LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT

HIT WITH THE PRETTY STICK, BUT THERE ARE PARTS WHERE ‘PREMIUM’ DOESN’T QUITE PERMEATE…

ALEX INWOOD

T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N

Stage ONE

SITTING still, there’s so much to like about the boxfresh Discovery Sport. No other mid-sized luxo SUV looks this good or has this much off-road capability.

Throw in sound dynamics and strong value, and its little wonder the Disco Sport found initial favour at Lang Lang.

Slotting into LR’s range as a replacement for the slow-selling Freelander 2, the Discovery Sport shares its platform, engines and front suspension with the smaller Range Rover Evoque, yet rides on a wheelbase that’s 81mm longer.

It stacks up nicely against COTY’s value criteria too, thanks to a $53,300 starting price that is cheaper than its rivals (think Audi Q5 and BMW X3). Enhancing the appeal is the unique option of third-row seats (see sidebar, right) for $1990.

The real feather in the Disco Sport’s cap, though, is its off-road ability. Land Rover has equipped the Disco Sport with the latest version of its renowned Terrain Response System, which means if you’re on the hunt for a premium SUV that’s just as capable clambering down rocky cliff faces as it is looking posh on your driveway, the Discovery Sport is unmatched in this sector.

Unfortunately, with cliff faces in short supply, we had to make do with Lang Lang’s ride and handling circuit, yet the Disco Sport didn’t disappoint on the black stuff. Its steering is meatily weighted and quick to react, while its ride, even on the 19-inch wheels of the top-spec SD4 HSE Luxury, was suitably controlled across Lang Lang’s pockmarked tarmac.

Of the Disco Sport’s three engine choices (one 2.2-litre diesel in two tunes and a 2.0-litre petrol), it was the petrol that garnered the most praise.

When mated with cushier 235/60R18 rubber in our test SE Si4, the zingy 177kW turbo four delivered the best performance/dynamic compromise.

So it’s all sounding rather peachy, but there are some chinks in its polished armour. The biggest complaint fell to the well-made interior, which is luxurious in some areas but looks a bit too utilitarian. Weirdly, the (unladen) middle row in all three Disco Sports vibrated vigorously over Lang Lang’s tortuous rough road section.

There are dynamic flaws, too, like an aversion to sudden changes of direction, especially in the wet.

And despite the Disco Sport’s off-road credentials, it wasn’t all smooth sailing on the slippery dirt component, either, where an over-eager and hard-hitting ESC system resulted in twitchy and unsettled handling.

More than one judge mused how much better the Discovery Sport could have fared had it been blessed with the Jaguar XE’s brilliant 132kW/430Nm ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, which it will receive in an update later this year, instead of the old Ford-Peugeot 2.2-litre lump.

Still, none of these foibles were enough to make the judges question the Disco Sport’s ‘very good’ rating, but this lack of consistent polish does mean it falls short of being ‘great’. And it’s greatness that COTY seeks to reward.

BODY

Type 5-door wagon, 5/7 seats Boot capacity 454 – 541 litres Weight 1744 – 1775kg

DRIVETRAIN

Layout front engine (east-west), AWD Engines 2179cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (110kW/400Nm) 2179cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (140kW/420Nm) 1999cc 4cyl turbo (177kW/340Nm) Transmission 6-speed manual; 9-speed automatic

CHASSIS

Tyres 235/60R18 – 245/45R20 ADR81 fuel consumption 6.1 – 8.3L/100km CO2 emissions 159 – 197g/km Collision mitigation .

Crash rating 5-star (ANCAP) Prices $53,300 – $66,500

7 - S E A T E R B E A T E R

Disco Sport’s optional five-plustwo seating gives it an edge over the competition, with 43 percent of buyers paying $1990 extra for the additional seats. They’re easy to erect and don’t eat into boot space when folded. Other interior hits are the roomy and contemporary design, elegant steering wheel and classy switchgear. Misses include a fiddly touchscreen and plastics that range from premium to penny-saving.

“INTERIOR LACKS CLASS COMPARED TO KEY COMPETITION” JOHN CAREY

“FLEXIBLE PETROL ENGINE WORKS WELL WITH NINE-SPEED AUTO” TOBY HAGON