CAPE TOWN – A spin-off of the Land Rover Freelander, which was cancelled after two seasons, the Discovery Sport was introduced in 2015. Boasting fresh tech and the brand’s go-anywhere appeal, the first generation was also tasked with addressing concerns consumers had with the quality issues of the car it replaced. The Whitley-based firm has now given its Discovery Sport a comprehensive update. At the local launch, we sampled the D180-badged, turbodiesel derivative in R-Dynamic HSE guise over various types of terrain during a trip to the picturesque Riebeek Valley.

As is the custom, design cues from the fifth-generation Discovery have been carried over to the midsize SUV. The most notable of these are the revised LED head- and taillamps and the bumpers. Viewed from the front, the updated Discovery Sport (seen here in an optional Namib Orange hue with black contrast roof) looks a near spitting image of its bigger sibling. Those with a keen eye might notice some new details, such as the Discovery denomination above the front wheel arches.

The leather-trimmed interior is a highlight. Perceived build quality is sound, with myriad soft-touch and rubber-lined surfaces. The door pockets, although plastic, feel solid. The door pulls in this particular unit did, however, wiggle when tugged. Land Rover’s Touch Pro system is simple to navigate, while the dual-zone climate control and Terrain Response 2, replete with an auto function, are operated via a (fingerprint- and dust-collecting) gloss black touch panel sited below the 10,25-inch infotainment display. Land Rover has, however, not completely done away with analogue items. Sited within easy reach of the driver, the right-hand dial is used to adjust temperature and select the desired off-road function. Land Rover’s ClearSight rear-view mirror and ground-view tech are on offer. The electrically adjustable driver’s pew is comfortable, giving those behind the pleasingly thin-rimmed steering wheel a commanding view over the clamshell bonnet.

The most significant update, however, is that the Discovery Sport is now underpinned by Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA), which is some 13 percent stiffer than the platform of the previous model. Uprated McPherson struts (now with hydrobush tech) fore do a commendable job at reducing wheel vibration, while the integral link arrangement aft has improved handling and, thanks to its compact dimensions, frees up additional boot space. Even running on these 21-inch alloys, wrapped in 45-profile rubber, the ride is pliant and road noise is kept to a minimum. The cabin is well insulated but for faint wind flutter that becomes apparent round the A-pillars when driving at the national limit. The steering, although some might find it on the heavier side, suits the midsize SUV. It feels like you are driving something substantial.

Coupled with a nine-speed self-shifter, the 2,0-litre Ingenium mill is smooth in its workings, sending 132 kW and 430 N.m (the latter on offer from 1 500-3 000 r/min) to all four corners. The stop-start sytem is seamless. Turbo lag was, however, present when swift overtaking was required. At cruising speeds, the rear axle is disengaged and drive is sent solely to the front wheels to improve fuel consumption. Once a loss of traction is detected, an active torque vectoring system reconnects the rear in a claimed four-tenths of a second.

Breakfast at dawn was followed by some brief off-roading on a local wine and olive farm. It is a Land Rover after all. Terrain response set to auto, the SUV was in charge. Only a subtle tilt of the steering wheel here and there was required from the driver when hill descent control was activated. The 212 mm of ground clearance is sufficient. And ascent/descent gradient is rated at 45°, while Land Rover claims a wading depth of 600 mm. A two-wheel balancing act showcased the traction control’s competency, directing torque to the right-front and left-rear wheels; the system is effortless. The Discovery Sport covered in an appropriate layer of dirt, we made our way back to the Mother City.

Arguably, the Discovery Sport is a Land Rover rarely in need of a proper scrub; relegated to town-driving and the odd spot of gravel. Overall, it's a solid SUV, capable of transporting five adults and two smaller passengers (three Isofix anchorages are included) in comfort. However, take the roads less travelled and you'll likely be surprised by its capability. Thoroughly updated, the latest Discovery Sport is less a spin-off of the Freelander and more a stand-alone production in the Discovery franchise. 



FAST FACTS

Model: Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 R-Dynamic HSE
Price: R901 838
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power: 132 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque: 430 N.m @ 1 500-3 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 9,7 seconds
Top Speed: 202 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5,6 L/100 km
CO2: 147 g/km
Transmission: nine-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan: five-year/100 000 km