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Car reviews - Land Rover - Discovery Sport - TD4 150 SE

Our Opinion

We like
Ride comfort, chassis balance, interior flexibility, improved drivetrain, off-road skills
Room for improvement
Quality niggles remain, no vents for third row, no DAB digital radio, small fuel tank

Gallery

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Land Rover logo26 Jul 2017

By STUART MARTIN

Overview

LAND ROVER has added its new Ingenium engine to the Discovery Sport model line-up to freshen up the driveline.

The new diesel unit is a solid step forward, of alloy construction and quieter than the outgoing veteran powerplant, as well as easier on the fuel – at least according to the official laboratory claims.

All of which makes it a worthy addition to the Disco Sport’s arsenal, nestled within the compliant but composed chassis, cloaked in handsome looks and endowed with a versatile interior.

Unlike many in the segment there is genuine scope for off-road work even without a low-range transfer case – something not common in this market segment anyway – but the Terrain Response system and underbody protection imbue faith over rougher terrain.

The option of a third row adds a level of flexibility to the roomy and comfortable interior, but the shadow of Land Rover’s past and the quality niggles that were once part of the ownership experience have not been banished yet.

Price and equipment

First and foremost, the Land Rover sales and marketing people know how to charge for the privilege of owning one of these machines – the starting price of $56,355 plus on-road costs is far from bargain-basement for the entry-level model of the Discovery Sport range.

The VW Tiguan’s flagship 140TDI diesel model is $49,990, although it doesn’t offer seating options for seven it is well under stablemate Jaguar’s F-Pace 2.0 Prestige diesel at $72,510 or the Mercedes-Benz GLC220d at $67,500.

But the Mazda CX-5 Akera flagship, priced identically to the aforementioned Tiguan, offers greater power and torque than all of them but is less off-road capable than the Land Rover.

Standard fare includes automatic headlights with rain sensing wipers, power folding and heated door mirrors with “puddle” lights, cruise control, touchscreen-controlled satellite navigation and ambient interior lighting.

The rear cargo bay is accessed by a powered “gesture-control” tailgate (which takes some practice), leather-trimmed seats, power-adjustable front seats, push button start, 18-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized spare, and a 10-speaker sound system (sadly missing out on standard DAB radio reception) delivers considerable noise and decent quality.

The features list also includes dual-zone climate control (with rear vents for the middle row but nothing for the optional third seats), four USB inputs (two in front and two for the middle row) and an electric park brake.

The test vehicle was equipped with a number of options, including the “5+2” third-row seating for $2050, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear tail-lights for $1650, black metallic paint for $1340, front parking sensors (rears are standard) for an extra $640 and carpet mats for the first two rows for $240.

The as-tested price rises to $62,275 – a substantial amount for what is considered a medium SUV and proof Land Rover doesn’t mind charging top-dollar for the badge.

Interior

The Discovery Sport is something of a Tardis for its interior, particularly given the relatively compact 4600mm long, 2200mm wide (including mirrors) footprint and when only seating five within the leather-clad interior.

The driver can quickly get to grips with the manual four-way adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel of the Disco Sport and power-adjustable seating teaming up to get the best driving set-up – taller long-limbed drivers are unlikely to have any issues getting set up.

A clear and informative dashboard has easy-to-read dials and an informative centre display, with secondary systems controlled by the touchscreen.

Positioned in the centre stack is the updated system from the Green Oval, and while it is better than the superseded set-up it’s by no means a market leader.

A sliding second row helps with the versatility of the cabin for luggage or two more occupants getting some more room for legs and feet, but adults relegated to the second row are comfortably accommodated by the seating, but they’ll want to travel no further aft.

The flip-up third row is strictly primary school occupants only for anything other than a short hop, and there’s not much room for baggage when there are seven aboard nor are there any vents from the dual-zone climate control beyond the middle row of seats (try the options list).

For the record the boot measures 981 litres with five seats in use, but that number is to the roofline (about half that would be to the top of the rear seats) the 1698-litre claim when the middle row is folded as well is also to the roof.

It’s no small wonder the electrical system still manages to charge the car’s battery when all interior sockets are utilised – there is a 12-volt outlet and two USB ports for power up front, one of which connects to the sound system, as well as two USB outlets and a 12-volt for the middle row and a 12-volt outlet in boot.

Other interior highlights include the one-touch child door and window lock button, which when combined with seatbelt indicators offer peace of mind for the driver, who still retains control over the windows.

You’d be surprised how many vehicles have a lock button for the power windows – controlled by the driver – that also locks out the driver’s window controls.

The cabin does however give rise to concerns over long-held question marks over Land Rover build quality – just when you think it might be getting better, a piece of plastic falls off inside the centre console lid.

The roof lining was also concerning, feeling as though it wasn’t even properly pinned.

Engine and transmission

The new engine might well be 24kg lighter than the outgoing powerplant, but the updated Discovery Sport still tips the scales at 1863kg, 55kg heavier than the old model, which gives the new powerplant plenty to propel.

This is the updated Ingenium variable-valve Euro 6-compliant 16-valve diesel engine seen here in its least-powerful guise – 110kW at 3500rpm, with 380Nm on tap from 1750rpm (down 20Nm on the old engine).

Emissions are down on the outgoing engine, with both CO2 and NOx emissions reduced by the inclusion of selective catalytic reduction (requiring AdBlue) and a new low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system, as well as diesel particulate filter.

Fuel economy claims in the laboratory are 5.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle test (6.3 on the urban cycle and 4.7 on the extra-urban test), but our time in the vehicle yielded 7.8L/100km from the too-small 54-litre fuel tank (reduced in size to make room for the AdBlue tank for the SCR system) at an average speed of 50km/h, which betrays how much highway driving it did to achieve that figure.

Travelling to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic, it makes reasonable use of the modest outputs, but a 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.3 seconds means it’s no firecracker off the line – the cheaper, lighter and more powerful Mazda CX-5 easily has its measure on the black top.

A claimed top speed of 180km/h is on the Land Rover spec sheet but it remains to be seen if the 1863kg SUV would ever need to reach that here.

But once into the mid-range the torque, the paddle shift equipped nine-speed automatic teams well with the willing little powerplant, slipping quickly through its ratios to more than keep pace in traffic.

Implementing the sport mode is a must-do for anything other than sedentary departures, but a relaxed pace of life is what the new quieter engine offers.

Use of the paddles comes in when the driver needs to take charge – the torque loss noticeable when the nine-speed can’t always make up its mind up as to which ratio is best.

The braked towing capacity is listed at 2200kg, with 750kg when the trailer is not braked, but if there was a two-tonne towing duty foreseen in the vehicle’s future it would be worth knocking the Sport name out of the equation and heading for a Discovery.

Ride and handling

Where the Disco Sport makes up ground is in its road manners.

The driver gets decent forward vision – aside from the thick A-pillars that are now a safety-led load path necessary evil on the bulk of the vehicles now being built – so moving to look around them is par for the course.

Tardy throttle response mandates the use of Sport mode and switching the idle-stop fuel-saving system off once underway the little engine and auto team up well enough to make use of the outputs on offer.

The suspension system and 60-profile Goodyear Wrangler rubber team up to deal impeccably with the ruts and bumps that now seem to be commonplace on the metropolitan roads of Australia.

The ride quality report from the back seat was “very nice” but once out of the suburbs and flying solo, the other side of the chassis equation didn’t let the Green Oval down either.

Ride quality remained good within the compromise between ride and handling, but the Disco Sport sits securely on a winding country road.

There’s a bit of bodyroll as the lateral Gs rise but it’s far from un-nerving – drive an early Range Rover with single rate coil springs if you want a perspective on bodyroll – but the handsome little beast settles on its underpinnings and tracks well in corners.

The steering weight too is pleasant for the driver, as is the directness of 2.3 turns lock to lock and the overall package can be shuffled quickly from A to B on bitumen or dirt without fear of ending up as part of the roadside scenery.

While it’s clearly not a serious off-roader, the Green Oval badge likes to lay claim to some ability to get muddy or sandy for the fun of it and the Disco Sport has Terrain Response to tailor its drivetrain for different surfaces.

Approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 25, 31 and 21 degrees respectively, 212mm of ground clearance, a 600mm wading depth claim and electronics to tailor traction control responses to the surfaces will get the little seven-seater further into the bush than many of its opposition.

Safety and servicing

The Discovery Sport has a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating and a long list of electronic safety features – traction and stability control, which includes trailer stability function as well as the off-road programming and hill descent control, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera (both of which are required given the restricted rear vision from the small window and thick rear pillars) and lane departure warning.

The safety features list also includes an auto-dimming centre mirror, standard autonomous emergency braking and the pedestrian protection system which includes an airbag beneath the active bonnet.

Within the cabin there are another seven airbags – dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, as well as one for the driver’s knees.

Also on the list of safety equipment are automatic headlights (with auto-high beam), rain sensing wipers, automatically-locking doors and the clever one-touch child door and window locks to keep rugrats from racing power windows or jumping out before their parents are ready.

The Disco Sport also has automatic high beam assist that is supposed to dip the high-beam for traffic – oncoming and ahead – but it’s not the greatest in terms of responding to those factors.

The Land Rover factory warranty covers three years or 100,000km which is not the longest in the segment, but service intervals of 24 months or 34,000km service intervals makes the six month/10,000km still offered by some brands look a little indulgent.

Verdict

There’s a lot to like about the Discovery Sport – civilised road manners, quality sound system, standard safety features and versatility within the cabin and on the road – but the pricetag does mean the price for breadth of ability is high if you want to get the higher-output version (you do).

Several of its competitors can’t offer the flexibility of a third row and that availability – optional though it is – will get family buyers in, as will the added layer of off-road cred offered by the breeding and ancestry, even if its never used.

But hovering clouds remain in terms of niggly problems and reliability that haunt the brand from before the days of Ford ownership, enough to cast doubt over its viability for some.

Rivals

Mazda CX-5 Akera, from $49,990 plus on-road costs
Certainly more on-road than off, and not available with a seven-seat option, the CX-5 is the segment yardstick for turbo-diesel outputs and refinement, as well as possessing bitumen road manners the envy of some sedans. With 129kW and 420Nm it remains the diesel engine to beat, with a features list that’s tough to beat as well, the updated CX-5 makes the Disco Spot look expensive and slow.

Mercedes-Benz GLC220d, from $67,500 plus on-road costs
One of the new SUVs in the Benz line-up, the small wagon has perhaps priced itself out of contention among this competitive set, but it has a willing and powerful 125kW/400Nm turbo-diesel engine and chassis balance that leans more towards handling than the Land Rover. The Merc is, like the Mazda, much more inclined to the tar than tracks and does the job well.

Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI, from $49,990 plus on-road costs
The sharp-looking Tiguan is Volkswagen’s answer to the renewed Mazda CX-5 – it pips the Mazda for cabin space and engine power, 140kW versus 129kW in the CX-5 – but falls 20Nm short of the Mazda for torque. Nonetheless, the German is quick on the bitumen but also not averse to getting dirty like the Land Rover, with its terrain-tailored electronics giving it plenty of ability on unsealed surfaces. A lack of clearance and some susceptible bumper bits detract from that, unless you’re a VW parts supplier.

Note: Some images are of the Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180 HSE Luxury

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