Don’t duck the Disco

Great value and un­ri­valled off-road abil­ity pro­pel the Land Rover up the medium lux­ury SUV charts

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - BILL McKINNON bill.mckinnon@news.com.au

LAND Rover’s Dis­cov­ery Sport has rock­eted up the sales charts this year, leav­ing Audi’s A5, BMW’s X3/X4, Porsche’s Ma­can and the Lexus NX in its wake. It sits in sec­ond place in the mid-size lux­ury SUV class, be­hind the Mercedes GLC.

The maker re­cently fit­ted its new 2.0-litre “In­ge­nium” four­cylin­der turbo diesel/nine­speed au­to­matic driv­e­train as part of its first up­date.

We’re in the base model SE Td4 150 (as in horse­power, or 110kW), which com­pared with its Ger­man ri­vals looks a bar­gain at $56,355.

DE­SIGN

This is a Tardis, with a roomy, ver­sa­tile, five or seven-seat lay­out inside a com­pact body.

Two in­di­vid­ual rear seats fold flush into the load floor.

They’re a $2050 op­tion, which also in­cludes a 60-40 split mid­dle bench with a sim­ple fold and slide func­tion that pro­vides easy ac­cess to the back, plus but­tons in the cargo bay to re­motely re­lease each back­rest sec­tion for an ex­tended floor of 1.75 me­tres.

The back stalls are more for oc­ca­sional than daily use and fine for young kids but full-size hu­mans are forced to squat in an un­com­fort­ably tight space.

No such prob­lems in the mid­dle row, which has plenty of legroom and is loaded with kid­friendly stuff, in­clud­ing two USB ports (the Disco has five in to­tal), a 12V out­let (three in to­tal), cen­tre pil­lar vents, am­ple stor­age and low win­dow sills, so young chil­dren won’t feel claus­tro­pho­bic.

Up front, in a firm, sup­port­ive, leather-wrapped seat, you face a typ­i­cal bling-free Land Rover dash, with chunky con­trols and a small touch­screen. The menu struc­ture can be as baf­fling as some of the am­bigu­ously la­belled but­tons that sur­round it.

Still, voice con­trol, which has you chat­ting to a nice English lady, gets it right al­most ev­ery time (for phone and au­dio; it doesn’t con­trol nav­i­ga­tion), there’s yet more stor­age and the rear cam­era in­cludes a mov­ing cen­tre line mode so you can hitch up first time.

As with many Euro­pean SUVs, the Disco’s max­i­mum tow­ball down­load is just 100kg, so ex­ploit­ing its claimed 2200kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity is prob­lem­atic.

Land Rover’s lat­est party trick is Tile’s tracker smart­phone app, part of the $550 In Con­trol Apps op­tion pack­age not fit­ted to the test car.

Land Rover says 64 per cent of us spend up to 15 min­utes daily look­ing for be­long­ings. That’s not nearly enough time for me but help is at hand. You down­load the app and put lit­tle Blue­tooth tags on your wal­let, bag etc, so when you get in the car a synced dis­play on the touch­screen tells you if you’ve for­got­ten some­thing. If you haven’t a clue where it is, the app can ac­ti­vate an alarm on the rel­e­vant tag, so you can track it down. Great, but what if you’ve lost your phone? No­body ever does that…

Wig­gle your foot un­der the rear bumper and the stan­dard power tail­gate opens and closes au­to­mat­i­cally. Mounted ex­ter­nally un­der the floor (in the five-seater) is — round of ap­plause — a full-size steel spare.

AROUND TOWN

Com­pact dimensions make the Disco more ma­noeu­vrable than most seven-seaters, as does light, di­rect steer­ing.

Small turbo diesels can some­times strug­gle in the cut and thrust of traf­fic but the smooth, quiet In­ge­nium is strong and re­spon­sive from 1500rp­m3000rpm, so if you spot an op­por­tu­nity you can take it.

Nine ra­tios help the cause and also con­trib­ute to sin­gle fig­ure econ­omy in town. Shifts in the lower gears can be a touch abrupt.

ON THE ROAD

Torque counts, and with 380Nm from just 1750rpm in a rel­a­tively light (1785kg) pack­age, the Disco cruises ef­fort­lessly and si­lently. The nine-speed segues un­ob­tru­sively through the ra­tios but can take a while to kick down from the high gears when you plant the ac­cel­er­a­tor. There’s no point look­ing for top end power — there isn’t any.

At 100km/h, in ninth gear, the In­ge­nium is tick­ing over at just 1300rpm, av­er­ag­ing 5.0L6.0L/100km.

The Disco Sport ac­tu­ally has no sports pre­ten­sions at all and is a bet­ter SUV for it.

Com­pli­ant sus­pen­sion and high pro­file tyres on the base model pro­vide su­perb ride comfort on rough roads. At sane speeds it han­dles se­curely and con­fi­dently, with pre­cise, com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing and

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