new Discovery Sport is about to be picked up and flung against the hillside, the horizontal snow completely obscuring what we're attempting to drive through and, indeed, whether or not we're still actually on the road at all. According to the navigation system we're about five kilometres from our hotel destination, tucked among some low-lying hills 80km outside of Reykjavik. But with visibility at about five metres it may as well be back at the airport.
Later we hear from the hotel staff that this is one of the most intense storms they've ever experienced. Getting excitable about the weather doesn't seem an especially Icelandic trait, so it must have been proper. Proper enough to have the support crew taking over an empty building in the nearby geothermal power station to store and prep the cars and then bedding down in the hotel bar rather than attempting to get back to Reykjavik.
Welcome to Iceland in December then and Land Rover's attempt to prove that the new Discovery Sport is more than just the latest school gate style statement and, as they used to have it, the best 4x4xFar. Maybe a simulated school run to test the standard 5+2 seating might have been a better idea though. Because as it stands a significant number of the party are going to require assistance from the spectacularly cool 'bigfoot' Defenders built to full Icelandic spec on 38-inch balloon tyres.
Just what is the Discovery Sport though? Clearly it's not a replacement for the Discovery 4, despite sharing a name. Rather it's the successor to the Freelander and the first of what's promised is an entire new family sitting between the bling of Range Rover branded vehicles and more traditional Defenders, for as long as they're with us.
A new discovery
Since when did PistonHeads get excited about diesel powered school run compact SUVs though? Well, to be entirely frank the trip to Iceland sounded like it would be rather a good wheeze, likewise the chance to test its credentials as a proper 4x4 with river crossings and volcano scaling. And if you're going to follow the inexorable rush into a vehicle of this kind it may as well be the one capable of such things, right?
The only engine available in the UK for launch is the old SD4 2.2-litre diesel, the longitudinal application in the Jaguar XE the first priority for the new Ingenium four-cylinder engine range. These, hybrids and others will follow in due course but the 190hp SD4 underlines the more utilitarian brief. So not so much of the 'Sport' then, that transverse engine layout making any more than four cylinders unlikely.
Optionally paired with the ZF nine-speed auto also on the Evoque and driving through a Haldex 5 four-wheel drive system it's not seemingly the hardcore off-roader either. But it is a Land Rover and there are certain expectations to live up to. The familiar Terrain Response modes are there and when Land Rover quotes approach, departure and breakover angles you get the impression it's with sincerity, not afterthought. The fact the river crossing is iced over means we don't get to test the promised 600mm wading depth but with studded tyres on fresh snow and compacted ice the Discovery Sport acquits itself well.
With no transfer box your closest approximation of low range is an extra low first gear on the automatic, this and the fact it's a second and a half quicker to 62mph making it more or less a no-brainer over the manual. It's even 10kg lighter than the old six-speed auto. The thrum of the diesel is well isolated and even the fiercest Icelandic gale doesn't ruffle the door seals, these attributes and the well-judged float in the ride all making the Discovery Sport relaxed and refined even on the high-frequency bumps of the ice-covered roads. Not something you'd say of a Defender, bigfoot or not.
Faux by faux?
It's not quite as Fisher Price as the Freelander but the cabin can't quite match the cool premium feel you'd get in those quoted rivals like the X3, XC60 and Q5. And the limitations of the InControl app-based navigation system are shown when ours falls over a couple of times on our outbound journey; JLR's familiarly clunky touchscreen system is still built-in but wasn't mapped for Iceland. Not that there necessarily were maps for where we were going.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT SD4
Engine: 2,179cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual/9-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 190@3,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 310@1,750rpm
0-62mph: 10.4sec (auto 8.9sec)
Top speed: 117mph
Weight: 1,854kg (auto 1,863kg, both quoted as 'from')
MPG: 46mpg (auto 44.9mpg, both NEDC combined)
CO2: 162g/km (auto 166g/km)
Price: £32,395/£34,195 (SE manual/auto), £33,895/£35,695 (SE Tech manual/auto), £37,595/£39,395 (HSE manual/auto), £42,995 (HSE Lux auto)