Media Land Rover

Road test review: Land Rover Discovery Sport

Base price: $87,900
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre petrol turbo four-cylinder, 184kW/365Nm, AWD, economy 9.2 litres per 100km, CO2  208g/km (WLTP), 0-100kmh 7.6 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4598mm long, 1727mm high, 2741mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 754 litres, 19-inch wheels.
We like: Massively improved interior, impressively comfortable, vastly better infotainment screen, now with added Range Rover.
We don't like: Lag off the line, thirsty for a 2.0-litre.

I must admit that the overwhelming feeling I had towards the Land Rover Discovery Sport was... nothing,really. It never made me feel much of anything. It wasn't as good as a proper Discovery and it wasn't as stylish as a Range Rover Evoque. It didn't have a particularly special interior - it was just alright - and it didn't drive particularly memorably, or have overly-impressive off road abilities. It simply was.

But it did sell well. Well enough that a second generation was launched - and it seems that Land Rover must have felt a bit that same about the Disco Sport, because they have tried much harder with the new one.

Is it a new one? It looks very much the same...

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Well, yeah, that's a bit confusing really, because while the new Disco actually looks like a mild facelift, around 70 per cent of its parts are new, including every body panel apart from the bonnet, roof and tailgate, and it also sits on Land Rover's all-new C-SUV architecture (that also underpins the new Range Rover Evoque) that is primed for electrification.

From the outside, the changes are subtle, despite the extensively new body panels - there are new headlights with a Discovery daytime running light signature while the rear gains new LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators. A new grille with a lower and wider mouth dominates the front and the "visual mass" of the car has been pushed further down to exude a sportier look.

While it doesn't look terribly different, it does actually look better - a more cohesive design that brings it subtly into line with the rest of the family.

So does the interior look the same too then?

No, and it is the interior is where most of the obvious changes have taken place.

The centre console, infotainment and instrument cluster systems have all been replaced with significantly more modern versions, with a massively more responsive touchscreen that does away with the annoying lag that could reduce a grown man to tears of frustration. Or, at least, quite a bit of swearing.

In fact, the Discovery Sport is now far more Range Rover-like inside, with a big jump in material and build quality throughout. It even uses a number of Range Rover parts, most obviously, the steering wheel.

You could bemoan that fact that this robs the Disco Sport of its Land Rover identity somewhat, but that would require it to have actually had a Land Rover identity in the first place, which it didn't - or any real distinctive identity at all for that matter - so going with a higher quality Range Rover one is much better.

Does it drive like a Range Rover then?

Depends which one you are talking about, because it drives pretty much exactly like the Range Rover it shares its platform with (that's the Evoque, in case you weren't paying attention) which is no bad thing, as it means it is an impressively agile thing that is actually quite endearing to throw around a few corners, while maintaining a suitably regal feel to its ride.

It does also mean that it isn't as effortlessly plush as a full-blown Range Rover, or even the larger Discovery, but it does put on a convincingly good impression of it, albeit with a slightly firm edge to the ride that dulls the luxury shine a bit, but is a worthwhile trade off for the added agility.

Likewise, while it mightn't be quite as sharp and responsive as the likes of a BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, that Range Rover DNA shines through in terms of ride quality, giving it an edge in terms of overall comfort.

So what are the downsides?

Sadly, the Discovery Sport also shares two other traits with the Evoque - and indeed everything equipped with Jaguar Land Rover's 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engines - a distinct lag off the line and a fuel thirst that is disproportionate to the engine's capacity, although not necessarily to its power.

When it is up and running, the 2.0-litre turbo is a brilliantly assured thing, effortless powerful, flexible and response, but they still haven't quite nailed that all-important standing start response. 

The lag off the line is better than in the last model, and can be mitigated to quite a large degree by rolling the power on progressively (which also helps that fuel consumption), but a full throttle dive for a gap in traffic still involves a frustrating and concerning delay before much anything happens. You do get used to it, but it is still an annoyance.

The fuel consumption is more of a persistent disappointment than anything else, simply because you expect a smaller capacity engine to provide fuel efficiency gains, because that is why it is jammed in the engine bay after all.

If the Disco Sport packed a 3.0-litre six with 180-odd kilowatts, then the double digit consumption figures (we saw around 12 to 13L/100km on a mix of open road and urban running) wouldn't grate as much as they do from a turbo four with the same power... 

Any other cars I should consider?

There is no shortage of options in the medium luxury SUV segment, and we don't have room to get into all of them here, but the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5 are the most obvious external competitors for the Discovery Sport, while in-house competition, in the form of the smaller Range Rover Evoque, is also a good alterrnative.

Volvo, Lexus and Alfa Romeo all offer interesting alternatives in or around the segment and price range, while top-spec models from non-luxury brands are also potential options as well.

Like I said, no shortage of choice here, but the Discovery Sport does carve out a compelling case for itself by simply becoming more Range Rover-like. Which is certainly not a bad thing for the money.