REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - Rare is the opportunity to conduct a vehicle evaluation during winter at a place where the name itself evokes cold conditions.
But that’s exactly what Land Rover did last month, bringing the compact 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV for a winter test across the barren landscape of Iceland.
Iceland is connected to the Arctic Circle, located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
On the surface, it would appear that the winter temperatures of Northwest Indiana are a world away from the land that touts eternal cold.
Iceland enjoys a relatively mild climate courtesy of the Gulf Stream delivering warm ocean currents from the Gulf of Mexico with winter temperatures on par with our region ranging an average 35-degrees during the day to 26-degrees at night.
In sharp contrast, daylight hours there occur from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in late January with snow accumulation less than 3-inches annually.
However, Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable and for 2015, is experiencing its worst winter in 20 years.
Iceland’s extreme winter becomes the proving ground to test Land Rover Discovery Sport’s winter capabilities on- and off-pavement tackling 240 miles of desolate roads in the Botnsulur Mountain Region of southwest Iceland.
Roads are narrow and built of crushed lava rock. They are not routinely maintained in winter with surfaces that are often wind-polished sheets of glare ice.
Some roads were marked impassable. Not for the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Land Rover experts outfitted our 5-passenger all-wheel drive (AWD) Discovery Sport with studded tires to combat the ice road surfaces.
Power is supplied by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that builds 240 horsepower coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Land Rover’s Terrain Response System customizes the throttle mapping and torque distribution for General, Sand, Mud/Ruts and Grass/Gravel/Snow. The latter mode was the prudent choice for my Iceland winter drive.
The system teams with Land Rover’s Hill Descent Control, stability and traction control for seamless rock solid handling.
Discovery’s AWD torque vectoring system is a built-in safety net that supplies grip to specific wheels to carry the vehicle along its intended path when slippage is detected in corners - a literal life saver on some of the ice roads traveled this trip.
An 8.3-inch ground clearance makes deep snow travel a confident exercise, as does addressing sharp embankments when fording open water with Discovery’s 25-degree approach angle. Departure angle is 31-degrees.
Land Rover is not a typical sport utility vehicle. It is also not a brand punched out in cookie-cutter fashion built for the masses. Land Rover is special. So is the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport.