2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 review
Isaac Bober’s 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
IN A NUTSHELL: Land Rover has replaced the Freelander with the Land Rover Discovery Sport. It offers class-leading off-roading ability with impressive on-road ride and handling. Looks good too.
THE BOXY-LOOKING Freelander is no more. In its place is the much-hyped 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Borrowing heavily from the look of the Range Rover Evoque, the new Discovery Sport is, it’s fair to say, a stunner and, although it shares one or two of its oily bits with both the Range Rover Evoque and now-dead Freelander it’s essentially an all-new vehicle.
The key difference is the back-end of the car which features an all-new rear suspension set-up that’s not only allowed Land Rover to find enough room in the boot to fit a third-row of seats (for two people), but it’s also allowed for a squarer boot which offers 429 litres of storage. Drop the second-row seats, and you can do this from the boot via small buttons or from the second-row seats via levers, and space grows to an impressive 1698 litres.
While Land Rover has made a big deal of the Discovery Sport being a 5+2 it’s worth mentioning that the third-row seats are an extra cost option which add $1990 to the sticker price – no matter the variant. Our test Discovery Sport SD4 didn’t have this option, instead getting a full-sized alloy beneath the boot floor. We’ll have a review of a Discovery Sport with the third row in the next few weeks.
Pricing for the Discovery Sport is from $53,300 (+ORC) for the TD4 manual, our test SD4 (automatic) lists from $59,000 (+ORC) and Land Rover, like its European rivals, is offering a long list of extra-cost options for the Discovery Sport, which means the price can quickly rise and you keep ticking boxes.
Land Rover chose to launch the Discovery Sport before its brand-new Ingenium diesel engine became available (it debuted in the Jaguar XE) and so persists, for now, with the same 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine (in two states of tune) and the 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder as both the Evoque and the Freelander. This means 110kW and 420Nm for the TD4 and 140kW and 420Nm of torque from just 1700rpm for the SD4 variant, the petrol delivers 177kW and 340Nm of torque. A six-speed manual is standard while our SD4 test car featured the cost optional nine-speed automatic.
Fuel consumption for our SD4 automatic test car is a combined 6.1L/100km but in our week of driving, which mostly involved dirt road work and long-distance drives (of more than 100km at a time) we couldn’t get the thing down below 8.5L/100km. And that was with start/stop left on.
Much has been made of the fact Land Rover has used the ‘old’ engine with numerous reports that it’s a bit gruff, noisy and sluggish. Nonsense. With a solid 420Nm on tap from just off idle at 1700rpm there’s plenty of grunt for inching across broken terrain at low speed and solid urge in the mid-range for overtaking.
So, I’ve got no problem at all with the engine. Nope, but I do have a gripe with the nine-speed automatic. And it’s exactly the same gripe I had with the nine-speed auto in the Jeep Cherokee. That is, that at around-town speeds, and particularly when moving off from a standing-start there’s hesitation and clumsiness. This isn’t the engine’s fault, rather I think there’s a calibration issue with the gearbox, because above 60km/h the transmission and engine work brilliantly together to the point where shifts are seamless and there’s just an never-ending, well, almost, pouring on of power.
What about when off-road? Well, because you’re generally inching over terrain rather there’s very little shuffling through the gears and so you don’t get the same clumsiness you do around town. I’m not totally convinced nine-speeds is the best way to go for small capacity engines, but…
The steering is a strong point of the car being nice and meaty, quick and direct in its action. The brakes too are progressive in their action with decent pedal feel, which makes pulling up a nice smooth affair. The stop-start function is quick to turn-off and back on again, but the whole process is gruff and that it won’t default off is frustrating – a first-world gripe.
On bitumen, the Discovery Sport’s ride and handling is a big leap ahead of its predecessor. Indeed this is a tall-ish SUV that feels more like a hunkered down station wagon. Yes, there’s some initial bodyroll heading into corners, but in typical Land Rover fashion the Discovery Sport quickly settles on its springs and then just hangs on for dear life. And the same goes when you’re on dirt. There’s excellent grip and humps, bumps and ruts are dispatched as if a pillow has been laid across them with no steering kickback.
Key to the Discovery Sport’s corner-carving ability is its new multi-link rear suspension set-up which have helped not just to give it more room in the back and better road manners, but also improved off-road ability. Indeed Land Rover reckons the multi-link rear end offers a class-leading 340mm of axle articulation. Impressive.
So, just what is the Discovery Sport like when the going gets a little tougher? Well, in a word, excellent. The Discovery Sport boasts 212mm of ground clearance and a 600mm wading depth, impressive wheel travel and axle articulation, and a solid approach, departure and break over angles (25-degrees; 31-degrees and 21-degrees, respectively).
With no back-up vehicle we didn’t venture too far off-road but the stuff we did tackle included some fast and slow dirt roads as well as some sandstone-strewn tracks which showed off the thing’s articulation. These were the sorts of tracks I would never have taken an X3, Q5, or XC60, down due to their lack of clearance and road-biased limited-travel suspension.
The Discovery Sport performed well, indeed I’d even go so far as to say that it sets the benchmark in this category for off-road ability. Probably it’s only other real competitor is the Range Rover Evoque. We’ll run a full road test once we’ve had our hands on the 5+2 Discovery Sport.
It’s worth mentioning that while the Evoque is offered in front-wheel drive no-one here was keen to buy it (which makes no sense to me given that cars superior on-road ride compared with its all-paw sibling) and so a front-drive Discovery Sport won’t be available in Australia.
The boot has been dealt with, so, what’s the back seat like? In a word, roomy. Even with two child seats installed there was still room for me to slide my backside between the two seats in the middle. And because the transmission tunnel is quite low, the middle seat ends up being quite usable for adults. Without the child seats, you’ll easily fit three adults in the back, with plenty of head, shoulder and leg room. This can be improved on thanks to the sliding rear seats which also have tilt adjustable backrests.
In the front, the front the Discovery Sport is practical rather than flashy and while it’s got hints of Range Rover Evoque particularly in the low or ‘sports’ command driving position, it’s also got hints of Freelander with the chunky buttons and the way the infotainment unit is mounted. Speaking of the infotainment unit, it’s a giant leap ahead of the old unit Land Rover used, although while it’s got all the functionality you could want, it’s not the best in the business and can be a little slow to respond. No real biggie, but what did concern me was the reversing camera which didn’t seem to display the image in real-time, but that could be due to the fish-eye lens which makes the edges of the image appear to move out of sync with the image in the middle.
Land Rover has made huge progress in improving the materials and build quality of its cars, and the Discovery Sport is a perfect example of that with all but the plastic around the drive selector feeling soft to the touch. The stuff around the drive selector is hard and scratchy and not the sort of material you expect to find in a $50k-plus vehicle.
Thanks to good seat and steering wheel adjustment it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, and even though you do sit down quite deep inside the Disco Sport vision all around, even out through the small rear windscreen is good.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport has achieved a five-star rating from ANCAP and gets seven airbags, permanent all-wheel drive, reversing camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking, advanced seatbelt reminders for all seats, and more like the clever bonnet-mounted pedestrian airbag just below the windscreen (pictured above).