8.5 / 10
It has been almost six months since our Land Rover Discovery Sport joined the family. In that time it has racked up just over 6000km and has generally been a hit with the wife and kids.
Buying a car sight unseen was not the most ideal scenario, however given our requirement set – a medium-sized SUV that can take seven passengers if required – the options were rather limited.
Our MY15 Land Rover is the top-spec Discovery Sport HSE Luxury with the SD4 2.2-litre diesel engine coupled to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. You can get into one from $69,990 (plus on-roads), though with the list of options we ended up ticking, it brought the retail price of ours to the $84,747 drive away. That option list is at the end of this review.
From the outset the Disco Sport, which is how it’s referred to, has certainly made an impression. At least a dozen times my wife and I have been stopped and asked about the car – something to expect from a brand new model.
On the odd occasion that I’ve parked it next to its donor car, the Range Rover Evoque, the parallels between the two are uncanny. The front is hard to distinguish from afar and certainly in traffic I still mistake one for the other.
The rear end is more unique, though I am still not certain which of the two looks better. It’s a rather good-looking SUV regardless, which was one of the main reasons we picked it.
Our car was optioned with Coris Grey paint, the black pack for the wheels, mirrors and badging plus the black contrasting roof. It was essentially the hero-spec colour scheme Land Rover chose to launch the car in. My wife wanted the Kokuri stone with the black pack, which is a light gold that in retrospect looks rather nice, but I over-ruled that decision (and she reminds me of that every single day).
I also initially ordered the car with a white leather interior, but after watching my four-year-old walk over the seat of another white-leather car with his not-so-clean shoes, I changed it to black. Not sure if I regret not getting a contrasting interior, but nonetheless, it still looks good dark.
Land Rover offers a wide variety of choices in the leather seat colours so long as you don’t have the high-spec Windsor leather (as used in Range Rovers), which is what the HSE luxury car has. In that regard, you only get black, white and a rather distasteful chocolate brown to pick from. You also can’t option contrasting stitching.
There’s a rather nice off-white and other suitable choices for the HSE mid-spec car, which I would’ve loved if it were on offer. No doubt the MY16 or MY17 HSE luxury models will have more choice.
On the inside, the highlights of the car are the heated and cooled leather seats, the 19-speaker Meridian sound system and the panoramic moonroof, which when we ordered it, we thought actually opened but is just a giant glass roof.
The Windsor leather is super soft and despite the best efforts of the Queensland sun, and our four- and one-year-old boys, it has so far remained immaculate with no marks, even from the two child seats. Everything wipes off easily.
The sound system, is – and I do not exaggerate here – one of the best in any car I’ve ever tested. That includes those with seven-figure price tags. Strangely, it’s actually better than what I’ve experienced in full-sized Range Rovers.
It must be the Disco Sport’s smaller size and its bass heavy tendency, but whatever the case may be, I have often found myself taking the long way home just to get another track or two in. Even at near top volume, the bass and treble remain solid without distortion. Never have The Wiggles sounded so good.
The downside of the excellent Meridian audio system is the infotainment system. Unlike the base SE and HSE, the HSE Luxury is stuck with the previous-generation software and screen that is slow and somewhat annoying. Land Rover says the new system could not drive the 19-speaker system yet, so they’ve stuck with the old one (this should be fixed with future models).
It’s basically what has been in Jaguar and Land Rover product for some years, now with a new skin. Its hard-disk drive based navigation system can be slow and it runs no apps. We thought it could do so using the Land Rover companion app on the iPhone, but it’s a cheap option we forgot to tick to enable it.
Not that it really matters, as I’ve never found myself wanting to use an app on it. The most use I’ve gotten out of it is pressing the take me home button when I am hopelessly lost.
Our biggest complaint is that it’s not Bluetooth 4.1, so it can’t connect to two phones at once (and prioritise the one that is demanding attention). Meaning it can only connect to either my wife’s or my phone at a time.
It has seven USB ports across all three rows of seating, but the main one that’s neatly housed in the centre compartment is a slow trickle charger. Not sure why that’s the case, but it means a painfully slow charge of our iPhones. You can plug it into a port above the glovebox and get a different result, but then you have wires hanging where they shouldn’t.
Our biggest consideration for selecting the Disco Sport was the width of the second row seats that are also on rails. With two bulky child seats on either corner, my wife can still easily fit between the two – which is a must when one or the other is having a meltdown over the incorrect colour of M&Ms being handed over.
Having tested the space in the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and new Mercedes-Benz GLC for the exact same purpose, I can tell you it’s a different story for the Germans. Something to consider if you have young kids with bulky seats.
The ability to also slide the second row seats backward and forward is hugely advantageous as our one-year-old doesn’t need nearly as much legroom as our four-year-old, so we can have one side slightly further ahead of the other if we have large items in the back.
We paid the extra $2000 for the seven-seat option because my wife said we needed it (my protests were meaningless). So far we’ve used it probably twice (something I remind my wife of, every single day.) but when used they are actually rather good. The fact that you can have one seat up and leave the other down means you can still carry some cargo while ferrying six passengers. With both in use, space becomes rather limited.
The 479L boot capacity has so far failed to disappoint. We have a large pram permanently stored plus umbrellas and whatever other random items the kids need. On top of all this, it carries the week’s shopping without an issue and the automatic tailgate opening (and importantly, remote closing) feature has so far worked flawlessly both from the remote and the physical button on the boot.
Having previously lived with a larger Mercedes-Benz ML 350 for six months as the primary family car, we’ve not really missed the additional space offered by the bigger German offering.
It’s just the right size for my wife to drive and park comfortably in tight spaces. The reversing camera is good (though at start up it can take an awfully long time to go active) and the front and rear sensors have been lifesavers.
Given our tight garage, we physically turn on the parking sensors when entering head first and use its guidance to find the optimal front distance to the pole. It would be nice if the Disco Sport could auto engage the sensors at speeds below 10km/h like some other cars do, or at least have this as an option to turn on.
The Disco Sport vibrates the steering wheel if I leave a lane without indicating; thankfully the vibration is adjustable so it’s on the lowest setting, as it can get annoying. It also – supposedly – has active forward collision assist, but having played chicken with some cardboard boxes, I have yet to activate it or even get a warning beep (for the next review, I will actually set up a test and try to hit the boxes to see if it will stop me).
When we purchased the British SUV, the dealer talked us out of picking the larger 20-inch wheels for two reasons. One, because he said the ride would be rather jittery (something I discovered wasn’t the case when I drove it on 20s) and two, because he said it will save our marriage as my wife is prone to wheel-abuse and my reaction to such events is to generally announce the world has ended.
So far the wheels have (much to my surprise and mild annoyance) remained spotless, but if I were to do it again, I would go for the 20-inch wheels for the look factor alone. They are a different design that tends to stick out more, but hell, for an extra $1000 (and the more expensive tyres come replacement time), it’s worth it if you ask me.
The ride itself is mostly compliant and comfortable. I’ve managed to find one particular road (the pass through the mountains on the Cunningham gap from Brisbane to Warwick) with uneven and rippling surfaces from one side to the other that has really upset the balance of the SUV, making everyone inside a little sick.
It’s worth mentioning this because we frequent that road in other cars with more favourable results (or worse results, as was the case with the new BMW X5 without adaptive suspension). Other than that though, it settles nicely after a bump and shows precious little body roll if I am feeling adventurous on the way to dropping the kids at kindy.
The actual engine and transmission does occasionally annoy me, but my wife (who is the real custodian of this car) doesn’t seem to mind. There’s an abnormal amount of lag when you first go to take off, so I often find myself going hard for a good second before I need to, in order to time the torque surge well. Really, though, it’s not a big deal if you’re not permanently in a hurry or have just jumped out of a supercar and expect similar levels of performance from your diesel…
I tested it back to back with a Freelander 2 (which a CarAdvice staff member bought new around the same time), and found the old car – which has the exact same engine – slightly less laggy, perhaps due to its six-speed transmission.
Speaking of which, though there has been a great deal of criticism about the nine-speed automatic transmission used in the Disco Sport, both from our own staff here and other media outlets, I can tell you hand-on-heart, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the gearbox. The issue is that it takes a while to learn your driving habits and once it adjusts, there’s nothing but smooth and effortless shifting. Those that say otherwise have not lived with it long enough to know.
With 140kW of power and 420Nm of torque, our Disco Sport has never felt slow or underpowered. Even with a full house of adults onboard it has easily climbed steep hills and done so with dignity.
Our average fuel economy has ranged around the 7.5-8.5L mark, which is fairly reasonable considering it spends most of its life doing short trips to the shops and kindy. It managed a solid 6.5L/100km on a long trip from Brisbane to Warwick.
Our car has never gone off-road (nor do I intend it to do so willingly), though we are doing the Land Rover off-road experience (which comes free when you buy the car) early next year, so that will be in the next report.
I have previously driven a Disco Sport off-road extensively (not my car, because I am not insane) and can report that it will do things most vehicles in its class could only dream off. However, like 99 percent of buyers, our Disco Sport is unlikely to see dirt more than once in its life.
So… you’ve probably been wondering if I am going to talk about reliability at some point. Well, actually I am. It’s a rare opportunity as seldom do we get to report back on reliability, as most of our test cars are with us for no more than a week (or six months for long term tests).
Interestingly, and for more scientifically driven purposes, we actually bought two of the exact same cars. CarAdvice co-founder Anthony Crawford and I both purchased the exact same Discovery Sport HSE Luxury, down to the colour and every single option. There’s zero difference between the two cars. Except that his car has over 10,000km on it and has been entirely bulletproof with no issues.
Mine? Not so much.
It started initially with the bottom black plastic cladding on the passenger door being caught on some tall grass and snapping out. With far less force than you would imagine. That broke a few plastic clips, which were replaced at the dealer and the item re-attached. That lasted about a week, before it fell off again while on the move. It was collected and, again, reinstalled.
That lasted maybe two additional weeks, till it fell out once more and was finally silicone glued on, and so far has remained intact. Though the other side is showing signs of similar strain.
Apparently this is a known problem evident on the Range Rover Vogues, which use a similar dust proofing system with the plastic part not hard-fixed to the door.
The interior trim has had some similar issues that required some bits to be taken apart and refitted (as did the tailgate motor, which was replaced – though we never realised it was faulty), but that was done when the car was back getting a slightly bigger issue fixed.
About three months into the ownership phase, one day my wife called me in a panic to say the car had turned itself off in traffic. I –being the typical male that I am – naturally assumed that she had done something wrong, or she was mistaking the auto start-stop for an issue, or that she had put it in P, and taken her seatbelt off, which triggers the car to automatically shut down (a super handy feature, incidentally).
However, my initial assessments were incorrect. Our car did indeed randomly perform a full shutdown. We are talking all the screens, the audio and everything. It came back to life, but it was clearly a real issue. It happened twice more before I decided it wasn’t some freak electrical failure never to be repeated. It ended up being a loose earth wire somewhere that Land Rover fixed after having the car for a few days (and providing a replacement car in the process).
Since then it has had no similar issues. Nonetheless, the main infotainment screen that also houses the reversing camera has malfunctioned a few times, going all fuzzy when reverse gear is selected. It requires the car to be shutdown and restarted. It’s scheduled to go in to have it replaced or fixed next week.
At this point, you might expect me to say that the car is unreliable, however that is not the case. As part of doing this job I have been exposed to countless cars that I’ve kept for six-month periods each and nearly all of them (except the Subaru Outback and Kia Cerato) have had some sort of issue.
Reliability is not about the issues that arise, but how they are dealt with. Sure, a loose earth wire is not ideal (and certainly should not occur in this day and age), but as with all the other issues encountered so far, they have been promptly fixed without question and our Disco Sport has only spent two days off the road up to this point at no inconvenience to us.
Am I happy with the purchase? Absolutely. We love our car and going by its twin having zero issues so far, it’s evidently not systematic.
My original review of the Discovery Sport range rated it a 9/10 and I said in that review that the HSE Luxury gets a 0.5 point deduction for having the old infotainment system and so far, that score hasn’t changed. So 8.5 it is.
Check back in February for the update on the car’s health and its off-roading escapades.