Media Land Rover

Land Rover Discovery Sport revealed: on sale January 2015 from £32,395

Land Rover has revealed the new Discovery Sport compact SUV, which replaces the ageing Freelander and expands the Discovery name from a single vehicle into a family of models.

The new 2015 Discovery Sport is a seven-seater with 5+2 seating standard in the UK from launch on 22 January 2015. Prices will start from £32,395 for the launch SD4 four-wheel drive version; a later front-wheel drive eD4 model will take the price down below £30,000 and CO2 emissions below the 120g/km barrier.

Shorter and lower than the Freelander, with a much better aero performance, the Discovery Sport is nevertheless bigger inside than the Freelander. The third-row seats have been designed with 75 percentile adults in mind – children up to 14 years old said designer Gerry McGovern – and the trademark interior flexibility of the bigger Discovery has been a key design priority for the project. “It has to be inclusive” McGovern told us.

The Discovery Sport has stadium seating, which places people in the back higher up than those in the front, plus sliding middle seats, climate controls and USB sockets for all threw rows, an on-board wifi option and a huge panoramic roof. With ample stowage throughout that incudes a box big enough to take 2-litre pop bottles in the middle cubby, Land Rover is confident of its family-friendly appeal.

Designed for real life

The new Discovery Sport has a premium appearance at first glance. Surfaces are clean, lines simple and well designed. Discovery trademarks include the raked C-pillar and clamshell bonnet that sits on a sharp shoulderline, while tall and deep side glass contrasts with the much more rakish Range Rover Evoque.

The front is sportier than any previous Land Rover, and does have Evoque cues to it, particularly the headlights. Designers believe the meatier stance and more off-road-friendly cut to the lines will bring differentiation once on the road. Similarly, the wheelarches carry through a black finish that wraps around the entire lower half that’s there with off-road protection in mind.

“We wanted to put the sport back into SUV,” said McGovern.

The interior has, again, a clean appearance that’s centred around the vertical-stack centre console. The upright bulk has been taken out of the dashboard but the central stack, into which the new-gen 8-inch touchscreen is built, is still high and close-access. The designers have tried to keep key controls – dials, vents, touchscreen – on a single plane, for clarity. The style will be familiar from the Evoque rather than the Discovery, but it’s more modern, with richer and more contemporary detailing: see the buttons on the centre console.

McGovern’s team have concentrated on family-friendly richness. He describes it as “premium but not precious”. So, there are plentiful Range Rover-style leather and soft-finish aluminium-look surfaces, but these are all mounted high up where they can’t be kicked or drenched in fizzy pop. The more Land Rover-like robust finishes are lower down. Not quite hose-clean, but certainly wipe-clean.

The middle row has a sliding bench seat that, in its rearmost position, offers legroom the equal of a Range Rover. Passengers have an abundance of stowage slots and, because it’s 2014, USB sockets: onboard 3G wifi allows multiple device connectivity and, if they can put the devices down, occupants will notice the clear view forward afforded by the stadium seating. The panoramic roof helps here, without stealing headroom.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport gets a new space-saving multi-link rear axle which allows the third-row 5+2 seats to be fitted even while carrying a full-size spare wheel. Unlike some pseudo seven seaters, it’s reasonably realistic even for six-footers to travel in the back there with a bit of comfort-compromise, although they are best for kids – who anyway will be happy because there are USB sockets and climate control panels back there too.

Land Rover DNA detected

The new Discovery Sport will be the best vehicle in its sector off-road, stresses Land Rover. It’s optimised approach, departure and breakover angles, and honed the Haldex four-wheel drive system (standard on launch SD4 models) in Dubai, Sweden and Eastnor Castle. It can wade through 600mm of water.

On-road handling won’t suffer, though: it’s also been proven at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe. Long-travel suspension will be either Passive or adaptive, and is paired with EPAS electronic power steering.

“The characteristics that make Discovery Sport so versatile off-road also make it a genuinely accomplished vehicle on-road,” said Mike Cross, Land Rover Chief Engineer, Vehicle Integrity. “The vehicle’s composure not only helps on rough terrain, it also results in a controlled fluidity over British B-roads. It gives a keen driver more confidence, and all occupants a high level of comfort.”

The 2.2-litre SD4 engine produces 190hp and 310hlb ft of torque, for 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds for the six-speed manual and 8.9 seconds for the optimised nine-speed automatic; fuel economy is up to 46.0mpg for the manual and 44.9mpg for the auto, with respective CO2 of 157g/km and 161g/km.

Details delight

Land Rover has sweated on the details for the 2015 Discovery Sport – evidenced before you even step inside by the headlights whose bezels contain lettering just like on a high-end SLR camera. You’d never guess there was a 110-litre pedestrian airbag integrated into the bonnet, either: the panel it’s concealed beneath has become a styling element in its own right.

Inside, the door bins both front and rear boast 13.8 litres of usable stowage space; that’s more than double some of the Discovery Sport’s SUV rivals. There are four 12V sockets throughout the cabin and, in all, there’s a total of six USB sockets. A classic Discovery feature appears in the front passenger footwell, too: a curry hook (although these days, the firm prefers to call it ‘carry hook’…).

The all-new infotainment system is app-compatible and can be paired with a 17-speaker Meridian audio system, pushing out a total of 825 watts. The navigation system – standard on SE Tech grade and above – now has 3D city centre landmark display, real-time traffic congestion view and, in a nod to off-roading, a ‘breadcrumbing’ feature: you can set it to record the exact GPS coordinates you drive along, then follow this exact route back to the start…

“The launch of the new Discovery Sport is a pivotal moment in Land Rover’s 66-year history,” said Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover Group Marketing Director. “Not only does it mark the introduction of the first new member of our expanding Discovery family, it also brings the versatility of 5+2 seating to the compact premium SUV market.

“Together with design excellence and engineering integrity, Discovery Sport’s versatility is a key differentiator: its chassis is as competent on-road as off. Discovery Sport is quite simply the most accomplished vehicle in its segment.”

The new Land Rover Discovery Sport opens for ordering soon, with first deliveries in the UK beginning 22 January 2015. Prices? From £32,395 – here’s the full rundown of the launch SD4 190 range.

Prices: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 190 6-speed manual

Prices: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 190 9-speed auto