Back in January 2015 told you that a new Land Rover Discovery was on its way to South Africa... “an event that will gladden the hearts and minds of ‘adventure-type motorists’,” said Jaguar Land Rover SA's Richard Gouverneur.
And so it came to pass on May 5, and I eagerly accepted an invitation to drive the new, fresh-looking, Discovery Sport; indeed, a sporty and compact SUV that has the practicality of 5+2 seating along with superb capabilities in the premium sector in the SA market.
The cost from R541 900 - that's for the turbodiesel TD4 S.
Wondering where the Land Rover Discovery Sport fits in the new line-up (not to be confused with the new and premium DS arm of Citroën found within the PSA Group), it now fills the gap left by the omission of the Freelander range, a model that in truth proved something of a mixed blessing for the company.
Gouverneur told Wheel24 the Discovery Sport is something of a pivotal model in the company’s history as it expands the Discovery footprint, a full import produced at their Halewood plant near Liverpool in north-west England where its bigger siblings are also produced.
It will be sold in more than 170 countries.
Clearly identifiable from the front by its clam-shell bonnet, the Discovery Sport introduces a progressive new design tailored to create a clear differentiation between the other families within the Land Rover brand: Luxury (Range Rover), Leisure (Discovery) and Dual-Purpose (Defender).
IMAGE GALLERY: Land Rover Discovery Sport
In my opinion, from the rear the Discovery Sport has lost lots of its easily recognisable Land Rover DNA until, that is, you're close enough to read the word D I S C O V E R Y on the boot lid. Similarities, incidentally, in my eyes reminding me of the Mitsubishi ASX and a blend of Ford Kuga and perhaps even Toyota’s Fortuner.
VIDEO: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - Design
VIDEO: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport - Dynamic
Still, there’s no doubt about the DS’s on/off-road manners. It’s ruggedly good-looking, and seemingly well-built and definitely has significantly high levels of noise, vibration and harshness suppression.
Undulating and seriously rutted dirt roads did little to upset the composure of the Discovery Sport, no matter the terrain. Ample ground clearance and a lengthy wheelbase no doubt the main contributors, along with a compact multi-link rear axle set-up allowing exceptional on-road agility, class-leading wheel travel and axle articulation – at 340mm (up to 60mm more than competitors) - and extremely high levels of composure on or off-road.
5+2 SEATING VERSATILITY
Familiar to Land Rover folk will be the terrain response system that lets drivers tailor the Discovery Sport’s response to prevailing ground conditions. As many as five settings are available: General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts; and Sand. Dynamic mode, an option, heightens on-road performance and driver feedback.
Similarly, the all-new multi-link rear axle was paramount in delivering 5+2 seating versatility (fine for youngsters) and reasonable luggage space in a compact footprint. At 4590mm long, Discovery Sport’s compact footprint is 239mm shorter than the seven-seat Land Rover Discovery.
Perhaps not unexpectedly for a vehicle launch of this type, the vehicle spent most of its time off-road – nothing particularly hard-core or too taxing – but nevertheless trekking over what seemed to be every gravel around George in the Western Cape; inland to the picturesque and gloriously scenic Swartberg Pass region, and then spending the night tired but relaxed in the quaint town of Prince Albert.
Under the bonnet there’s a choice of four-cylinder turbocharged petrol orr turbodiesel engines. Each has stop/start technology, high-pressure direct injection, low-friction internal components and smart regenerative charging to make for outstanding performance and economy.
Petrol derivatives use an all-alloy Si4 two-litre engine with 177kW and direct fuel injection. This offers six-cylinder levels of performance in a compact package that reduces weight and cuts CO2 emissions by as much as 20% from conventional larger-capacity engines with a similar power output.
2.2-litre turbodiesel derivatives are available in either 110kW TD4 or 140kW SD4 specification. Each produces 420Nm, so drivers can most certainly count on exceptional fuel efficiency and effortless overtaking ability.
Distinct and up-to-date improvements have been made to the transmissions: each model uses an advanced ZF 9HP48 nine-speed auto transmission.
If this seems a bit like overkill – as my initial thoughts leaned towards – take heart, this auto is seamless in execution and ostensibly in place to provide ultra-economical fuel figures... the trip data computer certainly in the model I drove seemed to support that train of thought (excuse the deliberate pun), anyway.
The cabin has an elegant three-spoked, multi-function, steering wheel, modern and easy-to-read instrument cluster and paddles for manual gear-changes. Housed under a compact curved binnacle, the instrument cluster’s twin analogue dials are set deep in circular housings.
A 12.7cm colour TFT display is positioned between the two dials to show key data such as fuel level, gear selection, temperature and Terrain Response modes.
Even with the bigger Land Rover siblings I’ve often thought that cabin space was lacking. This newcomer pleasantly surprised with its spaciousness, suggesting a fresh new look at what makes one particular SUV stand out.
DO THE MATH
There are five models in the range, three engine options and four trim levels: S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury.
While talking numbers, there are up to four 12V sockets around the cabin and as many as six USB charging sockets can be specified through the three rows of seats.
Two centre-console storage solutions are available. S and SE derivatives have space for two cups along with a separate roller storage section; HSE and HSE Luxury derivatives have a larger console that includes a sliding armrest and a roller storage section with two removable cupholders underneath; this space can be separately and quickly re-configured to offer space to securely hold a two-litre bottle.
Staying with the numbers, there’s a choice of two aircon systems: a manual interface is fitted to entry-level models, while dual-zone climate control with an LCD interface for the driver and front passenger is available.
There are 12 body colours and 10 styles of alloy wheel rims to choose from.
PRICES AND SPECS
Discovery Sport TD4 S (110kW/400Nm, 2179cc turbodiesel) - R541 900
Discovery Sport SD4 S (140kW/420Nm, 2179cc turbodiesel) - R590 300
Discovery Sport SD4 SE (140kW/420Nm, 2179cc turbodiesel) - R635 600
Discovery Sport SD4 HSE (140kW/420Nm, 2179cc turbodiesel) R692 300
Discovery Sport SD4 HSE Luxury (140kW/420Nm, 2179cc turbodiesel) - R731 400
Discovery Sport Si4 S (177kW/340Nm, 1999cc petrol) - R590 300
Discovery Sport Si4 SE (177kW/340Nm, 1999cc petrol) - R635 600
Discovery Sport Si4 HSE (177kW/340Nm, 1999cc petrol) - R692 300
Discovery Sport Si4 HSE Luxury (177kW/340Nm, 1999cc petrol) - R731 400
Each model comes with a five-year or 100 000km) maintenance plan and a three-hyear warranty, 24-hour roadside assistance and a half-day off-road introductory course for driver and a passenger.
For more on the new Land Rover Discovery Sport go to Land Rover South Africa