Land Rover proudly describes its Discovery Sport as the world’s most versatile and capable compact SUV – a title that it easily lives up to. It boasts dynamic styling, class-leading technology and all the 4×4 capabilities you could wish for.
The goodHandling, capabilities and styling
The badOptional extras crank up the price
Land Rover Discover Sport SD4 HSE Luxury
With all the elegant appeal of a Range Rover and the awesome off-road capabilities of a Discovery, buyers are treated to the best of both worlds if they sign on the dotted line and drive away from a Land Rover showroom in the Discovery Sport.
Launched in 2015 as a replacement for the Freelander, the five or seven-seat Discovery Sport is available in two or four-wheel-drive with a choice of engines, transmissions and trim levels so customers have a wealth of models to choose from.
With its go-anywhere styling it looks imposing from any angle thanks to chunky 20-inch wheels, distinctive fender vents and grille with black surround, a clamshell bonnet, a black tailgate finisher, privacy glass and a strong, muscular profile.
Move inside and the cabin oozes quality with a clean, clutter-free design that is packed with premium features and quality finishes such as perforated Windsor Leather seats, soft-touch surfaces, full smartphone connectivity, heated seats (front and back), ambient lighting, a rear-view camera and an Entertainment Pack option costing £2,245 that added a 16-speaker Meridian surround sound system, a 10-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi hotspots, an advanced sat nav system and plenty more besides.
The test car was priced at £47,894 (£51,595 with options) and was powered by a 240PS 2.0-litre SD4 diesel engine. It could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 7.5 seconds, maxing out at 127mph and, according to official figures, it delivers combined fuel economy of 44.1mpg with carbon emissions of 169g/km.
In the past I have been fortunate enough to drive the Discovery Sport off-road and although I had no plans to venture from the Tarmac on this occasion, it’s most reassuring to know just how accomplished the vehicle’s Terrain Response system is. It adjusts the car’s mechanics to deal with grass, gravel, snow, mud and ruts and that means the vehicle can wade through water up to 600mm deep and climb over obstacles 211mm high. In fact, at launch Land Rover claimed the Discovery Sport was “the most versatile and premium compact SUV ever” – and that is a title it will not give up without a fight.
With versatility and practicality in mind, the Discovery Sport can quickly and simply be converted from a five-seat family car into a seven-seat vehicle thanks to a pair of rear seats that fold flat to the boot floor when not in use. Storage options are also impressive with a boot capacity that ranges from 194 litres to 1,698 litres with the seats dropped flat. In addition, there is a good-sized glovebox, cup holders, central bin and practical door pockets to safely store away bits and pieces.
The vehicle offers excellent levels of comfort for all occupants and the legroom in the back is very generous with ample space for a trio of adults of the taller variety to stretch out. This means lengthy journeys can be enjoyed no matter where you are sitting and the comfortable driving position is also worthy of a mention too. In fact, I completed a 250-mile trip without any breaks and felt great when I arrived at my destination.
That’s partly down to the comfort but also because the Discovery Sport is a delight to drive. The driver’s seat and steering wheel can be adjusted to find the perfect position and excellent all-round visibility is another bonus. In addition, all the dials, controls and read-outs are perfectly positioned for ease of use.
And there’s no need to be scared of the vehicle’s larger dimensions either as it proved deceptively agile when negotiating some narrow lanes through St Ives in Cornwall where it confidently tackled tight twists and turns.
Then out on the open road, the acceleration was smooth and rapid through the nine-speed automatic gearbox. The road-holding was ultra-grippy which meant the car could be driven enthusiastically into long sweeping bends for fun and the 4×4 system keeps the car firmly planted with next-to-no body sway.
When it comes to refinement, the cabin is well insulated so very little wind, engine or road surface sound filters through and the firm suspension helps to iron out any undulating road surfaces or unexpected potholes.
The car is also packed with a whole raft of safety features and driver aids, although I did find the Auto High Beam Assist was a little slow to react in the fog and resulted in a few oncoming vehicles flashing their headlights at me.
But that aside, the Disco Sport was a dream to drive and I’m just sorry my prayers for a snow storm were ignored during my two-week driving experience.
Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 HSE Luxury automatic
Having been quite a loyal fan of the Land Rover Freelander I was a tad concerned when the company announced it was being discontinued and a replacement would be found.
But those fears were most definitely unwarranted as Land Rover introduced its all-new Discovery Sport model which it billed as the most versatile and premium compact SUV ever – and it’s a worthy title.
In fact, it exceeds all expectations because it utilises all the finest qualities of the Freelander and combines them with the go-anywhere capabilities of the Discovery and stunning styling of the Range Rover – the result is a highly refined SUV that looks amazing, is dressed to thrill and offers exceptional off-roading options along the way.
The seven-seat Discovery Sport looks athletic and muscular from any angle thanks to chunky 20-inch alloy wheels, a clamshell bonnet, distinctive grille, a panoramic sunroof, pronounced wheel arches, xenon headlamps with LED signature and front fog lamps. The test model also featured a Santorini Black contrast roof costing an additional £500 that blended beautifully with the striking Phoenix Orange body work.
Step inside and the interior oozes premium class and is very Range Rover-esque in its luxurious styling and first class techno treats. Features include the finest Windsor leather upholstery, a tablet-like touchscreen with swipe, scroll and drag functions, an 11-speaker sound system, sat nav, a heated leather steering wheel, cooled and heated front seats with power adjustments, configurable ambient lighting, automatic wipers and lights, dual-zone climate control and plenty more besides.
In addition, it’s worth remembering that the Discovery Sport is a very established operator away from the Tarmac too thanks to its Terrain Response system that can be set to deal with varying conditions with settings for normal roads, grass, gravel, snow, mud and ruts. But for this particular test drive I was sticking strictly to the road as I clocked up just over 700 miles during my two-week loan.
The vehicle’s in-house designed and built Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine certainly impressed with a constant supply of power on tap at all times, and despite its large dimensions the Discovery Sport proved both agile and deceptively fast. It can sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 8.7 seconds and tops out at 117mph. According to official figures it can achieve combined fuel efficiency of 53.3mpg with carbon emissions of 139g/km.
But it’s the manner in which the Discovery Sport handles that cannot fail to impress. In busy town centres the vehicle was simple to manoeuvre and the high-seated driving position was an added bonus with cars and pedestrians darting out from all angles.
Then out on faster motorways and open roads the car was an absolute pleasure to drive. It cruised effortlessly through the automatic 9-speed transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles available if you want to take a little extra control.
The road-holding from this four-wheel-drive model was completely assured and the steering nice and precise. Another impressive factor was how quiet the cabin remained – even at higher speeds it was well-insulated against road surface, engine or any wind noise.
Comfort levels are also very high and the extra two seats folded flat to the boot floor mean the vehicle can quickly be transformed into a very practical seven-seater. The boot is accessed via a powered tailgate and storage options are comprehensive with a capacity of 194 litres which can be increased to 1,698 litres with seat rows two and three lowered. Elsewhere there are plenty of handy storage compartments including a good-sized glovebox, cup holders, deep central bin and practical door pockets.
And, of course, the car boasts a comprehensive list of innovative safety features to help protect both occupants and pedestrians.
All in all, the Discovery Sport, priced at £43,000 (£47,975 with options) is a fantastic all-rounder packed to bursting with technology – it looks stunning, is loaded with creature comforts and even delivers outstanding off-road options when needed.
Land Rover Discovery Sport MY16 – first drive
When Land Rover launched its replacement for the Freelander earlier this year it was greeted with nothing but positive feedback, but there was just one element missing – an engine worthy of such a prominent vehicle.
That’s because at launch the Discovery Sport was powered by a somewhat dated and not particularly efficient 2.2-litre diesel powertrain.
But that has changed now thanks to the introduction of JLR’s in-house designed and built 4-cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine that is efficient, powerful and complies with all the Euro6 stringent cleanliness standards.
The Ingenium engine is available with two power outputs 150bhp or 180bhp. According to Land Rover, it is 24kg lighter than the outgoing SD4 engine and up to 16 per cent more efficient.
The 150PS version can deliver a very creditable 57.9mpg with carbon emissions of just 129g/km. However, the only downside is that this particular engine is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and on models fitted with five seats as opposed to seven to save weight.
I had the opportunity to test out two models fitted with the more powerful 180bhp option on lengthy road routes that incorporated busy town centres, motorways and lots of twisting country lanes.
We also put the Discovery Sport through its paces on some of Eastnor Castle’s punishing off-roading tracks.
For the road driving I initially drove an entry level SE model priced at £34,200 (£46,150 with options).
This model can sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 8.4 seconds and has a top speed of 117mph. It can achieve combined fuel efficiency of 53.3mpg with carbon emissions of 139g/km.
The first thing that impressed me was how smooth and quiet the start-up is compared to outgoing models. There is far less vibration and juddering motions when pulling away and the cabin remains beautifully quiet even when the car is pushed hard.
The nine-speed automatic transmission works brilliantly with the new engine – it’s both responsive and flowing as it eases through the gears. And you can take extra control via the steering wheel-mounted paddles if you wish.
The road-holding and all other aspects are still just as impressive as when the car was initially launched. It’s a vehicle that offers great driving dynamics, excellent comfort levels and all the versatility one could wish for in a 5+2 seat vehicle. There are techno treats and creature comforts galore to be explored. It has all simply got better thanks to the new powertrain.
The second vehicle for the road route was the range-topping HSE Luxury grade priced at £43,000 – increased to £47,475 with options.
This model had identical performance stats to the first vehicle, but boasted some additional on-board luxury. Basically it has all the bells and whistles!
Once again, the Discovery Sport was sharp, responsive and an absolute delight to drive. The high seated position is of great benefit when driving along winding country lanes as it offers a view above the hedgerows to see what’s ahead, which is invaluable when tractors are creeping out at all angles.
But once again, the engine was the star of the show delivering a punchy performance and despite being slightly less powerful than the outgoing 190bhp engine, there was a constant supply of power on tap which makes light work of rapid manoeuvres such as overtaking.
And finally to the off-road part of the test. Eastnor Castle spreads across 5,000 acres with 80 miles of tracks offering some of the toughest terrain in the UK. It has been a proving ground for Land Rover for decades and is the ideal place to test a vehicle’s capabilities to the limit.
We spent almost two hours tackling steep inclines, traversing muddy banks and wading through deep water with hidden rocks and dips beneath the surface. And the Discovery Sport was up to every challenge put in its path. The Terrain Response system was set to mud and ruts and it offered all the traction you could wish for. In addition, the hill descent system made light work of long, slippery slopes.
It’s also worth noting that there were no additional features fitted to the vehicle that we drove off-road – it was the HSE Luxury model on standard wheels. It was simply a lot dirtier!
The Discovery Sport is a vehicle that can wade up to depths of 600mm, has an obstacle clearance of 212mm and boasts approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees, so why would we expect anything but total success when faced with boulders to climb and rivers to cross?
All in all, the Discovery Sport is a fabulous piece of kit. It’s practical, competitively priced, offers all the versatility and comfort of a luxury 5+2 vehicle and can tackle anything Mother Nature throws in its path along the way. And now it finally has the perfect engine to complete the package.
Discovery Sport – first drive
When you describe your latest model as the world’s most versatile and premium compact SUV it has a lot to live up to – thankfully for Land Rover, the Discovery Sport does just that.
It takes its place in the prestigious company’s line-up replacing the outgoing Freelander model and initially will be powered by a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel SD4 engine delivering 190PS with either a nine-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.
Buyers can select from four richly-equipped trim levels with entry prices starting from just a fiver shy of £32.4k and rising to £42,995 for the range-topping HSE Lux model.
The Discovery Sport will be able to sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 8.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 117mph. And according to official figures it can achieve combined fuel efficiency of 44.9mpg with carbon emissions of 166g/km.
But stats and performance figures aside, this is a vehicle that proudly carries the ‘DISCOVERY’ name on its bonnet and that means it has to be capable of any off-road challenge thrown in its path.
So when it came to launching the vehicle which Land Rover sees as a strong rival to the Volvo XC60 and BMW X3, the rugged and frozen volcanic landscape of Iceland was chosen to really put the car through its paces.
And with Mother Nature throwing everything she had at the destination that is just south of the Arctic Circle, the vehicle really had to pull out all the stops.
The Discovery Sport features 5+2 stadium style seating, plus a whole host of innovative systems including a state-of-the-art high strength steel and lightweight aluminium body shell, an all-new touchscreen infotainment system with seven USB connection points, advanced pedestrian airbag technology and a multi-link rear axle that has many benefits including increased agility.
It also boasts an athletic yet muscular appearance with stylish body lines that accentuate its all-round appeal.
Eye-catching features include a clamshell bonnet with distinctive two-bar grille, a rear skid plate, robust bumpers, slim wraparound and circular daytime running lights, pronounced wheel arches, plus a sloping roofline that gently tapers away. But as an example of its strength that roof can support more than 4.5 times the vehicle’s weight – no softy then!
And take your seat behind the multi-function steering wheel and its impossible not to be impressed with the premium build quality and high standard of technology that greets you.
That includes Land Rover’s all-new infotainment system which quickly and efficiently connects the driver in a way never seen before on a Land Rover. There are on-screen swipe, drag and scroll features similar to those found on a smartphone or tablet and you can connect two separate devices wirelessly. In addition all the graphics have been improved and there is enhanced voice recognition too.
And Land Rover is introducing a number of smartphone apps that will allow the owner to check to see if the vehicle is locked or check how much fuel is in the tank from the comfort of their favourite armchair. You will even be able to find the vehicle’s location in a crowded car park.
But despite all the flash technology, this is a working Land Rover that sits neatly between the dogged Defender models and more luxurious Range Rover line-up.
And so to Iceland where during the bleak winter months there are just a few hours of daylight and the Discovery Sport was certainly put to the test during a two-day 250-mile-plus route that skimmed volcanic crater rims, traversed steep inclines and crossed tracks that were deemed impassable.
The Terrain Response system which allows you to tackle normal roads, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, plus sand proved invaluable as did the Hill Descent Control which now delivers a slower speed option.
In addition there’s a whole host of safety features to help protect occupants such as gradient release control, roll stability control, dynamic stability control, electronic traction control and engine drag torque control.
These are just a few of the factors that earned the vehicle a maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings.
We tested the top-of-the-range HSE Lux model with nine-speed automatic gearbox and for an SUV, the steering is remarkably sharp. Engine and road noise is also surprisingly low even with studded tyres fitted for extra grip, although the acoustics do pick up slightly when the vehicle is pushed a little harder at motorway speeds.
The Discovery Sport gripped the icy gravel roads like glue and cornering was just as accomplished. In fact, after a short time behind the wheel it was very easy to forget the road surface comprised purely of compact snow and thick ice. Not once did we spot any Tarmac.
Where heavier snow drifts and blizzard-like conditions hampered our progress, the vehicle carved out a new path and even on steep declines the Discovery Sport remained totally composed as the hill descent control kept speeds to a minimum.
The high-seated driving position means all-round visibility is excellent and comfort levels are also good with the heated seats and highly efficient climate control protecting occupants from the bitter chill and minus 10 degrees temperature outside the car.
The sixth and seventh seats are folded neatly into the boot floor and when needed they can quickly be positioned and are ideal for children up to the age of about 12.
And when it comes to storage the Discovery Sport certainly has the upper hand over rivals with a 479-litre boot capacity that can be increased to a whopping 1,698 litres with the second and third rows of seats folded flat.
Sometime next year, the vehicle will be available powered by JLR’s new four-cylinder Ingenium engine, which will see an improvement in fuel efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions. That will coincide with the introduction of a 2WD version with an entry price just under £30k.
So is the fair to say the Discovery Sport is the world’s most versatile and premium compact SUV? All I can say is if it’s not – show me one that beats it.