The Land Rover Discovery Sport in effect the latest generation Landy Freelander is a premium piece of medium SUV kit. But, does it live up to expectations in the real world?
LAND Rover’s fortunes certainly changed for the better when Indian motoring and industrial giant Tata bought the brand (and its cousin Jaguar) from the then cash-strapped Ford Motor Company.
After that deal things could have gone pear-shaped, but to Tata’s credit, it seems to have given the Landy engineers carte blanche on the design front – and the company backed it up with what appears to have been a generous cash injection. The Discovery Sport is one of the results of this new arrangement, and, in theory, it has taken the Freelander legacy to greater heights of sophistication, luxury and refinement.
Under the skin
The Discovery Sport shares its platform and its drivetrain with the Range Rover Evoque. The biggest difference, besides the obvious styling and size ones, is the interior packaging: the Sport is a longer seven-seater while the Evoque is a five-seater. So the Disco Sport is the family-oriented option in this allegiance, while the Evoque is aimed more at the fashion-conscious.
Powered by the familiar four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that delivers 140kW and 420Nm of torque, the drive is transferred to all four wheels via ZF’s nine-speed automatic gearbox. There are paddle shifters for the gearbox, but to be honest, these are mostly superficial. Turbo lag and this mill used to be an issue in the Freelander, and despite the extra cogs of the new nine-speed automatic ‘box, it still is a slight issue. Floor the throttle from standstill and there are those few moments where nothing seems to happen.
But as soon as the rev counter needle swings past the 1 200r/min mark, and the turbo gets into the action, the Sport blasts forward like a bat out of hell. It is better, of course, to gently caress the accelerator pedal to the floor, instead of mashing it. And once on the move it’s all pretty good, with good in-gear acceleration and outstanding manners on the highway.
Fuel economy is decent, especially on the open road. We managed an average of 8.5 litres/100km on a trip to the Northern Cape, cruising at 120km/h.
It’s an HSE luxury… so it must be luxurious?
That it is indeed. The top Disco Sport model is loaded with standard kit, which includes Windsor leather, high-end sound system (11 speakers and subwoofer), an eight-inch TFT touchscreen infotainment system, navigation, a surround camera system, climate control, electrically adjustable front seats and a powered tailgate, to name but a few amenities.
It also has fancy 19-inch wheels that are shod with low-profile tyres that look smart, but are not ideal for the gramadoelas. On the trip to the Northern Cape the cabin proved to be a very comfortable place to spend the thousand kilometres, and the boot (with the last row of pews folded flat into the floor) has plenty of space, too.
So let’s get down and dirty
The Disco Sport has Landy’s Terrain Response system, but it doesn’t have a transfer case or an air suspension to add instant ground clearance at the push of a button. So essentially the Sport’s Terrain Response system only adjusts the vehicle’s traction control system and dynamics such as throttle response to suit different driving conditions.
You don’t really want to tackle dongas and rocks with the Discovery Sport. If you do tackle such obstacles – and you are lucky enough that the vehicle’s body or undercarriage doesn’t get damaged – those beautiful 19-inch rims will definitely take a beating. For the record, Land Rover claims 212mm ground clearance and a wading depth of 600mm.
So should you buy it?
There certainly is a demand because in March Land Rover sold 160 Discovery Sport models. However, we reckon this is more a case of fashion and brand appeal over good old value-for-money values. For less than this Sport’s R775 300 you can have a much bigger Ford Everest or Toyota Fortuner 4×4. You can also have a VW Touareg V6, a Toyota LC Prado 3.0D4D TX, a Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2Di-D GLS Exceed, a Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic, a Lexus NX300h Ex, a BMW X3 xDrive35i and an Audi Q5 3.0TDI SE Quattro.
But here’s the crux of the story: even though there may be better value-for-money propositions available, few can match the Landy in the cool department. And kudos to Land Rover – it is one thing to have a cool image, but it’s another to produce vehicles that live up to the cool. And in the case of the new Discovery Sport, it seems to do just that.
Engine 2179cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 140kW @ 3 500r/min
Torque 420Nm @ 1 750rpm
Gearbox Nine-speed AT
4×4 Drivetrain 4WD with efficient driveline
4×4 Driving aids Terrain Response, hill descent control, traction control, hill start assist,
Ground clearance 212mm
Average fuel consumption 9 litres/100km
Maintenance plan Five-year/100 000km
Price R775 300