Impressive Discovery Sport

As the latest Land Rover reaches UK dealerships, Huw Thomas reports…

MUCH more than a Freelander replacement, the new Discovery Sport kicks off a “three-marque” marketing strategy for Land Rover.

DISCOVERY SPORT.

DISCOVERY SPORT.

 

From now on the Range Rover line-up will major on Style and Performance, Discovery models on Versatility while a new Defender range will project the company’s go-anywhere, off-road 4×4 prowess.

As before, Discovery Sport is built at Halewood alongside the Range Rover Evoque on an evolution of that car’s platform. The Evoque tended to eclipse the Freelander so the latest Land Rover is not only a new start, it has also to differentiate itself.

It is slightly larger and there is a distinct sense of extra cabin space inside. Crucially much of the extra length has gone into the wheelbase which allows for two (foldaway) occasional seats at the back making it a (5+2) seven-seater.

The three-seat mid-rear row now slides fore-aft and reclines so passenger space versus load carrying permutations are pretty extensive.

The backs of this row drop forward too but do not fold flat in traditional estate car fashion so there is an incline in the load floor as you push stuff forward to the backs of the front seats.

Greater torsional stiffness (the doors open normally even when it’s acutely pivoted off-road) leads to commendable dynamics (steering, cornering, ride, body control). A high-tensile steel structure is complemented by aluminium for panels such as roof and bonnet and also suspension assemblies.

Weight-saving has been achieved, therefore, and the new compact integral multi-link rear suspension not only frees up load area there’s room for a spacesaver spare wheel too – very clever. Unlike the all-aluminium Range Rover/Range Rover Sport or Land Rover Discovery, the Discovery Sport (as for most compact SUVs) is not an all-out dual purpose 4×4.

Driveline is basically front wheel drive with a Haldex unit at the back which kicks-in on demand increasing rear drive through mounting pressure on a set of clutches. No transfer box or low ratio gears then but it does deploy a raft of offroad assets.

Grouped under the familiar “Terrain Response” layout, the vehicle’s electronic system (braking, traction, slip, stability and roll stability) adapts to work with the 4×4 system for snow and ice, mud and sand, rocks and loose surfaces etc. Hill-hold and (crawl speed-adjustable) hill-descent are there and graphic imaging on the eight-inch touch-screen displays exactly what’s going on (electro-mechanically) and where. Model line-up is SE, SE Tech+, HSE and (auto only) HSE Lux: £32,395- £37,595 (6sp manual); £34,195-£42,995 (9sp automatic). A £1,800 premium for the auto ‘box brings a broad range of gearing, more relaxed high-speed cruising and a quicker 0-62mph sprint but official (combined) mpg and CO2 figures remain marginally worse.

Press preview impressions were of a livelier car in manual transmission guise – and the more attractive choice other than within a dense urban environment. Regrettably, the electric parking brake seems here to stay but it’s a pity a mechanical hand brake could not be offered with the manual gearbox – which would be the off-road ideal. Front seats on the SE adjust for reach/recline/height but only HSE/HSE Lux offer tilt-up for better thigh-support. Seat base length can’t be extended. SE “headline items”: heated windscreen and front seats, 18in alloys, rear parking sensors. SE Tech adds sat-nav, power tailgate, front parking sensors. At £33,895 that seems to be the one.

The 2.2 litre SD4 190ps Diesel is a carry-over from the Freelander. No petrol unit is offered here but when the new Ingenium units (to debut in the Jaguar XE compact executive car soon) from the Wolverhampton factory become available this might change. Those engines should evince a better fuel consumption and CO2 profile.

The Discovery Sport did impress. The cabin has a “premium” feel with a solid, car-of-substance quality. Taken with the more restrained exterior, there is enough contrast with the “high style” Evoque so the two shouldn’t end up fighting over the same potential buyers and that, of course, is just what the marketing people want to hear.

Facts and figures: 117mph; 0-62mph 10.4 secs (8.9–Auto); official combined figure: 46mpg (44.9mpg-auto); CO2 162g/km-road tax ‘G’/£180 (166g/kmauto ‘H’/£205); max braked trailer weight 2,200kg. Main rivals: BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60. Land Rover is more compact overall than these yet offers 5+2 seating.

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