Land Rover reckons that this Discovery Sport is the most versatile premium compact SUV currently on sale - and it's a credible claim. This is, after all, the only prestigiously-badged car in this segment that can seat seven. It's also smart, practical, safe - and rugged enough to go a lot further than its rivals off the beaten track. Plus a state-of-the-art range of 'Ingenium' 2.0 TD4 diesel engines offer class-leading power and efficiency. It all means that there's nothing else quite like this car.
The Land Rover Discovery never did sporty at all well. It had a vast array of other qualities that put it right near the top of the family 4x4 tree but on-road dynamics were never one of its big draws. If you wanted a car that handled a bit better, you graduated to the Range Rover Sport, a car that shared plenty of the Discovery's underpinnings but which featured suspension that was geared a little more to the keen driver. Now there's another option. If the Evoque isn't big enough and a Range Rover Sport is just too expensive, why not try the Discovery Sport? Brought into the range to pension off the Freelander and featuring 5+2 seating, pricing that looks sensible, an efficient range of 'Ingenium' TD4 diesel engines and some very sharp styling, it looks another instant winner from Land Rover.
On to engines, which are Land Rover's advanced 2.0-litre four cylinder Ingenium TD4 units, shared with the Range Rover Evoque and designed to deliver improved efficiency, along with class-leading torque and power. The most affordable TD4 unit in the range comes with 150PS and 350Nm of torque, but it's only offered with this car in five-seat form. Here, 62mph from rest occupies 11s on the way to 112mph. Most though, will want the 180PS variant which comes only with the seven-seat layout and delivers a much lustier 430Nm of torque. Here, there's a maximum speed of 117mph, while 62mph from rest takes 9.4s, though you can reduce this figure by a second if you take up the option of the slick nine-speed ZF auto gearbox many owners will want. More importantly, this variant has enough pulling power to permit a towing capability of up to 2,500kgs when the optional Tow Pack is fitted. Both the TD4 powerplants come mated exclusively to 4WD. This, by the way, is a proper permanent set-up rather than the less effective 'on-demand' AWD system that this car's less capable competitors use - and which Land Rover itself offers on this model in other markets.
Even if you'd never seen a picture of the Discovery Sport, you could probably generate a reasonably accurate mental sketch of it were you to imagine crossing a Range Rover with a five-door Evoque. It's a really handsome piece of design work that instantly makes even a good-looking rival like the Volvo V60 look old. It also serves to make the conservative Audi Q5 look positively lumpy. The wheels are pushed nicely to each corner and there's that distinctive canted forward C-pillar profile that became such a Freelander signature. Land Rover describes the seating arrangement as '5+2' rather than a full seven-seater: that's because the rearmost seats are designed largely for kids and occasional use. The middle row of seats can be reclined, slid back and forth by 160mm, and also splits 60:40. They're also 5cm higher than the fronts which affords a good view out. Boot space measures a useable 195-litres with all seats up, but the Discovery Sport is likely to spend most of its life in five-seat mode, in which case you get a massive 830-litres. Fold both second and third rows and you can carry up to 1,698-litres.
In the Freelander era, there was always quite a price gap between Land Rover's compact and full-sized SUVs. Part of this Discovery Sport's remit is to narrow that, this car there to push the brand's compact SUV offering up-market, which in turn makes room for the company's new-generation Defender model to slot in beneath. That explains pricing that sits in the £33,000 to £43,000 bracket for mainstream models which are powered by the brand's latest 2.0-litre TD4 'Ingenium' series diesel engines. There's a choice of two - a 150PS unit you can only specify if you're happy to have this car in five-seat form with a manual gearbox. Or a 180PS unit that only comes with the seven-seat layout and provides the choice of either manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic that's offered at an £1,800 model-for-model premium. Across the range, buyers are offered the choice between four trim levels - 'SE', 'SE Tech', 'HSE' and 'HSE Luxury'. Whatever your choice, all variants come with permanent 4WD. As for equipment, well entry-level 'SE' trim gets you part-leather seating, climate control, a heated windscreen, cruise control, and the inControl Remote. This last piece of kit allows you to access all sorts of vehicle information via your smartphone. You can find your way back to the vehicle, check if the windows or doors are open, check fuel level and range, and even summon emergency assistance if required.
There are two units on offer, both mated to permanent 4WD. The 'E-Capability' 150PS version is inevitably the cleanest and most frugal, managing 129g/km of CO2 and 57.7mpg on the combined cycle. Most buyers though, will want the TD4 engine in pokier 180PS guise, where the CO2 figure is 139g/km and the fuel return is 53.3mpg. Impressively, those figures apply to both manual and automatic variants. This means that the 65-litre fuel tank should give you a touring range of well over 700 miles. As for residuals, well Land Rover's in a real run of form at the moment and demand for clean used Evoques is buoyant. There's no reason why the Discovery Sport shouldn't follow in that vein. If you thought an Audi or a BMW were the safest places to put your money in this sector, it's time to think again.
Once again, Land Rover has looked at a market that many thought was packed to bursting point and spotted a significant gap, into which it's parked the Discovery Sport. What other car of this kind can seat seven, set off in the Serengeti and slot right in as easily in Sloane Square as it will in the tightest multi-storey carpark space? No other premium compact SUV can do all this. Which is why this model is going to cause all kinds of headaches for similarly-priced up-market contenders of this kind sold by Audi, BMW, Volvo and Lexus. Discovery Sport buyers can get all the style and class of such cars with the additional versatility of seven seats, a feature that'll also attract the attention of people who'd previously have had to settle for something Korean like a Hyundai Santa Fe or a Kia Sorento. You get extra off road prowess with a Discovery Sport too, though it's not quite a match for its German rivals if you want to throw your car around on-tarmac. Fortunately, most SUV buyers don't, prioritising instead the kind of supple highway ride and fast fluid responses this car is actually very good at delivering. It all means that for once, the advertising tagline for this model works for the product it's supposed to promote. 'Above and beyond' was the objective in developing this car. In considering the end result, you'd have to say that mission's been accomplished.
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