The Sell: A luxury compact SUV that makes day-to-day driving and mild adventures a breeze.
The Test: Driving through a nighttime snowstorm on a hilly, snow-packed, two-lane road in the middle of Iceland’s highlands, Land Rover’s new Discovery ($37,070; 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy) turned what could’ve been a harrowing adventure into a benign drive in Pingvellir National Park.
That’s because the compact SUV, one of the easiest and least expensive Land Rover’s on the market, is packed with the company’s off-road capability. To wit: it has 8.35 inches of ground clearance, 23.6 inches of wading depth for crossing rivers, and the ability to climb a 45-degree incline. The Discovery pulls this off thanks to its torque-vectoring tech- and terrain-response modes, which adjust the gas pedal responsiveness, gearing, brakes, and stability control modules for optimum traction on snow, sand, rocks or pavement.
Inside, the relatively small SUV has a surprising amount of second row head- and legroom. We fit two six-foot adults and there was still plenty of room in the cargo area for dogs, packs, and coolers. Fold down the rear seats to open up 60 cubic feet of cargo space. (Compare that to the 2015 Subaru Outback, which has 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseat folded down.) Covering that space is an unobstructed moon roof (optional) that runs almost to the second row’s backrest. Even more thoughtful: the backseat sits two inches higher than the front row, making it easier for passengers to see out the windows.
Under the hood, the Discovery has a turbocharged two-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 240 horsepower and 250-ft pounds of torque (the stuff that pulls you up a muddy hill). While those numbers don’t make the Discovery a sport SUV, it’s no slow-moving fuel sipper. It has plenty of power for everyday driving and light off-roading. In fact, if there’s one complaint that we had with the Discovery, it’s that it made everything from driving on solid ice to descending steep, slush-filled tracks on the side of an ancient volcano feel easy. Never before has being dull been so rewarding.
What’s Missing: A third row option that can seat adults and a sense of Land Rover’s adventure-minded legacy.
The Verdict: The premium compact SUV for those who want Euro-style with their off-roading bad-assery.