Land Rover Discovery Sport
- Credit: Archant
The new Discovery Sport aims to do for the Land Rover brand what the Evoque has done for Range Rover’s profile
Land Rover’s arrival in 1948 opened up a sales arena nobody had perceived outside the military world.
In the same way that its rugged 4x4 cars handled most landscapes, the British brand conquered most markets.
Then came the Japanese with more reliable and well-equipped wannabes like the Toyota Land Cruiser - I wonder what inspired that name?
Land Rover clung on through military contracts and diehard buyers, but perennial under investment seemed to be sealing its fate.
Then came cash, first from Ford ownership, then takeover by tea to technology Indian conglomerate TATA and Land Rover is riding high again.
The Range Rover Evoque, a kind of off-roader coupe, has been pivotal to this revival.
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But what about Land Rover itself? Well, the Discovery remains the ultimate go-anywhere, five to seven-seat off-roader, with high levels of luxury if needed and LR has traded on that car’s reputation by now launching the classy looking Discovery Sport (from £32,395).
The junior ‘Disco’ – replacing the Freelander – largely uses the racy Evoque’s underpinnings and upmarket cabin features, but is more of a stylish 4x4 family holdall carrying up to seven, albeit through fairly cramped seating for third row passengers.
Those two rearmost seats fold flat to create a 981-litre boot capacity; folding row two allows a 1,698-litres cargo area.
It looks trim, however, for one so practical and capable, aimed at retaining Freelander fans, attracting would be Discovery downsizers, and luring new LR recruits away from rivals like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
There are welcome LR trademark features such as the honeycomb grille, sleek wraparound headlamps and clam shell bonnet.
Four trim levels are offered – SE, SE Tech, HSE and HSE Luxury – and all come with alloys, heated seats, part leather trim, DAB digital radio sound system, Bluetooth connectivity and climate control.
There’s no powertrain choice, however (at least for now) as the Freelander’s 187bhp 2.2-litre diesel is carried over with six-speed manual or optional (£1,800) nine-speed auto gearbox. It’s never been the most refined unit, but it has the necessary grunt for rough terrain or pounding the motorway.
Permanent four-wheel drive comes with LR’s famous Terrain Response system: select one of the icons for Normal, Mud, Sand, Rock and Snow modes and the car does the rest.
It will also wade up to 600mm of water, but if you don’t need such abilities then an eco-friendly front-wheel drive-only model is due later.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Price: from £32,395
Driving appeal: **** (predicted)
Running costs: ****
How green?: ***
Best rival: BMW X3
News in brief
HR-V ends lost decade
Honda has revived the HR-V model after 10 years’ absence. The original car was probably ahead of its time, but its format is now very relevant to an era attuned to sporty crossovers.
The cabin centrepiece is an app-based infotainment system with seven-inch touchscreen including internet browsing. Power options will be Honda’s smooth 1.6 diesel or 1.5 litre petrol unit.
BMW in the family way
Having stormed the 4x4 sector and elbowed into the hatchback market, BMW clearly wants a slice of the family friendly MPV/people carrier sector.
First we had the front-driven 2 Series Active Tourer – a break from BMW’s rear-wheel drive tradition – and the German premium marque now says it will follow up at the end of the summer with this stretched seven-seater called the Gran Tourer.
Evoque’s new look
Booming sales suggest it didn’t need to, but Land Rover has nevertheless revamped its Range Rover Evoque to incorporate the company’s all-new Ingenium diesels, offering best-in-class CO2 emissions of 109g/km and up to 68mpg (combined).
LR claims the new look Evoque range is now 18 per cent more efficient than the original. Styling tweaks have also freshened the car’s appeal.