VOY­AGE OF DIS­COV­ERY

Land Rover’s new com­pact SUV Dis­cov­ery looks to be the com­plete pack­age — on and off the road.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

THE ver­sa­tile Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport typ­i­fies the brand’s resur­gence and, of­froad, leaves the Ger­man ri­vals be­hind.

The Dis­cov­ery Sport is aimed at ev­ery­thing from topend Subarus to BMWs, with a pack­age that fits more into the com­pact SUV than its ri­vals can match.

That breadth of ca­pa­bil­ity extends from its off-road abil­ity to its seven-seat op­tion and high­lights the rapid im­prove­ments to the Land Rover line-up since it rein­vented it­self with the launch of the Range Rover Evoque.

The Disco Sport is based on the Evoque plat­form and is due to touch down in show­rooms in May.

The range starts at $53,300 for a man­ual TD4 turbo diesel. Step­ping up to HSE trim level costs $57,900. Opt for the higher-out­put SD4 diesel and the price is $56,500 in base guise, HSE is $61,100 and top­spec HSE Luxury starts at $66,500.

How­ever, to en­joy a sporty drive, add $3470 to the list price of the Disco Sport. The ac­tive driv­e­line that uses on-de­mand AWD and in­cludes the very com­pe­tent torque vec­tor­ing is a $1620 op­tion; adap­tive dy­nam­ics, which uses metal par­ti­cles in the damper fluid to help keep the car flat through the cor­ners and in­cludes a “dy­namic” drive mode, is $1850.

The vast ma­jor­ity of buy­ers will part with an­other $2500 for the nine-speed au­to­matic. The auto is stan­dard only on the $59,000 petrol model and that is sold only in Australia in base SE guise.

It is the per­for­mance pick of the range, eas­ily eclips­ing its diesel sta­ble­mates in terms of sprint times.

SE ver­sions are fit­ted with a re­vers­ing cam­era, rear park­ing sen­sors, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, cruise con­trol, leather up­hol­stery, lane-de­par­ture warn­ing, pow­ered front seats, eight-inch touch­screen with SD card sat­nav and the four-mode “Ter­rain Re­sponse” soft­ware that adapts steer­ing, gearshifts, throt­tle re­sponse, the cen­tre diff and brak­ing.

First im­pres­sions: the Dis­cov­ery Sport has more ini­tial body roll than an X3 and whether in petrol or diesel is no match for the BMW ri­vals in a straight line.

Then we hit the gravel and that tar­mac tilt is for­given and forgotten as the Land Rover serenely pow­ers over cor­ru­ga­tions that would have the BMW’s oc­cu­pants air­borne.

It can con­fi­dently be driven at high­way speeds on hor­ren­dous sur­faces. The torque-vec­tor­ing can be felt help­ing the com­pact SUV to tighten its line around cor­ners and the sta­bil­ity con­trol un­ob­tru­sively kicks in when re­quired. The elec­tric power steer­ing is di­rect and well­weighted and con­veys re­as­sur­ing feed­back.

Noise sup­pres­sion is good and the nine-speed auto is slick head­ing up or down the cogs — us­ing the pad­dle-shifters for man­ual changes isn’t as con­vinc­ing, with a mo­ment of lag on shifts.

In­te­rior space is good in any seat, with the slid­ing rear pews en­sur­ing plenty of legroom for 180cm trav­ellers. Opt for the third row and there’s room — just — to ac­com­mo­date adults.

This is one of the most con­vinc­ing ex­am­ples of the resur­gent Jaguar Land Rover brand. It has a pres­tige look and feel backed by ver­sa­til­ity that goes well be­yond that of Ger­man ri­vals. That’s go­ing to res­onate with the more ad­ven­tur­ous buy­ers in the pre­mium com­pact SUV seg­ment — four stars out of five.

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