Land Rover is a brand that sells itself on adventure. I don't believe that can be contested. From its depictions in media and communications through to every interactive touchpoint, be it online or in physical manifestations, this seems to be the case.
A narrative weaved of how its products can enable you to embark on such a caper, when the drag of the nine-to-five comes to an end.
The very existence of Land Rover's Activity Key shrieks falsetto from the very same songbook. A single piece of technology that's sole purpose is to make adventure easier to embark on. That is, the type of adventure that comes after getting to a location that's conducive to it.
Here's the thing. I don't believe anyone is naive enough to go rock-crawling in wild, untamed parts of the country in a bog-stock showroom-spec Land Rover. That isn't what the brand itself conveys either, when it has the opportunity to pinch a few minutes of our undivided attention.
But, the various portrayals by the brand do suggest that you're wanting to partake in hiking, mountain biking, water-related activities, or whatever your vice might be, and that its products can help foster your exciting pastime of choice.
Getting to such locations can be tricky. Paths of unbeaten track, fire trails, slightly rocky or muddy, or even soft, sandy terrain are all part of the deal.
It was looming on my mind. Does the product do what it says on the tin? Or more accurately, does the product do what marketing and advertising have carefully inscribed on the tin?
In order to bring such abstractions to life, I reached out to our off-road editor, Sam Purcell, to see whether he'd be interested in taking our 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport long-termer on something other than the blacktop to see how it fares.
Naturally, he couldn't contain his excitement. Slight exaggeration aside, we discussed the idea of cruising along the beaches of the New South Wales Hunter Region, where opportunities for adventure are rife.
Dr Purcell, as he's known in some circles, is full of wisdom and experience when it comes to both driving off-road and rescuing those with little ability in the same situation.
The perfect comrade for our little escapade.
Upon arriving at the beach, we quickly scouted the terrain and chatted to a few locals for reports on what the current conditions were like. Intel, powered by some sightseeing, led us to the conclusion that recent tumultuous weather and current tide position had created softer than usual formations across the beach.
Add on top that we were not the first pioneers to arrive at this location, which meant that sections of the beach had been absolutely hammered. Choppy, full of ruts, and a bit gnarly.
We had our work cut out for us, then.
We aired down the tyres to 16psi based on this knowledge. Given our car was on 20-inch wheels, which are not the most ideal choice for what we were planning to do, the pressures had to be bang on. The last thing we'd want is to strip a tyre off the wheel. We also needed low enough pressures to get the tyre doing what we wanted it to do. A balance was required.
Before heading out, we also played around a bit with the Discovery Sport's numerous terrain management modes and electronic stability-control systems in order to find the right set-up.
It was easy. There was a mode for sand, which struck us as possibly the right option to select. From here, we also completely deactivated stability and traction controls, so we could attempt to manage these things ourselves.
Once happy with the set-up, we ventured out.
Our partner-in-crime-cum-rescue-car was a dual-cab ute. However, this ute served another purpose – to act as a yardstick in terms of comparing the Land Rover's off-road performance to something more utilitarian and better suited to the mission.
To our delight, we did not strip a tyre. Nor did I get stuck.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for the doctor himself, however, with Sam making an innocent error while busy explaining a few things to me in the passenger seat. I'll come back to that.
By all accounts, the Land Rover behaved incredibly well on the sand. I've only driven on the soft stuff a handful of times before, only in dual-cab utes mind you, so my experience and abilities are firmly grounded in beginner mode.
However, with some careful direction from our fearless leader up front, I am able to navigate arduous sections of terrain successfully. Doing everything in my power to not subdue momentum was the name of the game. Keeping the boot in, and managing the steering carefully, we traversed ground swiftly to a location aside the dunes to compare notes and swap cars.
The fact that I, with scarce ability in this circumstance, went about my day unscathed, is testament to the inherent ability that Land Rover has instilled in the Discovery Sport.
However, it was about to go wrong. More a nuance of the car, though.
After pulling over and spinning a quick yarn, I thought I'd jump in the car with Sam to see what he thought given his vast experience in this same situation. We started the car and took off. That was the problem.
When you switch off the Disco, it starts back up in its default setting. Terrain mode on regular, all aids on. Our previous set-up of sand mode and all aids off had been forgotten.
Coupled with the fact that Sam was busy explaining a few tricks of the trade to me in the passenger seat, we failed to notice this, crossed tracks, slowed down too much, and made a new home for ourselves on the beach.
We had a good laugh about it, but it also demonstrated another point. It's always best to attempt to do such things with someone else around. I also learnt how to do a quick recovery, so I'm sort of glad that he did do a number on the old Disco.
After doing a bit of back-and-forth between the ute and the Land Rover, I did notice how the dual-cab was easier to drive on this terrain. It wasn't a huge degree better, but you were able to take a few more liberties, and be more relaxed behind the wheel.
That doesn't make the Land Rover bad at all, however. In fact, it highlights how surprised we were with its performance.
The steering, with its light off-centre nature, made plentiful sense in this sort of circumstance. I initially criticised this point, but I do now understand why the engineers at Land Rover may have calibrated it in such a manner. It gives you a sense of confidence to use the steering without bumping into unnecessary resistance.
Its powertrain wasn't fazed by the whole ordeal, either. Keeping it in second gear during the moments where we needed accessible wheel speed, and clicking third while coasting, was all it ever asked for. Because of its nine-speed transmission, first gear is a little short, and therefore wasn't fast enough for the softer sections of the beach.
You do need to be preemptive with the throttle. The sand mode creates quite a long pedal, meaning you really need to compress it close to the firewall before it begins to surge power through the all-wheel-drive system. If you're a bit too slow, and are already beginning to slow down due to a course change, there's half a chance you might judge the throttle input required a second too late.
It initially caught me out a couple of times, particularly when I jumped out of Sam's lead vehicle tracks to go my own way. As the vehicle slowed down due to the new amount of stubbornness it encountered, I swiftly sunk the boot in, only to be just saved by the delayed delivery of power. Half a second too late, and I'd have recreated Sam's moment from just before.
After realising this, I began to care more for assessing the path ahead, feeding in power, sometimes unnecessarily, out of newly learned paranoia.
This is what I mean about the dual-cab being an easier drive. You just apply the gas and go for it. If you get even remotely close to getting bogged, its throttle pedal would do all the hard work without any delay or pause.
It just takes a bit more thought to get the same result out of the Disco.
After a good day of fun, Sam and I concluded that we were both pleasantly surprised and happy that our long-termer delivered as suggested by its maker.
If you're driving on the beach day in, day out, then this car probably isn't the right one for you.
The fact of the matter is that during those 10 weeks of the school term, grinding the nine-to-five while the kids are learning, is where the Land Rover will do its best work.
But come the recurring holiday period, when you plan to take the family away, you could do so much worse than using a Disco Sport to partake in such activities.
Just don't forget your Activity Key.