practice. All the seats are very comfortable and supportive and there is also the option of pop-up seating for two in the cargo area.
The exterior styling likewise is simple and the silhouette blends in with every other SUV out there. Only when you examine the finer details will you begin to see the quality that sets it apart from other SUVs. There is a similarity in appearance to the Range Rover Evoque, which is nothing to complain about, but the roofline in the Discovery doesn’t compress at the rear which gives more headroom in the rear seats and a more usable cargo area. A favorite feature for just about everyone who sat in it was the panoramic roof. It added a sense of openness to an already spacious cabin and comes standard on the HSE and Luxury model; optional on the SE. The second row seating has enough leg room even for the tallest adults with the front seat set back. The storage is ample and the rear second row seats fold down at the simple press of a button.
The starting price for the Discovery Sport HSE LUX is $49,900, which is very competitive for such a capable high-end unit. Add in the navigation ($850), climate controlled front seats ($800), satellite radio ($450), park assist that parallel and perpendicularly parks ($1,000), and the 20” rims ($1,500), and you get very close to $60,000.
If it was my money I would almost certainly buy the Land Rover over any of the German competition. In doing so, I would be buying more than a sports-wagon on stilts. I would be getting a proven and capable off-road vehicle that just happens to be incredibly comfortable and has an understated dignified presence.
型号 Model: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
顏色 Paint Type: Fuji White
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $41,490
試車售價 Price as Tested: $54,740
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,741
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,589 / 2,173 / 1,724
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,795
引擎 Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder with direct injection, dual-independent VVT
最大馬力 Horsepower: 240 hp @ 5,800 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 9-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 11.9 / 9.0 / 10.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Verde; P245/45R20