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First drive: Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.

First drive: Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Freelander-replacing Land Rover Discovery Sport marks the start of a new family of Discovery models.

   



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Land Rover Discovery Sport

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The Freelander was always pretty good off-road, but while its Land Rover badge promised a premium ownership experience, the vehicle didn't quite live up to that. The all-new Discovery Sport, however, shoots straight to the top of the class in terms of status and desirability. It's also phenomenally capable in every sense of the word.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 HSE Lux auto
Pricing: starts at 32,395; as tested was 42,995 on-the-road
Engine: 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: four-wheel drive, nine-speed automatic (six-speed manual is standard)
Body style: five-door, seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 161g/km (Band G, 180 per year)
Combined economy: 44.9mpg
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Power: 190hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 1,750rpm

What's this?

The new Discovery Sport is a few things. It replaces the Land Rover Freelander for a start, but it also marks the arrival of a new 'family' of Discovery-badged Land Rover vehicles. It will be joined by an all-new full-size Discovery towards the end of 2015. While the Sport model is larger than the Freelander it supplants, it's shorter overall than its two key rivals, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Despite that, the Land Rover has a seven-seat layout as standard in the UK and, depending on how you configure it all, more boot space than either - or almost as much rear legroom as a Range Rover. All that certainly adds credence to Land Rover's assertion that all of its Discovery models will put versatility first and foremost.

And it feels spacious inside too - especially if the leather is light in colour and the panoramic roof is fitted. The middle row of seats has stretching room for three adults, though of course the rearmost chairs are best reserved for smaller passengers or shorter trips. Along with the space comes a step up in terms of perceived quality over the Freelander. The cabin doesn't look radically different to Land Rover's other products, but it feels well-made and is easy to use.

A major step forward is the inclusion of a new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It's far faster responding than Land Rover's current effort and features tablet-like swipe and pinch functionality to navigate the screens. At times the graphics are still a little clunky, and it takes time to find where everything else, despite plenty of buttons either side of the screen, but overall it's a big improvement. We got to try out Land Rover's new InControl suite of apps too, hooking up an iPhone 6 for satnav. It had a few issues with connectivity, and some of the commands weren't easy to access, but the beauty of this concept is that the phone app gets updated, not the car's software.

How does it drive?

Due to rather adverse winter conditions during our two days of testing in Iceland, it's impossible to say what the Discovery Sport will be like on normal roads. The test cars all had studded tyres fitted - and they were used to the full. We experienced deep soft snow, packed ice, frozen gravel and a lot more. The Discovery Sport made it all very easy to deal with. Even when it looked like we might bog down in a hidden snow drift, it pulled through. I'd like to say it was due to my expertise, but much of it was thanks to the Discovery Sport's Terrain Response system. It was kept in the Grass/Gravel/Snow mode all of the time and when things got really challenging it was clear that power was being divided up between all four individual wheels while we ploughed on. Very impressive.

When not powering through soft snow we cruised along frozen main roads. Only when we jumped out of the car to take a few snaps did we realise just how slippery the surface was - it was difficult to stand up on any incline, for instance. Yet the Discovery Sport was super stable and allowed us to maintain a good pace throughout the day. More impressive than its 4x4 ability, however, is the sense of refinement. Studded tyres make a lot more noise than regular ones, and ice-packed roads are far from smooth either. However, we never had to raise our voices in conversation.

Likewise the engine, Land Rover's familiar 2.2-litre turbodiesel, is well-isolated from the cabin - yet loud at idle from outside the car. It has plenty of performance and it's produced at low revs too to aid off-roading and towing. Nonetheless, it's not very efficient in comparison to the competition. That'll be remedied by the middle of 2015 when Land Rover introduces its new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine, which will be available in a front-wheel drive version emitting just 119g/km. It's hoped that the four-wheel drive version of that car might dip under 130g/km.

Both six-speed manual and nine-speed automatic gearboxes are offered and though many will wonder if nine gears are necessary, the latter is very smooth. You certainly never feel like it's constantly changing ratio (unless you take control for yourself), though first gear is particularly low to help with slow manoeuvring off-road.

Verdict

The Discovery Sport's breadth of capability is indisputable, though of course only a small percentage of buyers will ever scratch the surface of its talent. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Land Rover customers are sticking with 4x4 models so it does appear to matter to them. It's a far more desirable car than the Freelander ever was, and more versatile than its premium SUV rivals.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 11 Dec 2014



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2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.



2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - interior. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - interior. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - interior. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - interior. Image by Land Rover.
 

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Image by Land Rover.
 






 

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