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Land Rover has been on a push in recent years to appeal to a new, more urbane and image-conscious buyer. They’ve been doing it really well: the sleek and stylish Range Rover Evoque has been a runaway success. But now they’ve turned the attention back to the Land Rover product line with the launch of a new lifestyle vehicle bearing the Discovery name: the Discovery Sport.
Think of the Discovery Sport as a more family-oriented Evoque, with more space and the option of seven seats – but with the same sort of glamour and prestige as the Evoque, and of course Land Rover’s legendary off-road ability. Launched in early 2015, the Discovery Sport line-up has new vigour with the recent addition of Jaguar Land Rover’s new, more efficient Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine.
The Discovery Sport is the obvious successor to the Freelander but it has the modern face of the Land Rover brand. The front is pure Evoque – gorgeous and curved – with characteristic two-bar grille with hexagonal mesh, while the rear styling is again familiar design territory from the Discovery Sport’s Rangier cousins. It’s got the kerb appeal and pedigree, and can definitely turn heads.
Inside the Discovery Sport is a comfortable, luxurious five seater but you can turn it into a seven seater at a €2000 cost option. The space in the third row is small so the seats are more suited to children, and in fairness Land Rover do sell their Discovery Sport as a “5+2”. Space in row 2 is excellent, and a seat slide and recline feature adds extra versatility. Boot space is limited when the third row of seats is in place, but with those seats folded neatly into the floor, there’s a spacious 689 litres.
The Discovery Sport positions itself as a premium compact SUV and the interior lives up to that – it’s a utilitarian but stylish design, with plenty of luxury materials and surfaces. I particularly like the way the rotary gearshift dial rises from the centre console when you start the car. A touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard – it has nice graphics and is easy to use.
There are four trim levels for the Discovery Sport on the Irish market: S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. Standard equipment includes alloys wheels, electric windows and mirrors, lane departure warning, air con, electronic parking brake, keyless start, and touchscreen. My test car was an SE model and adds equipment like auto lights and wipers, cruise control, dual zone climate control, and rear parking sensors. The top two trim levels add more equipment but the price starts to creep up. The range kicks off with a FWD eD4 model at €39,050 for S, €45,230 for SE, €51,140 for HSE and €58,310 for HSE Luxury.
On the road the Discovery Sport feels agile, and yes, sporty, and that feeling is enhanced by steering that’s sensitive enough to allow you to tuck the car neatly into corners. If you push the car hard into a corner you will pull back because the body starts to lean, but it doesn’t take it long to right itself again on its springs and really grip the road so you can hit the power quickly to surge out of the corner. The car is excellent on the motorway, with really very little noise getting into the cabin. The seating position is properly high and lofty, and it feels like one of the more authentic SUVs from behind the wheel. But in a refined way – there’s no roughness about this beauty!
Land Rover is phasing out the old 2.2-litre diesel that the Discovery Sport was launched with and replacing it with a new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel with either 150bhp or 180bhp. My test car had the new diesel with 150bhp power output mated to a 9-speed automatic (a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard). It feels quick, smooth and extremely refined, returning good economy of 53mpg considering the size and scope of the car. CO2 emissions are 139g/km, which places it in tax band B with a reasonable €280 for annual motor tax.
Like a lot of drivers, off-roading would not be part of my weekly routine but when driving a Land Rover Discovery Sport it seemed only right to try out my test car’s off-road ability. The great thing about the Discovery Sport is its off-road capability is packaged so well that you don’t need to be Bear Grylls to feel confident off-road in this. The Terrain Response system simplifies things a great deal allowing you to select between grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts, and sand settings for optimal grip and control depending on the surface.
I tested the car in early February after some heavy rainfall, over gravel, mud and grass and it was as simple as selecting the setting to best describe the terrain. I found the hill descent control a great tool on a slippery grass/mud slope – again you select it from a button on the dash and then just ease the car forward. The instinct might be to touch the brakes – hit them too heavy and you could slide out of control. During a hill descent, if engine braking is insufficient to control the vehicle speed, the hill descent control will automatically operate the brakes to slow the vehicle.
To sum up the Land Rover Discovery Sport: it’s premium and practical, tough but refined, and is as good to drive as it is to look at. As a compact luxury SUV it doesn’t come cheap, especially once you start moving up the trim levels and maybe add the automatic gearbox and those extra seats. But if you really like the look of the Discovery Sport, you’ll have one of the most desirable, authentic and capable SUVs.
Model Tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport SE 4WD 2.0 TD4 Automatic
Price: €50,765 (Range starts at €39,050)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 10.3 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 139g/km
Motor Tax: €280 per year