Peter Burgess | December 2014
Land Rover is on such a roll it can hardly keep its head from spinning. Buyers worldwide can’t get enough of the British-built SUVs, sales are continually ramped up and a factory is being built in Brazil to deal with demand. Much credit goes to the revitalised Range Rovers, from the super luxury range topper to the compact and more affordable Evoque.
Now Land Rover is doing the same for Discovery, with the bold new Discovery Sport replacing the old Freelander (LR2) as the first of the new range. The style has the right credentials, with clamshell bonnet and the iconic lines and graphics. But the new model is classier and more luxurious. And, unlike the rival Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, there’s the option of seven seats.
That will make the Disco Sport a killer choice for families who need to carry kids to soccer or ballet lessons. You won’t want to put them in the back seats for a long journey but for an hour or so they are just fine.
What’s the Land Rover Discovery Sport like to drive?
Mechanically, much is owed to the Evoque and Freelander. That means the same 2.2-litre diesel engine that is some way behind the curve when it comes to economy but, with 190hp, it offers smooth, strong performance. The engine is coupled to a slick 9-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddleshifts that’s something of a delight, and there’s the option of a six-speed manual if you insist.
The extra row of rear seats has required some smart re-engineering of the rear suspension to free up space, and that has the benefit of a more supple ride for passengers. Well, it feels like that, but driving the Discovery Sport on gravel roads and through the first heavy snow of winter in Iceland isn’t the ideal way to judge how it might ride on the roads back home.
The venue was important for Land Rover because, as always, it needs to show how well its latest model perform in tough terrain. It does well. The Discovery Sport is simply packed with electronic drives aids that help even a novice off-roader tackle seemingly impassable terrain.
The only thing that stopped our convey in Iceland was a horizontal blizzard that caused the occasional excursion into a snow bank. The wading depth is now an unbelievable 600mm, just 100mm shy of the much bigger Discovery.
But just as importantly, the new Discovery Sport is an entertaining car, whether you need to cross a snowy field, the slopes of a volcano or simple take the family out to visit relatives.
Why buy a Discovery Sport instead of a Q5, X3 or XC60?
The seven seats may swing it for many but even with five seats the Discovery Sport makes a compelling choice. With the Evoque already a dominant force at the luxury end of the spectrum, this smallest Discovery can afford to be a touch more functional. Yet Land Rover has pushed its new model closer to the Evoque than it might have dared. There’s a real quality feel and a touch of class too.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. There’s still the irritating satnav screen that requires too much messing about to do things like change the scale of the map. You can opt for an InControl app interface, and run mapping and other functions from your smartphone, but like every other car we’ve tried in 2014, these systems are in their infancy and in a couple of years we’ll look back and laugh at how clunky they are today.
But back to basics and you won’t knock the comfort levels in the Discovery Sport. The leather seats in the HSE models are an impressive blend of softness and support. The climate control system is powerful, there’s a massive glass roof, a reversing camera and the Sport will even park itself if you pick the right option.
MR Verdict: Land Rover Discovery Sport
Does this look like a brand new car? With so much Land Rover family heritage present in the design, the Discovery Sport already looks like an old acquaintance. That’s clever. So too is packing in seven seats into a vehicle no bigger than its rivals, the easy seat folding arrangement and the massive and very usable luggage capacity.
I like the technology too. Things you don’t notice, from the aluminium bonnet, roof and tailgate that save 24kg, to the use of sophisticated electronics to make driving both easier and safer. There’s even a pedestrian airbag, a first in its class, to reduce impact injuries.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport will be a success, of that I have no doubt. What’s really interesting is whether its more practical nature might make it outsell the Evoque. Now that would be a surprise.
Rivals: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 HSE Lux
- Audi Q5
- BMW X3
- Volvo XC60
These rivals are all chasing each other for the same ground, that of the premium compact SUV. Which means they offer a similar amounts of space, comfort and drivability and are, in their own way, a very desirable choice. While the Range Rover Evoque is a more stylish, less practical alternative to these, the new Land Rover Discovery Sport stands slightly to the other side as a more practical, less overt statement.
Specification: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 HSE Lux
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: 9-speed automatic
Power: 190hp (140kW)
Torque: 310lb ft (420Nm)
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 117mph (188km/h)
MPG: 44.9 (6.14 l/100km)