It replaces the Freelander 2 in the British off-road brand’s line-up, and has been pushed upwards in size and quality to improve Land Rover’s battle against popular mid-size luxury SUVs including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX and Volvo XC60.
Here’s CarAdvice’s quick guide to Land Rover’s crucial new SUV.
So, the Discovery Sport is to the Discovery what the Range Rover Sport is to the Range Rover, right?
Not quite; Land Rover says there’s a flexible approach to the Sport name. Where the Rangie Sport is a, well, sportier version in looks and drive to the high-riding luxury king, the Discovery Sport is simply a more compact version of Land Rover’s big SUV.
What was wrong with the Freelander name?
Land Rover decided the Freelander nameplate was a loner in its line-up and was consequently not targeted accurately enough in the market. It means Land Rover now has a simple arrangement of three vehicle-family pillars, divided into the Defender (utilitarian), Discovery (versatility) and Range Rover (luxury). It also allows Land Rover to repitch its mid-sized SUV offering as a more premium product to better compete with the big-selling Germans, such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The exterior design looks like a blend of the previous Freelander and the Range Rover Evoque…
We agree. The fashion-focused baby Rangie has been an unqualified sales success for the company, so it’s no surprise to see some Evoque influence on the Disco’s styling. The Disco Sport uses the same underpinnings as well, which would also partly explain some of the similarities. There’s no signature stepped roof for the smaller Discovery, either.
Isn’t there a danger the Evoque and Disco Sport will steal sales off each other?
Absolutely, and Land Rover admits this – though it says overall the brand’s sales will increase notably with the existence of both models. They’re also targeted at different buyers. Where the Evoque is a strict five-seater that favours form over function, the Discovery Sport offers a more spacious cabin and can seat up to seven if you tick the third-row option box.
Erm, but in turn doesn’t that conflict with the main Discovery that’s a seven-seater?
Not really, because the third row seats are a $1990 option rather than standard and the Discovery Sport is described as having a 5+2 seating layout – meaning the rearmost seats are more for occasional use than being a genuine people-mover. A typical 13-year-old would be pretty happy back there for a long-ish journey but not so an adult.
I’m struggling to think of another mid-sized luxury SUV with seven seats…
That’s because there isn’t one. This gives Land Rover a crucial advantage in the segment. And the company’s engineers have been clever with the packaging to achieve this, because although the Discovery Sport is 99mm longer than the Freelander it’s still a bit shorter than its competitors.
So the Discovery Sport costs more than the Freelander 2, then?
If you don’t include a 2WD manual Freelander costing from $42,300 and focus on AWD, then no. A 2WD Disco Sport is likely down the track here, but for now it will start from $53,300 when it goes on sale in Australia from 1st May. Click to read our detailed Land Rover Discovery Sport Pricing and Specifications guide.
Sounds good, but is there the usual lengthy Land Rover options list?
Pleasant change here. Even the base model (TD4 SE) is generously loaded up, with navigation, auto tailgate, power front seats and autonomous emergency braking among features not standard on the equivalent Freelander.
As a Land Rover it’s still good off road, yes?
The approach, departure and ramp-over angles aren’t as good as the Freelander’s, but the Discovery Sport should still prove to be the pick of its segment for getting into the rough stuff. Land Rover’s clever Terrain Response is still standard, allowing the driver to tailor the vehicle’s electronics controlling steering, engine, gearbox and centre diff to the conditions – simply by choosing a mode to match the surface, whether it’s bitumen, mud and ruts, or gravel/grass/snow.
Can it beat the segment benchmark, the BMW X3?
We’ll only know once we tested the models back to back in a comparison. On paper, the Disco Sport already wins the value battle, but our first drive on the international launch in Iceland suggests the X3 will remain the leader for dynamics and Land Rover’s 2.2-litre turbo diesel is definitely no match for the BMW’s 2.0-litre unit in terms of performance and fuel economy.
But what about these new ‘Ingenium’ engines Jaguar Land Rover are talking up?
Yes, the British sister brands featured the phrase “class leading” when announcing its new modular family range. The first is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel that will debut in the new Jaguar XE mid-sized luxury car, and it will migrate to the Disco Sport later this year. It’s not clear how long it will take to get to Australia, but it looks set to lead the way on efficiency when it does.
I’m keen to read more...
No problem! Check out our first drive review of the new, smaller Discovery here.