Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport

Use­ful SUV signs off

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK - AL­LAN MUIR

Dur­ing the past cou­ple of years, we’ve run a num­ber of prac­ti­cal, use­ful SUVS that have dealt ad­mirably with the stuff that ev­ery­day life has thrown at them. The Hyundai Tuc­son and Kia Sportage spring to mind. But I feel con­fi­dent in say­ing that none of them has been as ver­sa­tile, or as uni­ver­sally adored, as the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport.

Now-de­parted pro­duc­tion edi­tor Mel Fal­coner summed up the car’s value best when, hav­ing bor­rowed it for a trip to France, she likened it to a star quar­ter­back that the rest of the team turns to when they want a long-dis­tance play. The Dis­cov­ery Sport swiftly gained a rep­u­ta­tion as the go-to ve­hi­cle for any jour­ney, with or with­out fam­ily and friends in tow, not only be­cause it was spa­cious and could seat seven but also be­cause it was re­ally, re­ally good to drive and an ex­cep­tion­ally com­fort­able long-haul tourer.

At 4.6m long, the Dis­cov­ery Sport is a ‘Goldilocks’ size: not too big and not too small. It’s com­pact enough to be easy to park and ma­noeu­vre any­where, aided by quick steer­ing that makes it feel agile, yet it also man­ages to pro­vide seven very us­able seats and a ter­rific amount of flex­i­ble space for oc­cu­pants and cargo. It’s a clever bit of pack­ag­ing.

One of the main points of in­ter­est from the out­set was how much of a dif­fer­ence Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre diesel en­gine, de­vel­oped in-house, would make in terms of per­for­mance, re­fine­ment and fuel econ­omy com­pared with the old 2.2-litre Ford en­gine with which the Dis­cov­ery Sport was launched. Cer­tainly, a claimed av­er­age of 53.3mpg and CO2 out­put of 139g/km made it look rea­son­ably com­pet­i­tive on pa­per against pre­mium ri­vals.

As it turns out, the en­gine is one of the less im­pres­sive things about the Dis­cov­ery Sport. With 178bhp, it’s a lit­tle down on power next to its Ger­man ri­vals and econ­omy has proved dis­ap­point­ing in our hands, with an av­er­age of 33.2mpg. Hav­ing said that, I’ve al­ways found its per­for­mance to be more than strong enough, espe­cially at mo­tor­way cruis­ing speeds, and it’s rea­son­ably free-revving and re­fined for a four­cylin­der diesel. It does tend to labour at low speeds, though, some­times re­quir­ing a man­ual down­shift to get the nine-speed au­to­matic ’box into a more ap­pro­pri­ate gear.

Of all the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s at­tributes, the one I’ve come to value most is how fan­tas­ti­cally com­fort­able it is. The spa­cious­ness of the cabin helps a lot, but the seats and driv­ing po­si­tion are also among the best I’ve en­coun­tered, mak­ing it very easy to feel at home be­hind the wheel. With a fairly re­laxed ride, low noise lev­els, ex­cel­lent ground clear­ance and fat­side­walled tyres, the Dis­cov­ery Sport also deals with bumpy Bri­tish roads ex­cep­tion­ally well, for the most part.

Most of the time, the third-row

seats re­mained tucked away in the floor of the deep, ca­pa­cious boot, but we were grate­ful for their pres­ence at times – and not just for car­ry­ing chil­dren. On one oc­ca­sion, pic­ture edi­tor Ben Sum­merell-youde drove from Lon­don to Devon and back with five other adults and a week­end’s worth of wed­ding and camp­ing gear aboard, and their feed­back af­ter­wards was en­tirely pos­i­tive.

With all of the rear seats folded flat, the Dis­cov­ery Sport was also able to cart the rot­ting re­mains of a wooden gar­den shed to a re­cy­cling cen­tre and then lug eight al­loy wheels and tyres for a Mclaren to An­gle­sey cir­cuit dur­ing our Han­dling Day. With thoughts of be­ing smacked in the back of the head by a run­away wheel, I don’t think I’ve ever driven so care­fully in my life.

Given how com­posed the Dis­cov­ery Sport feels for 98% of the time, it’s a sur­prise to find that it isn’t all that com­fort­able with be­ing driven hard. The rather abrupt on­set of body roll, ex­ac­er­bated by the quick steer­ing, re­quires the driver to work rel­a­tively hard to keep the car bal­anced in cor­ners. So when ne­go­ti­at­ing round­abouts on a dual car­riage­way, a very mea­sured ap­proach is re­quired to avoid throw­ing the car’s oc­cu­pants around un­com­fort­ably.

Some peo­ple have ar­gued that the cabin is a lit­tle plain and the qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als isn’t quite what you’d ex­pect of a £40k SUV, but I don’t have a prob­lem with its clean, func­tional de­sign. In any case, even with the prac­ti­cal black leather of our car, the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s cabin has a cer­tain ro­bust char­ac­ter and warmth of per­son­al­ity that are some­what lack­ing in its Ger­man ri­vals.

The Dis­cov­ery Sport’s suit­abil­ity as a long-term own­er­ship prospect is ce­mented, for me, by how few things ir­ri­tate me about it: point­less beeps and mes­sages, stuff like that. In fact, all of its au­to­matic func­tions and driver aids – from the en­gine stop-start sys­tem to the park­ing sen­sors and self-op­er­at­ing park­ing brake – worked as ef­fec­tively and un­ob­tru­sively as you could hope for.

Al­though re­li­a­bil­ity was first rate, a cou­ple of faults de­vel­oped to­wards the end of the car’s time with us that brought us into slightly frus­trat­ing con­tact with lo­cal dealer Guy Salmon Thames Dit­ton. Even get­ting the car booked in was more dif­fi­cult than ex­pected, and the ser­vice depart­ment fixed only one of the is­sues – a clonk from the tail­gate – while fail­ing to do any­thing about a sus­pen­sion creak that was the main rea­son for go­ing to them in the first place. We ran out of time for a re­turn visit, and it didn’t af­fect my opin­ion of the car it­self, but I’d have hoped for bet­ter ser­vice from a prom­i­nent Land Rover deal­er­ship.

Liv­ing with a Dis­cov­ery Sport, then, has been hugely sat­is­fy­ing. It’s a shame that its much-hyped new diesel en­gine hasn’t proved con­vinc­ing enough to re­ally set the seal on the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s class lead­er­ship, giv­ing buy­ers a rea­son to look at strong ri­vals such as the new Audi Q5 and Skoda Ko­diaq, but as a pack­age, it’s still highly com­pelling. That com­bi­na­tion of com­fort, space, sen­si­ble size, de­sir­abil­ity and driv­ing plea­sure makes the Dis­cov­ery Sport one of the most com­plete, ver­sa­tile and like­able cars you’re ever likely to meet.

Of all its at­tributes, the one I’ve come to value most is how fan­tas­ti­cally com­fort­able it is

Adult-friendly back seats have been usefu and are easy to erec

Dis­cov­ery Sport proved ideal for a camp­ing week­end

Muir (and every­one else) quickly felt at home at the wheel

Our Land Rover didn’t shy away from heavy lift­ing

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