You have to admire a manufacturer that backs it own products. Whether it's the testing confines of a racetrack or an arduous off-road course, when an automaker chooses to debut an all-new product in trying conditions then you know they have faith in their creations. And that is exactly what Land Rover did recently for the launch of the all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport.
In the 90s, the British SUV specialist went through a bit of a rough patch, which led to endless jokes about the quality of their products. However, with the help of a 3,8 billion Pound investment in R&D, the last two generations of vehicles the firm has manufactured have done much to right the wrongs of the past.
What is it?
Eager to shake the emotional baggage associated with the Freelander, which should have been the firm's child prodigy but turned out to be the enfants terrible, Land Rover has retired that nameplate in favour of this new Sport moniker.
Land Rover essentially has three branches on its family tree: Range Rover, Discovery and Defender, each with its own off-shoots. This new Discovery Sport is the entry-level model into the Discovery range in much the same way as the Evoque is into Range Rover ownership.
Speaking of the Evoque, the Disco Sport shares the majority of its underpinnings, including powertrains, with its sibling. You can read the full engine line-up info and pricing by clicking this link.
In keeping with its more outgoing, rugged nature than the Evoque, this new vehicle has a revised rear suspension. The aluminium, multi-link system borrows heavily from the larger Range Rovers. It is lighter and a more compact design helps free up space under the car and in the cabin.
On the road the all independent set-up works extremely well. The primary ride is excellent and there is very good resistance to roll, which in turn aids driver confidence and passenger comfort.
Passengers are cosseted in an interior that is a tad more minimalist than that of the Evoque, but that is in keeping with the Discovery range ethos, which has always been one of go-anywhere ability coupled with comfort and versatility. The facia in particular seems sparse though what you do see and can touch is very much all you need.
A new infotainment system takes care of the rest. This new interface is neater, less fiddly and far quicker in operation than any fitted to a Land Rover product before and I am guessing it won't be long before we see it rolled out across the entire family.
All models in the range, bar the entry-level TD4 S, come as standard with a 5+2 seating arrangement. Thankfully Land Rover doesn't insult our intelligence by calling its car a seven-seater as the rear most chairs are purely for short hops and or very little passengers. When not in use, they can be folded flat into the boot floor.
Helping ingress and egress to the rear-most seats is aided by a sliding middle row (by 160 mm), which can also help tailor the legroom/luggage area as and when needs arise.
As I said in the intro, you have to admire when a manufacturer backs its own products. To this end Land Rover's local division dished up a wide variety of driving routes and scenarios to show us how capable the Discovery Sport really is. From the scenic Montagu Pass outside of George to the Rock-strewn roads of the Swartberg Pass, the Disco Sport didn't skip a beat or develop so much as a rattle or squeak.
In between, the newcomer easily traded dirt for tar and ambled comfortably to the next driving challenge, while passengers were entertained by the high-end Meridian sound system. Other off-roading experiences included a sandy drive along the banks of a private dam and a rather daunting descent into a rock quarry. The standard Terrrain Response system ensured that there was also enough traction stability to keep the wheels turning and the driver out of trouble.
Capability at the top of its class
The Discovery Sport is able to tackle far more serious off-roading than its owners may ever contemplate, let alone attempt and definitely outweighs its its natural rivals (Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60) in this regard. At the same time it dishes up comfort and specification levels to match its competitors.
It is this versatility that Land Rover is hoping will bring buyers to the Discovery Sport and if they end up choosing this model, I think they'd have done really well.