Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015Just six months after going on sale, Land Rover has canned the launch 2.2-litre SD4 engine in its seven-seat Discovery Sport, and replaced it with an all-new 2.0-litre TD4 engine. The new motor has a bit less power, a bit more torque, a lot more economy and a lot fewer CO2 emissions. It’s a worthy change.

It wasn’t there from the start because it’s an engine so new, it wasn’t actually ready when the Discovery Sport was launched. The Queen hadn’t even launched the factory it was to be built in. And the Jaguar XE was always going to get it first. Now the baby Jag’s launch is out the way, it’s the Discovery Sport’s turn. Welcome to the roll-out of the car it always should have been.

Land Rover’s visually not changed a thing. Badges apart, there’s nothing to give away the fact it’s sporting one of the most advanced four-cylinder diesel engines on the market – JLR’s new Ingenium motor packs in a great deal of clever tech aimed at making it clean, quiet, smooth-spinning and responsive.

It’s offered in two guises, 150hp and 180hp. Land Rover’s kept the tech details as simple as possible: all for now are four-wheel drive, the 150hp only comes as a six-speed manual and although the 180hp’s offered as a manual and nine-speed auto, both have the same CO2 emissions. That’s 129g/km (and 57.7mpg) for the 150hp, 139g/km for the 180hp.

The 150hp is restricted to SE, SE Tech and HSE trims, meaning it may be something of a rarity. That’s because lots of Discovery Sport buyers have been going for the upmarket HSE Lux, and then adding on even more options such as 20-inch alloys, exterior black pack, privacy glass and contrast black roof. With them in mind, Land Rover’s thus launched a new HSE Black version, which we tested on the launch event.

The HSE Lux gets more kit too – everyone was choosing 20-inch wheels, climate control for the third row of seats and individual USB sockets for all seven passengers… so Land Rover’s made the kit standard, for no increase in price. The new TD4 Ingenium range itself is actually pretty good value compared to the pricey launch cars, starting from £30,695 and surprisingly either matching or undercutting the equivalent version of the old SD4 motor.

Given how capable and appealing we already know the good-looking Discovery Sport is, it’s a no-brainer even without driving it. But as we were there at Land Rover’s Ledbury test centre, we thought we’d do the decent thing and find out by just how much the new Ingenium engine has improved the Discovery Sport.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180: on the road

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015

The starter motor sound is cultured, it doesn’t shudder to life, it ticks over quietly and, once the chill of a cold start has passed, with virtually no clatter or tinkle. Yes, this new Ingenium engine is a big step on from the old Ford-derived motor before you’ve even twisted the rotary auto shifter (all HSE Black are automatics) into first gear.

The difference is a bit like changing from your clip-clop smart shoes into trainers. Much nicer, far more cushioned, a deal more responsive and without all the background rattle when you’re on the move.

A touch more torque (317lb ft instead of 310lb ft) doesn’t sound much on paper, but it’s now spread from 1,750-2,500rpm. With the Ingenium’s snappier and more fluid response, combined with the nine-speed auto’s right-gear sensibilities (in ‘S’, anyway: it is sometimes a bit lazy in ‘D’), the TD4 Discovery Sport now feels more intuitively punchy and reactive, rather than the old model’s press-wait-surge-(clatter)-go mannerisms.

It spins up and down through the revs beautifully smoothly for what’s also an extremely capable and competent off-road lugger (nine speeds means first gear can be ultra-short, good for driving up mountains). It largely doesn’t sounds like a diesel and doesn’t feel like a four-cylinder: not quite six-cylinder sweet (like most diesels, it will clatter near the 4,000rpm power peak) but, crucially, a sight more premium than the engine it’s replacing. Finally, Land Rover has an engine that’s a match for BMW and Audi, rather than one struggling to hide its mainstream roots.

The rest of the Discovery Sport is still strong. No, it’s not quite a sports car, but it handles more keenly than you’d ever believe a ridiculously capable off-road machine could. Maybe it’s psychological, but the 24kg-lighter engine up front seems to enhance front-end turn-in and the stable, grippy, roll- and wallow-free Discovery Sport can be chucked about with more accuracy, speed and carefree abandon than you’d think.

The big wheels of the HSE Black give a slight underlying irritability to the ride, so it never truly settles, but look beyond this high frequency stuff and the body control, compliance and absorbency of the top-line Disco Sport again feels suitably premium. It’s a cohesive, appealing car to drive, one sportier than you expect, certainly one that works well over long distances.

And, with the new engine, finally a driving experience without a glaring weakness to contrast with the many things it does well.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180: on the inside

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015

The interior is identical. Same low-fuss but good quality look, same practical layout, same rather buttoney centre console and Evoque-spec cowled dials. It’s very light and airy, gives a superb high-up ‘command’ driving position and feels a surprisingly large and confidence-inspiring car for one with relatively mainstream-focused appeal.

A super set of front seats are the off-roader’s equivalent of a Jaguar F-Type’s buckets, sitting occupants ‘within’ the Discovery Sport despite the view down on the road they have. Some of the details they see do jar – the blocky screen between the dials, the decade-old laptop-look to the touchscreen sat nav – but the stuff that matters to families remains impressively present and correct.

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015

It’s spacious, particularly the easy-access, light and airy middle row whose individually adjustable rear seats give passengers the sort of recline-tweaking flexibility those in the back of Mercedes-Benz S-Class enjoy. The third row isn’t bad either: anyone back there is likely to universally love it as they can charge their smartphone while tweaking their climate control, more than compensating for any relative lack of comfort.

Refinement is the area that’s really improved over the SD4. The new engine is a lot less intrusive, particularly when battling seven-up weight, and the lack of vibration subconsciously gives a bit of a luxury sensation. Even the improved low-down torque and linearity means they’re unlikely to notice power bursts and gearchanges as much: passengers may not be able to say why, but they’ll certainly find the Discovery Sport Ingenium a touch nicer to be in than the old one.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180: running costs

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015

Big wins for the 2.0-litre TD4 engine here, says Land Rover. CO2 emissions are down by two VED bands, there’s now a sub-130g/km model that fleets and business users will love (Benefit In Kind and Whole Life Costs are down significantly), and overall fuel economy improvements should make notable improvements to fuel bills.

Fleets will also like the fact service intervals have stretched by a quarter, from 16,000 miles to 21,000 miles. Less downtime, less expense overall. What were already very strong RVs are only likely to get better too, which will make PCP finance schemes cheaper – and add in better value list prices, for something that’s definitely worth another sit-down with the dealer and his computer to check on affordability.

Dealers themselves are likely to be busier: the new engine’s 150hp variant means Land Rover’s been able to bring in a headline entry price from £30,695, or £32,195 most to whom that appeals will sensibly find themselves buying anyway. Add in the extra value for the popular HSE variants and a previously slightly expensive-looking premium SUV now looks appreciably better value alongside its competition. Saying that, our £43k-base, £47k-with-options test HSE Black was perhaps pushing things here…

If all that gets people into showrooms, the new engine’s overall effects will likely fully convince them the Discovery Sport is now worth a shot.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180: verdict

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 2015

The Land Rover Discovery Sport in compromised 2.2 SD4 guise has been a success: Land Rover’s sold 8,500 in the UK and has no stocks left of the old car – and hasn’t had to discount them to get rid of them in preparation for this one. But, even though the used car experts have said there’s unlikely to be any short-term penalty for owners of the old car, there’s no doubting the smart money that waited for the new TD4 Ingenium’s arrival will be paid back.

No wonder Land Rover’s ebullience at this variant’s arrival seems tinged with a slight sense of relief. Finally, it’s as it should have been from the start. All the good things – pleasing design, clever interior, decent quality, great practicality, off-road brilliance and on-road competence – are now backed up by an engine that turns it into a genuine premium car experience.

Pity it wasn’t there from the start. The chance for a big bang is gone. Don’t overlook this model year change though: the new 2.0-litre TD4 Discovery Sport is the car it should have been from the start, and should now be near top of your list if you’re looking for a family-friendly premium SUV with a bit of character.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180: specifications

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Price: £41,250 (2.0 TD4 180 HSE Black)

Power: 180hp

Torque: 317lb ft

0-62mph: TBA

Top speed: TBA

Fuel economy: 53.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 139g/km