VI­TALS

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDITOR

IF you found your­self drawn to the stylish Range Rover Evoque but then found it rather small and im­prac­ti­cal for your needs, then Land Rover has the an­swer.

It’s the new Dis­cov­ery Sport, which bears no re­la­tion to the larger ve­hi­cle of the same name.

To the head­turn­ing looks of the Evoque, it adds space, a seven-seat op­tion and the of­froad cred you’d ex­pect from the brand.

It re­places the slow-selling Free­lander and gives Land Rover the am­mu­ni­tion to launch a twin-pronged at­tack on Audi and BMW for dom­i­nance among mid-size lux­ury SUVs.

DE­SIGN

Land Rover de­signer Gerry McGovern has struck just the right bal­ance be­tween style and sub­stance with the latest gen­er­a­tion of Land Rovers, and there’s no dis­put­ing the fact the new Dis­cov­ery Sport has a pres­ence on the road.

Our top-of-the-range HSE model looks men­ac­ing and mod­ern, with op­tional 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon head­lamps, LED day­time run­ning lights and (again op­tional) black roof — who would have fore­seen two-tone mak­ing a come­back?

In­side the Dis­cov­ery Sport has the usual mix of chunky­look­ing knobs and switches, leather-lined lux­ury and abun­dant crea­ture com­forts.

It’s not all good news, though. Be­low eye-line, the plas­tics are hard and, on our car, there’s more than one blem­ish in the leather fin­ishes.

The in­fo­tain­ment screen is also fid­dly to nav­i­gate — our ver­sion gets the old setup be­cause the new one isn’t com­pat­i­ble with the car’s top­notch Merid­ian au­dio. It doesn’t re­ally cut it against the likes of Audi. The mood lifts no­tice­ably at night, thanks to il­lu­mi­nated tread plates on the door steps and a cabin mood light­ing pack­age that can be cus­tomised to white, blue, pink or red.

The third row seats are a kids-only af­fair and ac­cess is a bit awk­ward.

ABOUT TOWN

The Dis­cov­ery Sport may be de­signed with dirt tracks and wa­ter cross­ings in mind but it feels at home in carparks and cul de sacs.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes a pow­ered tailgate, sat­nav, re­vers­ing cam­era and front and rear park­ing sen­sors for tight spots.

There’s also a clever split screen in front that al­lows the pas­sen­ger to watch tele­vi­sion while all the driver can see is the sat­nav or screen menu.

Our press ve­hi­cle bris­tles with al­most $16,000 worth of op­tions, among them a $5500 rear seat en­ter­tain­ment pack­age — that would buy a lot of iPads.

Au­ton­o­mous brak­ing op­er­ates be­tween 5km/h and 80km/h, ap­ply­ing the brakes if you fail to do so when dis­tracted in traf­fic.

ON THE ROAD

De­spite its off-road prow­ess, the Land Rover feels im­pres­sively car-like on the open road. There’s lit­tle of the lean through corners or float­i­ness you’d ex­pect from a high-rid­ing of­froader and the steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and well weighted, if not sports-car sharp.

It rides com­fort­ably, though there is the oc­ca­sional thud over sharper edges and road joins.

Off-road it has Land Rover’s ter­rain re­sponse to match the car’s setup to the job at hand — just dial in mud, sand or snow — as well as hill de­scent con­trol, wade sens­ing for river cross­ings and en­gine drag torque con­trol for slip­pery con­di­tions. Ride height is 212mm.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The Jaguar-Land Rover group is work­ing on a new gen­er­a­tion of en­gines. Un­hap­pily for the Dis­cov­ery Sport, they weren’t ready for its launch so it makes do with what are es­sen­tially carry-over en­gines that aren’t on the cut­ting edge of diesel tech­nol­ogy.

The HSE uses the more pow­er­ful of the 2.2-litre diesels and it has a de­cent amount of urge, al­beit with some lag off the mark.

It isn’t the qui­etest or most re­fined of en­gines, though. Noise and vi­bra­tion make them­selves known both at idle and un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, while the stop­start func­tion doesn’t kick the en­gine back into ac­tion as smoothly as ri­vals.

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