The Land Rover Discovery Sport, now available with the new 2-litre diesel engine, combines good on-road manners with the usual impressive Land Rover off-road ability, and it even offers seating for seven.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport replaces the Freelander. It gains a slightly rounded version of the well-received Evoque styling, it’s now available with the new 2-litre Ingenium engine, it has all the usual Land Rover off-road ability, and it’s available with seven seats – so it has much going for it.
Land Rover has certainly got its act together in the styling department at the moment, and this has to be one of the many contributing factors why the brand is doing so well. The Evoque was a key vehicle to start this turnaround, and the Discovery Sport builds on the same family look.
The interior also shares similarities with the Evoque, but everything is slightly more workmanlike in the Discovery Sport. Where the Discovery Sport does have an advantage is with the ability to seat seven, even though this is officially a ‘5+2’ seating layout. The week that the Discovery Sport was on test with us coincided with a family wedding, and it was pressed into service shuttling people – including groups of seven adults – between hotels, the church and the reception venue. Adults in the rear seats had to be able to demonstrate a degree of flexibility, but it was possible to transport seven of them.
The Discovery Sport also shares much of the four-wheel drive hardware with the Evoque, meaning that it promises to be at least equally competent in the rough stuff.
When the Discovery Sport was launched, it was only available with the old 2.2-litre diesel engine shared with a Ford Transit. However the all-new 2-litre ‘Ingenium’ engine is now available, which aims to offer a more refined experience, along with improved efficiency. In our test car this engine was mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
In terms of the driving experience, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, but the Discovery Sport exhibits many similarities to the Jaguar XE. It’s very competent on the motorway, being refined, mostly quiet, and very comfortable. And also like the XE, the Discovery Sport feels extremely agile on A and B roads. It was tested on some of the same North Wales roads as the last Freelander that we had, and whereas the Freelander felt as though it might fall off some corners into a hedge, the Discovery Sport felt incredibly agile, with sharp steering – much more so than should be the case for a large, tall, heavy 4×4.
So the Discovery Sport combines a comfortable ride at motorway speeds with agile handling. And then of course it has its party trick – it can drive up a mountain. Just to be sure, we put this to the test, and we can confirm that not only can it drive up a mountain, but it can do this very competently. It may have a slightly firmer ride than the magic carpet ride of the Range Rover Sport Hybrid that we recently tested, but then again, the Discovery Sport doesn’t cost £90,000.
It’s all good so far, but the Discovery Sport does share one issue with the Jaguar XE (both with automatic transmission) – it’s very slow to pick up when accelerating from standstill. When trying to exit out of a side road into a main road full of rush hour traffic, this can be very frustrating, and a little dangerous. And although the Discovery Sport is perfectly happy when it’s in motion, there are times when the engine can feel somewhat strained under acceleration. After all, this is a 2-litre diesel engine in a vehicle weighing around 1.9 tonnes.
The Discovery Sport also shares its infotainment system with the XE, meaning that everything is touchscreen-controlled. It seems that manufacturers believe that motorists like touchscreens, but we think that taking your eyes off the road and trying to reach out and touch a small button on a screen at the right pressure in a moving vehicle is not a good idea, and an iDrive-style controller is much better – and safer. If you’re not sure about this, try and magnify a map in a Discovery Sport using the small fiddly buttons on the touchscreen, and then try the same thing using the rotary dial in a BMW, all on a dark twisting and bumpy B-road at 60mph, and we’d be surprised if anyone thought the touchscreen option was better.
The same principle applies to the heated seats. There’s a button on the dashboard for the heated seats. But then you have to go into the touchscreen to select the level of heating required. Just having a one-touch button on the dash would be much better.
The official NEDC combined economy figure for the Discovery Sport is 53.3mpg (equating to 139g/km CO2). We averaged 42.0mpg at 70mph on the motorway, and 30.6mpg around town. Overall after a week we averaged 38.8mpg. This is predictably short of the official 53.3mpg, but isn’t bad for a large seven-seat Land Rover that can also drive up a mountain. In the real-world, bulky aerodynamics and weight count against solidly-engineered Land Rovers when it comes to fuel economy.
The manual version has the same economy and emissions as the automatic, but there’s a two-wheel drive ‘2.0l TD4 Diesel E-Capability’ model which shaves 10g/km CO2 off the emissions figure. We can’t see much point in buying a Land Rover that is engineered to have all the extra capability of four-wheel drive, and then to disconnect this ability.
The Discovery Sport is available in four trim levels: S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. Our test car was a top-of-the-range Discovery Sport HSE Luxury 2.0L TD4 Diesel Automatic, which had lots of standard equipment, but at £43,000, this also meant it was relatively expensive. Yet it still had some optional features of Entertainment Pack (£2,500); InControl Connect (£650); Adaptive Xenon Headlamps (£375); and Electric Deployable Towbar (£950). This took the total price to a fairly substantial £47,475.
Again, like the Jaguar XE, there is much to like about the Discovery Sport. It looks good, the interior is functional, it’s spacious, the seven seats are practical, it drives well on the road, and it’s very effective off-road. Everyone who came into contact with the vehicle – which, thanks to it being drafted into service for additional wedding transport, was quite a lot – liked it. In particular people liked the good visibility that resulted from being high up – thus explaining one of the reasons why SUVs and crossovers are so popular. But as with the XE, this would be an even better car if Jaguar Land Rover could make the transmission faster reacting from standstill. And although an average fuel economy of 38.8mpg over a week with the car is a vast improvement on Land Rovers from just a few years ago, it’s still not as economical in the real-world as we’d like. But overall, for doing most things very well, including having the ability to go almost anywhere (and so giving it a practical advantage over the XE), the Land Rover Discovery Sport is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.