This is no ordinary midlife update.
The 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport is a super-competent seven-seater in a hotly contested luxury medium-SUV segment. It’s technically an update to the model that came out in 2015, one which this author actually bought and owned for some time.
When car manufacturers usually update their vehicles in the middle of their typical 7–8-year life cycle, they tend to give it a minor facelift and stick on some new bits and make some options that should’ve always been standard, standard.
That’s usually not what we would call a midlife update, but an all-new car. In many ways, then, this is an all-new model from the British brand, but its design similarities to the outgoing Discovery Sport might fool many into thinking otherwise. So what’s new?
The new Discovery Sport has had every body panel except the bonnet, roof and tailgate replaced. It now sits on top of the brand’s new C-SUV architecture that it shares with the new Range Rover Evoque.
From the outside, the changes are subtle but extensive. There are new headlights with a Discovery daytime running light signature. Add in a new grille with a lower and wider mouth, and the visual mass of the car is pushed further down to portray a sportier SUV.
The rear gains new LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators and a new bumper. Land Rover will also offer 21-inch wheels for the first time on the Discovery Sport.
The interior is where most of the changes have taken place, with the centre console, infotainment and instrument cluster systems replaced with significantly more modern iterations.
The switchgear is all new and far more modern, even the steering wheel has been switched out for one from a Range Rover. In fact, that’s perhaps the biggest change to this car.
The seats are comfortable and there is a ton of room in the second row, so this car can definitely fit five adults if it needs to. There is also now more storage than before, and we found the wireless phone charging and the new infotainment system to be rather useful.
Interestingly, there are almost no plastics on the inside of this Discovery Sport that you would regularly need to touch. A deliberate tactic from chief interior designer, Martin Buffery, who was also responsible for the Range Rover Velar and the Evoque.
One of the biggest attributes of the Discovery Sport has always been its seven-seater capability. The 5+2 seating arrangement has allowed for a level of practicality that is hard to match in this segment.
The seat configuration can be varied in 24 unique ways, allowing for a hugely practical solution to interior space and passenger requirements.
For the 2020 models, the seven-seat option has become standard (a $2000 option previously), and there have been extensive revisions to the second and third row with better ventilation and more USB power supplies (although there is no USB-C in sight, which feels like a poor omission).
In line with the new Jaguar Land Rover ethos of simplification and reducing complexity, the range has been revised to reduce exhaustive choice. As such, the 2020 Discovery Sport will be offered in S, SE and HSE grades only, with all models being powered by a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The base-spec S models are offered in P200 guise (2.0-litre petrol, 147kW and 320Nm) from $60,500 and D150 (2.0-litre turbo diesel, 110kW and 380Nm) from $62,450. Step up to the SE and you’ll have a choice between the P250 (2.0-litre petrol, 184kW and 365Nm) for $67,852 and D180 (2.0-litre diesel with 132kW and 430Nm) for $67,910.
The top-spec HSE is offered only with the top-spec D240 diesel engine that delivers 177kW and 500Nm of torque, but will set you back $79,700. An R-Dynamic package can be added to any of the models for a roughly $2500–$3000 cost depending on the model.
Further emphasising that this is no regular update, all models bar the D150 will be available with a 48V lithium-ion battery that aids in turning the Discovery Sport into what the car industry refers to as mild-hybrid. The 8kW/h battery sits underneath the second-row seats, and aids in storing energy and delivering it to not only improve fuel efficiency, but also drivability.
The mild-hybrid system allows the engine to turn off at speeds below 17km/h as the car comes to a stop. This enables a fair bit of fuel-saving at low-speed traffic situations without compromising on the comfort. It’s pretty seamless and the engine turns back on immediately when required. To be fair, we barely noticed that it was happening at all.
This small battery and its energy recuperation system allows for a seven per cent fuel economy saving. All diesel models fall below the 7L/100km luxury car tax threshold (which may also explain why the most expensive HSE variant is only available as a diesel, as the petrol would push it over), and both petrol models return a respectable 8.1L/100km.
For our test drive and review, we drove the P250 and D240 models in the base-model S grade (a combination that is actually not available in Australia). We started our journey leaving the outskirts of Barcelona in a P250 through some amazing roads that really tested the new Discovery Sport’s updated suspension system.
While this new Land Rover may not be up to the dynamic competency of the BMW X3 or Audi Q5, it’s a huge and substantial improvement over the previous model, both in terms of body stiffness and how it handles being pushed into a corner. Though that hardly matters for the regular buyer, the good news is that despite its improved dynamics, the ride remains (to the best of our ability to test on Spain’s amazingly smooth roads) supple and comfortable.
We did notice on both the petrol and the diesel models an initial lag and hesitation when taking off from standstill. An almost one-second delay from when the throttle is planted to when the car responds. This is actually an improvement over the old car, but still a tad annoying.
One would no doubt get used to it, but it remains an area that can be improved upon. Part of the reason for this is that the nine-speed transmission actually starts the car in second gear, reserving first for off-roading.
Speaking of which, we spent an inordinate amount of time proving what we already knew: the Land Rover Discovery Sport is incredibly capable off-road. We climbed and descended hill after hill, we traversed ridiculous terrain, and subjected our car to situations that I cannot fathom any sane owner would willingly do.
We had a good play with the ‘see-through bonnet’ system, which allows the driver to see what is under the car and where the wheels are placed exactly. This is done with a clever camera system that maps the underbody of the car as the front drives over, and then maps it together for a real-time view.
That’s not the only clever camera system either, because the reversing camera can also be optioned with ‘clear sight’, which means the mirror is actually a display and there is a camera mounted in the rear shark fin. This allows for a much wider view of what is behind, and all but eliminates blind spots.
After we got the car extremely dirty and in need of a new paint job, we switched to the diesel engine and found it to be relatively similar in behaviour. That extra 135Nm of torque over the petrol is definitely evident, but it’s not substantial enough for us to say buy the diesel. Actually, we would say save some money and buy the petrol. In this day and age, that is the most logical choice.
Overall, the new 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport is a huge improvement over its predecessor – it’s priced well to compete in a very tough segment. The improvements to its interior are substantial, and bring the model into the modern world where it now competes on an equal footing with its German rivals.
The ability to carry seven cannot be discounted, nor can its handsome looks and refinement. It should definitely be on the consideration set of any buyer looking for a smart, capable and highly versatile SUV.