2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE review
Isaac Bober’s 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
In a nutshell: Freelander replacement gets better looking, roomier, more capable and the ability to carry seven with the cost-optional 5+2 seating arrangement.
2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE
Price From $61,600 (+ORC) Warranty three years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder Power 140kW at 4000rpm Torque 420Nm at 1700rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic (optional) Drive AWD Weight from 1775kg (auto) Towing 2200kg Towball 100-150kg Maximum combination (vehicle and trailer) 4800kg (auto) Ground clearance 212mm Angles 25-degrees (approach), 31-degrees (rampover), and 21-degrees (departure) Roof load 75kg Fuel tank 65 litre Thirst 6.1L/100km
THINK OF THE Land Rover Discovery Sport as the Freelander2 replacement, the Discovery’s new baby brother. But it’s also more than both of those things, and while our first thought was that the Discovery Sport could steal away sales from the similarly-sized Range Rover Evoque, a week in the thing has convinced us otherwise… it’s aimed at a different type of buyer altogether.
Indeed, where the Evoque is chasing the inner-city type who prefers skinny jeans and loafers without socks, the Discovery Sport, in my humble opinion anyway, is chasing the sort of buyer that doesn’t mind getting a bit of mud on their boots. But let’s not delve too far into the buyer profile…
But what the Discovery Sport does do, is to help to cement the differentiation within Land Rover families, for instance, Range Rover represents Luxury, the Defender the Dual-Purpose of off-road ability with livability, well, at least the next-generation model will, while the Discovery represents Leisure. I’d agree with all of that.
So, while the Discovery Sport essentially replaces the Freelander2, it also marks an embiggening of the Discovery family and the introduction of 5+2 (cost optional) seating to the compact SUV segment. It also offers class leading off-road ability, but more on that later. Beyond the extra (cost-optional) seats the Discovery Sport boasts an all-new multi-link rear suspension set-up that’s not only allowed it to house the two extra seats, it also promises better handling and greater articulation off-road. But does it live up to the promise? You’ll have to wait for a bit…
There’s no mistaking the design similarities, on the outside, to the Range Rover Evoque, but there are enough differences to make the Discovery Sport a very different looking and feeling vehicle. For a start, it’s bigger than the Evoque, by around 80mm which is all down to a longer wheelbase, contributing to a more family-friendly feel on the inside. Also, unlike the Evoque, the Discovery Sport has an airbag lurking in its nose.
While we’re talking size, the Discovery Sport is 239mm shorter than its bigger brother the Discovery, and measures 4590mm long with a wheelbase of 2741mm which is, as I said in the paragraph above, longer than the Evoque. That Land Rover’s crayon twirlers and engineers have been able to push the wheels right out to each corner, not only helps with the thing’s ability off-road, but gives the Discovery Sport a very planted look.
The Discovery Sport is a very sleek looking vehicle hoping to trade on its looks as much as its off-road ability, but all the typical Land Rover design elements are there, including the clamshell bonnet, my favourite bit is the forwards angled C-pillar which is a clear nod to the Freelander (Google it). Beyond that the door mirrors and the shape of the A-pillars, says Land Rover, have been optimised to reduce wind noise around the front end. An acoustic windscreen lamination further reduces wind noise.
Like other Land Rover product, or rather Range Rovers, the Discovery Sport features wraparound corners and bottom edges, meaning the bottom of the door runs right down under the door sill. When I last tested a Discovery Sport I managed to get this plastic strip caught on a tuft of grass, ripping it straight off; I had no such problems this time.
Land Rover says it spent plenty of time modelling the car’s rear end to ensure that it resisted road grime transfer, and after a week of driving it across road works, in town, on the highway and on just-heavily-rained-on-and-muddy dirt roads I reckon they’ve done a good job. I didn’t wash the thing before returning it, but it still looked pretty clean at the back. Chalk one up for the boffins.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Climb inside the Discovery Sport and instantly feels more premium than the Freelander, but more ‘everyday’ than the Evoque, if that makes sense. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it’s a calming space. And with our test car fitted with a cost-optional panoramic glass roof, the interior felt even more light and airy. And the kids loved it.
Like that forward-angled C-pillar, the clean, straight lines and clearly labelled switchgear on the dashboard, offer updated hints of Freelander, but the design of the dashboard itself is clearly from the Evoque. The interior then is a compromise, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Run your hand across the dashboard and indeed all of the surfaces, including the door linings and you’ll be hard pressed to find any scratchy plastic. All of the stuff used is hard-wearing, sure, but premium looking and feeling, and unlike a lot of other SUVs that have bits and pieces of shiny plastic peppered throughout to show up greasy finger marks and dust, the Discovery Sport has been cut from a more understated and utilitarian cloth. Sure, there’s the odd smattering of gloss plastic on the inside, but it’s not used on touch points, indeed, all of the dials are wrapped in soft-touch and grippy rubber which make them easy to see and use even in full sun.
The driver’s pew in our test Discovery Sport SD4 HSE was both comfortable and supportive enough, with decent under thigh support. Indeed, in my week with the thing I routinely spent upwards of 200km a day behind the wheel and always arrived at my destination without feeling like my thighs were going to seize up.
The HSE offers a slightly different layout to lesser model Discovery Sports in that it has a slightly larger console that includes a sliding armrest and a roller storage section with two removable cup holders located underneath. Remove the cup holders and you’ll easily hold a 2.0-litre bottle here, although why you’d need to is beyond me… driving isn’t particularly thirsty work. The front and rear doors offer 13.8-litres of storage, or a huge amount in other words. For those who can’t go anywhere without their technology, our Discovery Sport was fitted with four 12V outlets, you can specify six if you plump for the third row.
The dashboard is dominated-ish by the eight-inch touch-screen that controls everything from the sat-nav to Bluetooth, and while it’s an improvement on the multi-media unit that Land Rover has previously used, it’s still not class leading in its graphics, and it can take a little while to work your way around the various menus.
The seating position is what Land Rover calls its Sports Command Driving Position which just means you sit down a little deeper in the guts of the machine, ah-la Evoque. In both Range Rover and Discovery proper you sit up in the Command Driving Position. The deep glass house, a feature of Land Rover product means vision right around is excellent.
ROOM AND PRACTICALITY
Our test Discovery Sport SD4 HSE offers tilt-and-slide functionality on the second-row seats (we’re still waiting to try out the ‘occasional use’ and cost-optional +2 seats in an Discovery Sport (we’ll be testing one with 5+2 configuration later in November). And that function alone meant that getting my kid’s seats to fit perfectly against the backrest, meaning my long-limbed seven-year-old could have his seat slid aft to free up extra room for his legs – indeed the range of movement is 160mm.
Sat in the back, there’s an impressive 1011mm of legroom, with the second row seats slid back, and thanks to the scalloped backs of the front seats knee room for taller passengers is fine. Headroom too, even with the panoramic roof fitted was fine and I’m just on six-feet tall. The middle seat in the second row, even with minimal intrusion from the transmission tunnel is still more of a perch than a long-drive seat due to the shape of it. Still, for a short haul I’d be happy to sit there, and even with both the kid’s seats in the back, there was still room for me to wriggle my backside between the two seats.
It’s worth mentioning that, like other Land Rover product, the Discovery Sport offers stadium style seating, meaning the row behind is mounted slightly higher than the one in front of it; the second row in the Discovery Sport is mounted 50mm higher than the driver and passenger seats. ISOFIX mounting points are fitted to the second row, although the top tether mounts are on the back of the seats and mounted right down near the boot floor which means you’ve got to poke, prod, grit your teeth, grumble, swear and push to get the latch to hook on… and don’t get me started about getting the latch off.
Over in the boot there’s 829 litres with the seats pushed all the way aft, and 981 litres with them pushed forwards.
PERFORMANCE, RIDE AND HANDLING
Under the bonnet of our Discovery Sport SD4 HSE is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder that makes 140kW of power at 4000rpm and 420Nm of torque from just off idle at 1700rpm. Fuel consumption is a combined 6.1L/100km. The Discovery Sport runs a nine-speed automatic transmission.
And while the engine offers more than enough oomph, the clever nine-speed auto can occasionally be too clever for its own good. And this is particularly noticeable when you’re pulling away from a standing start. See, the gearbox defaults into a second-gear getaway, reserving first gear for low-speed off-roading, and that means you get a bit of a surge due to a slight hesitation to lock-up. Sure, you can manually select first gear if you like, but… and I don’t agree with Land Rover’s assumption that ‘its’ second gear is equivalent to first gear in transmissions with fewer ratios.
That said, when you’re not asking it to do something all-of-a-sudden, the gearbox is nice and smooth and because it will skip gears to get to the gear it thinks you want, when giving it the full size-12 or leaning on the brakes, it’s faster than the six-speed manual and in-keeping with the Sport monicker.
I’m not always a big fan of stop/start systems, and I don’t really know why. It’s probably because I don’t spend a lot of time in stop/start traffic, or at traffic lights, or… whatever. But the system in the Discovery Sport is pretty good. According to Land Rover it’ll activate within 300 milliseconds, which is a lot faster than it takes to say 300 milliseconds, and I’d believe it, you barely have to raise your toe on the brake pedal and the engine fires back into life. Nice.
Land Rover is to be commended for the ride and handling of the Discovery Sport and I think the fact it works so well here is because the UK has similarly rubbish roads. It dispatches expansion joints and ripples in bitumen like a mattress has been laid across them, indeed I’d go so far as to say the Discovery Sport, which has to be dual-purpose, is as comfortable and dynamic, even more so, than many family-sized wagons, and manages to out-punch most other SUVs.
The steering too is impressive. Running an electric power assist system, the Discovery Sport offers plenty of stability in the straight ahead position which is key to avoiding having to constantly adjust the wheel at highway speeds, while off centre it’s nice and direct with reasonable weight if not much feel.
But where the Discovery Sport truly impresses is in its ability to step off the bitumen and get its feet dirty. Almost none of its competitors are capable of its dual-purpose ability, and only the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk will go close off-road… Our rough-road journey took in some well-graded fast-flowing dirt roads, some slower speed stuff, bone-jarring corrugated sections and one particularly gnarly up-hill climb that I’ve tried to get a Trailhawk up, but couldn’t… the Disco Sport climbed up.
The Discovery Sport offers 212mm of ground clearance, which is about the minimum you’d want for tackling more than just a well-graded fire trail. Approach, departure and rampover angles are 25-, 31-, and 21-degrees respectively. The hill we pointed the Discovery Sport at was, thanks to a hole on one side of the track that we couldn’t get around, was about as close to the vehicles 25-degree approach angle as you could get, with just a slight touch on the black plastic bumpers. It’s worth mentioning, as I discovered, that these strips can be popped off if you need to get a bit of extra angle. And, yes, I checked on that with Land Rover.
The road-oriented tyres worked well on the dirt, but they struggled on the hillclimb which, to be fair was damp and built on a mixed base of sandstone and ironstone, and left in General mode via Terrain Response the thing wasn’t keen to tackle the ascent. So, I let it gets its breath, thumbed the Grass, Gravel and Snow setting on Terrain Response, basically, I wanted a setting to handle slippery stuff, and with the gearbox in full auto the thing scrabbled its way up the rock and onto the grippier section of track.
To be honest, most owners would never have attempted to drive the Discovery Sport up the hill I did, but I didn’t just ram the thing at the hill and hope for the best. I inched my way forward and then checked that I had the approach to make it through the moguls and then attacked the hillclimb in a slow and steady fashion. The Discovery Sport did it, and I’d suspect more aggressive tyres would have made it even easier.
Built alongside the Range Rover Evoque, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is not, what some reviewers might lead you to believe, built on the same platform. But it does share bit of its platform, the expensive mechanical bits in the front end, but from the B-pillar back it’s its own machine.
That might not sound like much, but it’s not forget that the Discovery Sport sees the debut of Land Rover’s all-new multi-link rear suspension. And it’s that rear end that’s allowed Land Rover to not only slot a two extra seats into the back, offer impressive boot space without the third row, but also deliver on-road ride and handling, and off-road performance that the Freelander couldn’t have dreamt of, and that very few of its segment rivals can come close to.
The Discovery Sport also includes a function called Wade Sensing (although this is an extra cost option at $540 that has to be optioned along with front parking sensors, surround camera and blindspot monitor) and it’s designed to tell the driver the depth of the water they’ve just driven into. I didn’t get a chance to test out this function, but it seems a bit of a gimmick – the Discovery Sport can wade up to 600mm and I’d suggest that if you don’t know how deep the water is you’ve got to cross, then don’t cross it and find another way around.
Beyond Terrain Response and Wade Sensing, the Discovery Sport also comes with:
- Hill Descent Control (HDC) maintains a set speed while negotiating steep inclines off-road;
- Gradient Release Control (GRC) progressively releases the brakes when moving away on an incline for maximum control;
- Roll Stability Control (RSC) detects the onset of a rollover and applies the brakes to the outer wheels to bring the vehicle under control;
- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) corrects oversteer and understeer by reducing engine torque and/or applying brakes to individual wheels;
- Electronic Traction Control (ETC) reduces torque and/or applies a braking force to individual wheels to prevent wheelspin; and
- Engine Drag torque Control (EDC) helps to prevent lock-up under heavy engine braking in slippery conditions by increasing engine torque to the affected wheels.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating and a raft of active and passive safety systems. All variants get driver and passenger airbags, kneed airbags, side curtain and thorax airbags, as well as a unique-in-segment pedestrian airbag. Autonomous Emergency Braking is also standard and operates 5-80km/h, but will “help to avoid collisions below 50km/h, while reducing the severity of an impact at speeds below 80km/h”.
The Discovery Sport also offers automatic high-beam assist, lane departure warning, trailer stability assist, blind spot monitoring, reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers and more.
PRICING AND EQUIPMENT
Our test Land Rover Discovery SD4 HSE is priced from $61,600 (+ORC), the nine-speed automatic adds $2500 and the glass panoramic roof adds $1800, our car also had a contrasting roof in Santorini Black, which lists for $920. Standard equipment includes things like Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, Terrain Response, high-beam assist, dual-zone climate control, leather and powered tail-gate.