Land Rover Discovery Sport

The new style of Disco!

"The overall compact look of the vehicle is maintained, which will definitely attract buyers who want their first car to be a Land Rover SUV."

"One of the important interior design challenges that the Discovery Sport engineers had was to maximize the space available within these dimensions."

"Discovery Sport is good for customers who want to carry the Land Rover badge with a tinge of Range Rover looks and 5+2 versatility."

"We at ArabWheels appreciate it and no wonder the Discovery Sport won the ArabWheels Award in the Best Compact Premium SUV category," said Ershad.

The name Land Rover brings a plethora of images to mind. Big, powerful SUVs with top of the range off-road capability and tons of go-anywhere attitude. Well, let's do a quick rewind to 2011 when I had a test drive of the Land Rover LR2. Incidentally, the Discovery Sport replaces the LR2/Freelander model range and Discovery is a sub-brand within the Land Rover family now. This means that we may get to see more models down the line sporting the ‘Discovery' name. So, the previous test drive of the LR2 was pretty mundane for a vehicle from the Land Rover stable. It looked too normal, the interiors were poor and the drive was nowhere near exciting. I guess the guys at Land Rover R&D had a similar feeling too and that's when they decided to update the LR2 to fit in the new, booming midsize SUV segment.  Welcome the Land Rover Discovery Sport!

Evoque, is it? Well, if you are driving opposite the Discovery Sport at more than 100 km/h your brain may force you to think like that, but yes, it does heavily borrow its styling cues from the Evoque. The overall compact look of the vehicle is maintained, which will definitely attract buyers who want their first car to be a Land Rover SUV. One of the first things that caught my attention was the super thick C-pillars which had a heavy forward rake. It looks great and makes the car look distinct. The wraparound headlights look stylish with simple round daytime running lights which perfectly gel with the boldy styled front bumper. The skid plates on the front and rear bumpers further enhance the rugged look of the Discovery Sport. The car looks pretty high when viewed from the side, thanks to the 20 inch wheels which have a dazzling silver shade. The rear end is somehow too Evoque-ish: blame it on the tail light design, twin exhaust pipes and compact rear dimensions, but they go well with the overall vehicle geometry and make the complete package visually appealing.

Enter the Discovery Sport and that's where all the surprise is. Major work has gone into revamping the interior of the old LR2 and what you see is top notch quality and feel-good materials splashed around the cabin. Leather and soft touch materials have been put to good use, taking the interior quality of the Discovery Sport light years beyond the old LR2. You actually feel like you are sitting in a Land Rover. It feels compact from the inside as well, without being cramped. Both driver and passengers get to enjoy their space. One of the important interior design challenges that the Discovery Sport engineers had was to maximize the space available within these dimensions. I was informed that huge effort was put into channeling and minimizing the space taken up by electrical wires and harnesses thereby freeing up space within the cabin. You can note the power window buttons mounted on the inner door sill, which proves that they have tried real hard to squeeze out that last bit of space! The only concern I had was whether these switches will be able to withstand the harsh, direct sunlight which will be hitting it through the glass. A long-term review can help with that.

So now it is time to call up six of my friends and go for a weekend beach drive. Did I mention six? Yes, the Discovery Sport can seat seven people in total. There is a third row of seats in the vehicle that can squeeze in two kids. This is great considering the fact that the Discovery Sport is only 80 mm longer than the Evoque and manages to create all this space. Great work from the R&D guys. The cargo space is miniscule when the third row is up, however. The AC vents for the second and third row are housed in the B and C-pillars respectively, further showing off the space-saving skills! The third row seats can be folded away for luggage space, but in my opinion go for the five-seater version of the Discovery Sport. It looks cleaner and you can actually stow some decent luggage as well. The center console houses an eight inch touchscreen control panel which controls the radio, sat navigation, vehicle info, etc. A very functional and no-nonsense system with a simple interface.

Drive time is always fun time. The 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine on the Discovery Sport pumps out 240 ps and a torque of 340 Nm is available as low as 1800 rpm till 4000 rpm. Transmitting these power values to all four wheels is a 9 speed automatic transmission which translates into a good mix of performance and fuel efficiency. Even with a full load, the Discovery Sport provides a spirited performance, showing no signs of fade in any condition. The gear box features a skip-shift function which helps it to directly shift to required gear ratio in case of heavy acceleration or heavy braking instead of sequentially cycling through each ratio to reach the required gear. This helps give a crisp response and a confident drive feel.

In addition, the Discovery Sport features independent suspension all around with a completely new, compact, multi-link rear axle which is lighter, stronger and in turn provides exceptional performance in both on and off-road driving conditions. The design also helps in optimizing interior space towards the rear of the vehicle, making the 5+2 seating configuration possible on the Discovery Sport. Hitting a pothole at 50 km/h with a full load can unsettle most SUVs, but I guess the revised suspension on the Discovery Sport helped to absorb a lot as none of my passengers cursed me for my driving skills! A quick drive on the beach also revealed that the suspension guys at Land Rover had done their job perfectly. The electronic power steering response maintained its poise throughout the drive, providing ample feedback and response.

Safety features are something of very high importance in today's cars and our test car is no different.  Driver and passenger airbags, knee airbags and side curtain airbags are provided along with Autonomous Emergency Braking which helps to stop the vehicle in case of collisions below 80 km/h. A fantastic feature on the Discovery Sport safety list is a new pedestrian protection system which activates air bags squeezed into the base of the windscreen in the event of a pedestrian collision between 24-48 km/h. The design of the airbag is such that it does not obstruct the driver's view in any manner. Taking care of people in and out of the car: excellent! A new headsup display on the Discovery Sport ensures that the driver always has his attention on the road ahead. Added to this are safety features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and Park Assist. For the adventurous kind, there are features like Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Roll Stability Control, Engine Drag torque Control and Electronic Traction Control to help you pump up the adrenaline whilst keeping the vehicle in control at all times.

Verdict
On the whole, the Discovery Sport is a vast improvement over the previous generation LR2 and I expect that it will be well-received by customers. It provides a compact and fun package with good versatility, the latest technology and safety features. We at ArabWheels appreciate it and no wonder the Discovery Sport won the ArabWheels Award in the Best Compact Premium SUV category.

It is up against competitors like the Audi Q3, BMW X3, Lexus RX, Volvo XC60 and Porsche Macan (expensive) –  wow! That's a long list and I think the Discovery Sport is good for customers who want to carry the Land Rover badge with a tinge of Range Rover looks and 5+2 versatility. Disco all the way!

Pros: Evoque-ish in and out, good space in a 5 seater, massive tech upgrade from LR2, handling, decent off-road
Cons: Third row is very cramped
Rivals: Audi Q3, BMW X3, Lexus RX, Volvo XC60, Porsche Macan
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged, inline-4, 240 hp @ 5800 rpm, 340Nm @ 1750 rpm
Transmission: 9 speed automatic with manual shifting mode, 4WD
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 8.5 sec, 8.5 L /100 km, Top speed: 199 km/h
Weight: 1,996 kg
4 STARS
One word: Evoque-ish

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