Land Rover’s Discovery marque is undergoing a metamorphosis. Like the Range Rover series, the Discovery range will soon consist of more than one vehicle. Land Rover recently unveiled the Discovery Sport, a smaller sibling to the full-size Disco.
The Freelander is going the way of the dinosaur. Not that this is particularly surprising news, mind you. Rumours have been doing the rounds for months.
It all began when Land Rover introduced its new “three pillars” strategy, showing the Defender, Discovery and Range Rover nameplates as three pillars supporting the structure that is Land Rover.
Where did this new strategy leave the Freelander, everyone asked? Company executives remained mute, but the answer was clear: nowhere.
Every vehicle emanating from the factories of Land Rover will now either carry a Defender, Discovery or Range Rover badge. And like the Range Rover series (consisting of the Evoque, Sport and full-size Rangie), and the Defender range (consisting currently of the 90, 110 and 130, both as pick-ups and station wagons), the Discovery will no longer be a single vehicle – it will become its own range.
This became clear when the company recently unveiled the Discovery Sport, which will take the place of the Freelander below the current Discovery.
A quick glance at the Disco Sport makes it obvious that this a very different vehicle from the Freelander. It is bolder, sportier, more premium in appearance and – dare we say it? – a bit softer.
The influence of the Evoque and Range Rover Sport are obvious. There’s the sporty grill and narrow lights, the large rims and low-profile tyres, the high waistline, the sloping roof. In fact, it could as easily be a baby Rangie as it could be a baby Disco.
But like the Range Rover range, the Disco Sport promises still to be capable off the beaten track provided, of course, you are willing to take your premium SUV, with its thin tyres, into the bundu.
According to Land Rover, it boasts approach, departure and break-over angles of 25, 31 and 21 degrees respectively, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, a wading depth of 600mm and a long-travel suspension.
Under the bonnet, a range of four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines will be on offer. Predictably, these will be the Si4 two-litre petrol range and the 2,2-litre diesel mills that currently power the Freelander. No figures have been released, though, so we’ll have to wait and see if they have been tweaked or upgraded in any way. Chances are, both engines will be pushing out more power than before.
All engines will be mated to Land Rover’s nine-speed automatic transmission, which is currently available in the Evoque.
Inside, the Disco Sport promises to be comfortable and well equipped. Land Rover says: “It features high-quality materials and a strong vertical centre console graphic to reflect the premium design of the exterior, while the core Discovery value of versatility is evident everywhere. Storage solutions are integrated into the cabin and up to four 12V power points and six USB charging sockets can be specified for all three rows of seating, allowing multiple electronic devices to be charged simultaneously.”
You probably noticed the “three rows of seating”. While no larger than current five-seat SUVs, the Disco Sport will apparently offer 5+2 seating.
But the third row of seats in the Range Rover Sport was excluded from the South African market in order to fit a full-size spare, so the same thing might happen with this SUV’s third row of seats.
There is no doubt that the Disco Sport will be as big a success as the Evoque has been for Land Rover. While it might appear a bit road-oriented, there will still be some proper off-road ability lurking behind all that shiny new metal. And anyway, the vast majority of compact SUV buyers stick to tar, so the Disco Sport will probably be more capable than it ever needs to be.
What will it cost? We’ll have to wait until mid-2015, when the vehicle will reach our shores, to find out. If Land Rover SA can price it close to the current model, they’ll have a real winner on their hands.
The Freelander has never been a big success in SA, possibly because of the notorious untrustworthiness of the Freelander 1. SA is one of the few countries in the world where the Disco actually outsells the more affordable Freelander. The Disco Sport promises to right that equation.
Moreover, the Disco Sport hints at the future of the full-size Disco. Will it boast the same sporty design flourishes? If so, it could prove controversial among hardcore Disco fans. Rumour has it that a new full-size Disco is coming in 2016.
And could a third Disco model be in the pipeline? Something to equal the size of the Land Cruiser 200? Who knows what the future will bring, but considering the roll Land Rover has been on of late, developments promise to be very exciting.