The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a luxurious compact SUV that’s designed to take on desirable models such as the BMW X3and Audi Q5. Essentially a replacement for the ageing Freelander 2, the Discovery Sport is bigger and even more upmarket than its predecessor, plus it boasts a versatile seven-seat layout.
Externally, the Discovery Sport features a sleeker and more stylish look than the Freelander. In fact, with its rakish profile and slick detailing, the newcomer looks more closely related to the latest Range Rover models rather than the more humble Land Rover line-up. This theme continues inside, where you’ll discover classy design and plenty of top-notch materials.
On the road, the Discovery Sport feels composed and agile. The steering lacks feedback, but it’s fast and precise, helping you place the car with confidence. And while the low speed ride is a little firm, the Land Rover becomes more comfortable at speed. Even better, road and wind noise are well suppressed. The only weak link is the 2.2-litre diesel, which is gruff, particularly when extended. On the plus side, it delivers strong real world pace.
There are four trim levels to choose from – SE, SE Tech, HSE and HSE Luxury. All versions are well equipped, with heated seats, part leather trim, a DAB radio, Bluetooth connection and climate control featuring as standard.
Land Rover has its own distinct design language, and the new Discovery Sport ditches the squared-off lines of the Freelander in favour of bold curves inspired by the brand’s other models. In fact, if you put the larger Discovery and a Range Rover Evoque into a computer program to create a hybrid of the two, you’d probably get something similar to the Discovery Sport.
The rounded nose is pure Evoque, while the clamshell bonnet is a traditional Land Rover touch. The headlamps feature crosshair-style LED daytime running lights, and the tail-lamps get a similar treatment, while the black wheelarch trim is another Evoque design cue. There’s a mix of body-coloured and black window pillars, while the roof subtly curves back to a high-set rear end.
As in the Evoque, you can personalise the Discovery Sport with a contrast roof and different wheel designs, while the Black Design Pack adds a black finish to the grille, roof, exterior trim and 20-inch wheels.
Climb inside, and the Discovery Sport is pure Land Rover. The climate controls, dash and switchgear are all taken from the Evoque, but that’s no bad thing, as it manages to feel like a premium product with a robust edge. Go for the auto, and you get a rotary gear selector that rises from the centre console, although unfortunately the driver’s footwell is awkwardly shaped, so you might struggle to find a comfortable position for your left foot.
Land Rover’s infotainment system is the real highlight inside. The new eight-inch high-resolution screen has a user-friendly interface, with clear labels and a responsive touchscreen, while 3D mapping and simple address entry mean the standard sat-nav is a breeze to use.
The Discovery Sport shares many of its underpinnings with theRange Rover Evoque. However, there have been some major changes, including the adoption of a new multi-link rear suspension set-up.
However, while the chassis has been reworked, the 2.2-litre diesel is carried over more or less unchanged from the old Freelander. With 187bhp and a muscular 420Nm of torque it packs plenty of firepower, but it simply can’t match the best for refinement.
It’s a little gruff at idle and sounds harsh when extended. Even so, Land Rover has worked hard to isolate the worst noise from the cabin, and at a cruise the engine note subsides to a faint background hum.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but the optional is well worth the extra outlay if can stretch to it. Not only is the transmission smooth and responsive, it allows you to make the most of the available real world performance by keeping the engine revs in the less intrusive mid-range. Outright acceleration is improved too, as the time for the claimed 0-60mph sprint drops from 9.8 seconds for the manual to a sprightly 8.4 seconds.
While the engine isn’t the last word in refinement, the rest Discovery Sport is well up to class standards. Most impressive is the lack of road noise. There’s virtually no tyre roar and only the biggest bumps transmit a muted thump into the cabin.
The Land Rover’s relaxing character is enhanced by the composed ride. There’s a firm edge to the suspension at low speed, but the new multi-link rear axle comes into its own the faster you go, and most bumps and potholes are effortlessly smoothed out. That said, it’s a shame that the Evoque’s excellent MagneRide adaptive dampers aren’t currently available, even as an option.
On the plus side, the Discovery Sport feels agile and alert through a series of corners. The steering is extremely sharp and direct, allowing the Land Rover to dive through bends with a car-like eagerness.
And while there’s not much in the way of feedback, the electrically assisted set-up is precise and faithful. Combined with the high-set driving position and excellent visibility, it allows you to place the Discovery with confidence.
On the road, the Discovery Sport feels quite large, and while the view ahead is great, the standard rear camera and parking sensors are essential when reversing. At least the light steering means it’s easy to manoeuvre.
Body movement is also well controlled, plus there’s plenty of grip, even on the standard fit all-weather tyres. Finally, the electronically controlled permanent four-wheel drive system delivers confidence-inspiring traction, even in the slipperiest conditions.
While the Discovery Sport is all-new on the outside, under the skin it has plenty of parts from other models. The platform is the same as the Evoque’s, as is much of the switchgear. The SD4 diesel is the tried and tested Ford-derived unit from the Freelander, so it shouldn’t spring any surprises, either.
The most obvious upgrade over the old Freelander is the inclusion of what Land Rover calls a 5+2 seating layout. Thanks to the adoption of a compact multi-link rear suspension layout, engineers have managed to create space at the rear for a third row seats.
The two individual chairs can be pulled out of the floor of the 981- in one movement, while a sliding middle row allows for easy access and increased legroom. Even so, adults will only want to sit in the back for short journeys.
Source: Auto Express