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