The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a replacement for the Freelander, only with the versatility of seven seats. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a highly refined and classy family SUV, and feels especially sophisticated compared to the Freelander it replaces – there’s more than a hint of Range Rover here. In fact, if you put the larger Discovery and a Range Rover Evoque into a computer program to create a hybrid of the two, you’d probably get something similar to the Discovery Sport.
The new Discovery sport is another creatively proportioned Rover. In photo than it is, it looks compact, but to see it in person is to do a double take at just how diminutive it is. The rounded nose is pure Evoque, while the clamshell bonnet is a traditional Land Rover touch. The headlamps feature crosshair-style LED daytime running lights, and the tail lamps get a similar treatment, while the black wheel arch trim is another Evoque design cue. It’s about 9 inches longer than the Evoque but still a couple of inches shorter than competitors like the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3.
As such, the Discovery Sport is one very complete family car, with room for up to seven (assuming the two of them are quite small), a very calming driving experience and the ability to really tackle the off-road stuff with expert ease.
While it might share much of its DNA with the more expensive Range Rover Evoque, the Discovery Sport’s dashboard has a more modest feel to it. Materials still feel robust, and there is a pleasing, user-friendly simplicity of the control layout. The dials themselves are easy to read. Instantaneous fuel economy, terrain modes and even the fuel meter are very well stationed in this SUV. The central touchscreen system with Land Rover’s latest software is, for the most part, very slick, although it could be improved by the addition of a few shortcut buttons to take you to your favorite features. Even the cheapest Discovery Sports come with an 8-inch touchscreen display, climate control, DAB radio, rear parking sensors and heated, part-leather seats. The more roominess comes from the full sky roof. You don’t get sunroof in this car, but a wide skyroof just adds a perfect space feel in this full size family SUV.
We have tested the 2.2 liter variant and 9 speed gearbox. The combination of 9 speeds for 147bhp makes smooth progress at all speeds. The steering feels firm and even at low speeds it responds in very linear way makes the car easy to place around the corners. And while there’s not much in the way of feedback, the electrically assisted steering set-up is precise. Combined with the high-set driving position and excellent visibility, it allows you to place the Discovery with confidence. Wide pillars restric some amount of visibility at rear end of the car but the rear parking sensors makes it easy for the commandeer.
As with outgoing Freelander and current Evoque, the Discovery Sport benefits from the same simplified version of the JLR’s clever Terrain Response system. Just choose between ECO, Normal, Mud, Sand, Rocks and Snow modes, then let the car’s sophisticated traction control system do the rest. Well, that’s not all, because you also get a variable hill descent control, an impressive wading depth of 600mm, plenty of ground clearance and excellent approach and departure angles. When the going gets tough, the Discovery Sport leaves its compact SUV rivals floundering.
This car is a proof that Land Rover can make even tall and heavier cars than can handle very well. It may not be as sporty as Evoque but it’s still shrugs off corners with great precision. A sprint of 0-100 under 10 seconds is surely a good number for this size of the SUV. A combination of 9 speed gearbox and well controlled suspension setup makes the progress very quick yet smooth for the occupant side. The most impressive thing about the Discovery is the lack of road noise. There’s virtually no tire roar and only the biggest bumps transmit a muted thump into the cabin from the suspension.
The standard safety kit includes nine airbags, electronic stability program, two ISOFIX points in the middle row, automatic collision prevention braking and anti-lock brakes. It’s another convincing Land Rover with lots of handling finesse, style and capability. That the experience is now underpinned by a car better proportioned to meet the needs of a family will prove the pincher for many buyers. It makes a real good alternative over BMW X3 and Audi Q5 under much lower price tag with plenty of goodies.