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Intake: The Land Rover Above and Beyond Tour Experience


I’ve driven the Land Rover Discovery Sport a fair bit on the road. I’ve done a certain amount of off-roading in it as well, but nothing too extreme. You see, when we get these cars on test, we do our best to give me you the most well-researched review we can. We push the cars as far as we can safely, without unnecessary risk to the cars, ourselves and anyone on the roads with us. The sort of off-roading I have done in a Discovery Sport is the stuff an average owner would have to tackle on his weekend out of town — to the farmhouse or beach. The car’s limits have been engineered to take on much more than that, but the closer you get to these limits in an uncontrolled environment, the more things can go wrong. It’s never fun to call the boss and tell him you’ve wrecked a car worth half a crore rupees. So I hadn’t got close to them yet. Until this weekend, that is.

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I've driven the Land Rover Discovery Sport a fair bit on the road. I've done a certain amount of off-roading in it as well, but nothing too extreme. You see, when we get these cars on test, we do our best to give me you the most well-researched review we can. We push the cars as far as we can safely, without unnecessary risk to the cars, ourselves and anyone on the roads with us. The sort of off-roading I have done in a Discovery Sport is the stuff an average owner would have to tackle on his weekend out of town to the farmhouse or beach. The car's limits have been engineered to take on much more than that, but the closer you get to these limits in an uncontrolled environment, the more things can go wrong. It's never fun to call the boss and tell him you've wrecked a car worth half a crore rupees. So I hadn't got close to them yet. Until this weekend, that is.

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I was at the Land Rover Above and Beyond Tour, which is an experiential drive designed for current and prospective Land Rover owners to test the abilities of their SUVs. As capable as these SUVs are, they are used mostly on the road. A programme like this gets owners (and us) more familiar with all the tech on offer and allows you more confidence to push the limits you previously defined for yourself. Before I tell you about the drive itself, let's talk about the tech on offer in the Discovery Sport.

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Firstly, and most importantly, all Land Rovers get an all-wheel-drive system. That means power is sent to all four wheels, allowing you more traction in sticky situations. Some Land Rovers even get a low-ratio transfer case which allows for lowering of the gears to maximise torque for off-road conditions (the Disco Sport doesn't get one though). Then there's the intelligent design that helps tackle off-road conditions ; short overhangs that allow for good approach and departure angles, good ground clearance to keep the underbody safe from jutting objects and a good wading depth. Finally, what really makes these modern-day Land Rovers capable off-road ; the electronics. The most important of them is the Terrain Response System, which has different pre-set modes. Each mode adjusts a number of aspects of how the car behaves, right from power delivery to gear selection to the intervention of ABS and traction control to make it most effective on the type of terrain you're on.

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Apart from the general driving mode, there are three other modes. The first is grass, gravel, snow , the second is mud ruts and the third is sand . In addition to this, the Disco Sport gets Hill Descent Control, to control the speed of the SUV on downhill slopes and prevent lock-ups as well as a hill start assist. A recent addition is ATPC or All-Terrain Progress Control. Think of it as a cruise control for off-road driving. Set the desired speed, and the car will accelerate and brake itself to maintain that speed on the terrain, while you can focus on steering it through the right line.

The route we were on was at the 19 Degree North adventure park a park designed to push cars to their limits off the road. The route was obviously picked keeping the limits of the Disco Sport and the Evoque (which a few other publications were driving) in mind. The routes were a good mix of mud, slush and rocks. They even threw in a water crossing and a rather steep side incline for good measure. Apart from taking an absolute knob like me through the course with ease, you could actually tell how the car was reacting differently in different modes.

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The first mode for gravel and grass had very smooth throttle inputs with the gearbox short-shifting. Meanwhile, the mud and ruts mode had a more aggressive throttle input. However, as effective as these electronics are, you need to use some common sense as well. One particularly steep rocky incline, the car was struggling in the Mud and Ruts mode. This is because after the water crossing and earlier cars had left the climb wet with water dripping off them, reducing traction significantly. Simply shifting it to Grass, Gravel, Snow made things significantly easier.

What really blew my mind at the end of the drive is how effectively everything comes together to make a vehicle that can go off-road. A vehicle that lives up to the legendary Land Rover badge. The approach may have changed ; it's all electronic brain now, compared to the analogue effectiveness of the past ; but their ability continues to live on. And it lives on while constantly pushing the limits of comfort and dynamic ability on the road. Owners are probably never going to subject their SUVs to the type of punishment we put them through that day. Nevertheless, should the day come where they need to go the extra mile, they can.

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