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2019 Discovery Sport HSE, 2001 Jeep XJ Cherokee
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We took our annual trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks the week before Labor Day. We have a house at Duck, the second-most northern town on the Outer Banks. Corolla, the next town north, is the northern-most town on the Outer Banks. Beyond Corolla is Corova Beach, an unincorporated community behind the dunes and reachable only by driving the beach, and then, after about 15 miles from the end of the pavement back in Corolla, is the Virginia state line, marked by a fence that stretches across the island. Vehicles can't go into Virginia as at that point it's a federal wildlife refuge.

What is unique about Corova Beach is the feral horses -- descendants of Spanish horses from the late 1500s and survivors of shipwrecks. There are 200-300 of them making their home behind the dunes. I thought this trip would be a good opportunity to try out the DS off-road and it just ate up the sand without issue. Over three days I took three groups up to see the state line and the horses. Sand conditions ranged from hard packed where the tide had recently retreated (note: make sure you have a tide table as there were places where you could see the high tide line was right up against the dunes. I use an iPhone app) to fluffy and soft. At one point I had to come to a dead stop in a large area of fluffy soft sand when a couple of dogs ran in front of us. I was able to roll to a stop pretty quickly without actually braking, and was a little concerned (the tires were sunk a little ways into the sand) about starting up again but I had no trouble. No need to get out the Treds.

I was running on the OEM Pirelli Verdi Plus All-Season highway tread tires, aired down to 18 lbs. Terrain response system was set for sand and DSC was off. This experience got me to thinking about tires. On sand you want to float, not dig in. An AT tire is going to want to dig, which you really don't want. I got to thinking that if your driving consists of paved roads and beaches/dunes, maybe a highway traction all-season tire is the way to go. And then I found this video to back up my thinking:

I ran mostly in 3rd gear. The DS would occasionally knock itself down to 2nd.

A little more running ground clearance would have been helpful. I was worried about thsoe little fin-like things in front of the front tires but they came through just fine. What I did manage to do is to partially tear off the plastic fairing underneath the engine/gearbox. Looks like a Rival 6mm engine skid plate is in my future. I'm not going to pay for a new plastic one. Who is the preferred Rival provider? I can't find one in the US.

I'm glad the dealer threw in the rubber floor mats/cargo area mats. Much easier to get the sand out.

4x4 vs AWD: the only vehicle I saw having trouble was a Hyundi SUV of some variety. I'm sure it's a cheap AWD system. A couple of Subaru Foresters were doing fine. I know there is some argement about whether the DS is 4x4 or AWD, but as a Jeep driver since 1988, it acts more like 4X4.

Where are the Discovery Sports? On a round trip from Northern Virginia to the NC Outer Banks and back, I didn't see another one. On the sand and on the OBX roadways Grand Cherokees and 4 door Wranglers were everywhere. Especially 4 door Wranglers. That thing is a cash
cow for Fiat-Chrysler. At OBX I did see a couple of Disco IIs and an LR3 or LR4.
 

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2019 Discovery Sport HSE, 2001 Jeep XJ Cherokee
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91 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I installed the Rival 4mm engine/gearbox skid plate about a month after the beach trip. I never found a US supplier so I ended up getting it from a German company. Probably added two weeks to the process. My local neighborhood service station installed it in 30 minutes or so. The mechanic, who drives a 4Runner, said, "Oh, that's going to be so much better than what you had."

I've been off road twice since the installation and the plate has picked up a couple of scuffs, so it's doing it's job. At this point I'm not afraid to say the DS is essentially as capable off road as my 2001 Jeep Cherokee (10.3" ground clearance, skid plates, rear receiver hitch, front tow hooks, AT tires). I'd like to have a couple more inches of ground clearance (and maybe some more aggressive tires) but lifting can be an expensive proposition with this kind of suspension. And keep in mind that the full-stock, off the dealer floor XJ Cherokee had the same ground clearance as the DS has (I had mine built with the factory 2" lift), and in today's Jeep marketing language all XJs were considered "trail ready."

I did get the factory receiver hitch package both for towing and to have a solid rear recovery point, and I carry a short-handle, broad blade screwdriver in the glove box to be used to remove that panel that hides the front tow point. Going off road? Take it off before you leave the driveway. What an unfortunate design decision! When going off road at the family farm I also generally toss a 4 ton come along in the back, just in case. And get yourself two ARB2012 3.25 ton shackles and a shackle for the receiver hitch (if you have one).

I think the DS is a very capable offroader. You might just have to pick your line with a little more thought than if you had a foot of ground clearance.
 

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2019 Discovery Sport HSE, 2001 Jeep XJ Cherokee
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91 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I always whip that panel off at the front too. I agree, I wish they had found a neater way to leave the recovery point exposed. Matzker in Germany makes an awesome looking replacement piece which does just that (check it out) but i have no experience of the company and the website is in German so I doubt they ship internationally.
Thanks for the link to Matzker. I love the concept and the look but at $742 USD I (cost + VAT) I didn't know they were making car parts out of gold.
 
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