2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport road test review (India)
The Land Rover Discovery Sport has been the most eagerly awaited SUVs in the country. It's the first in line of the new Discovery branded vehicles and promises to offer the best of both, practicality and styling at a starting price even lower than the updated Evoque. Is it then the ideal Land Rover for our market? We find out by putting the SUV to test right here in India.
Design and Styling
Look at the Discovery Sport head on and one is immediately reminded of the Evoque (it is based on the same platform too). This is a positive since the Evoque is still one of the most striking machines on the road today. The clamshell bonnet, sharp headlamps and angular bumper are very familiar. The circular day time running lamps look cool as they're split at four points to represent a compass. Move to the side and the adventure DNA is prominent - after all, it is a Discovery. The clean sides feature a shoulder line that runs from the fender motif to the tail lamp. It isn't a tall vehicle but a very proportionate design. The prominent C-pillar is another highlight. It looks much longer than the Evoque and is too, but only 80mm separates the two. However, compared to the competition it is shorter in length.
The lower Discovery variants and the HSE trim you see here don't feature the blackened roof and A-pillar like the Evoque. The top-end HSE Luxury model, however, gets it standard and in our opinion adds a lot more character. The rear end mimics the front design and also gets large Discovery lettering running across the boot lid. The smoked style tail lamps look sporty and the LED lamps also get the compass like split. Gloss black detailing outlines the lamp while a similar textured strip connects the lamps. It's an interesting rear and still looks very different when compared to its siblings. The Discovery Sport is a smart SUV and it does catch the eye.
Interior and Space
Step inside and the interior is functional and still good looking. The layout does look familiar to the Range Rover models but a big step up from the Freelander. But the positioning of a few controls like the power window buttons hasn't changed. The cabin is also well built and features quality materials like the soft touch wrap on the dash and a lot of metal inlays and detailing. There's also the cool pop-out circular gear selector that until now was seen only on Range Rover models. The steering wheel is perfectly sized and offers stereo/cruise control switches that feel built to last. The instrument cluster is very similar to the Evoque and gets additional information on it thanks to the more capable terrain response system. The 8-inch centre display gets the brand's InControl UI that's nice to use though takes little time getting used to. It also features four large sections that are easy to use, especially while driving. The system also features real-time centre differential and steering input info.
The large seats are comfortable and supportive and there's plenty of room for all passengers. Rear kneeroom is impressive but the floor isn't fully flat so the middle passenger won't be as comfortable. The rear AC vents are placed on the pillars but ventilation can improve.
The Discovery Sport's USP, at least on paper is the 5+2 seating configuration. The optional additional seat for two is basically a split bench that's placed in the boot. The seats aren't for grown ups and can only seat two children. There's barely any kneeroom for an adult even with the middle row seats pushed ahead. To make it worse, the seat and floor height are the same so one will have to sit with the knees pointing to the sky. With the seats folded there's impressive boot space but then the spare tyre moves under the body and is a space saver.
Engine and Performance
The Discovery Sport in India is only offered with a diesel engine and comes in two states of tune (TD4 and SD4). The 2.2-litre motor produces 150PS/190PS of maximum power while peak torque is 400Nm/420Nm, available upwards of 1,750rpm. Both engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission developed by ZF. It is a torque convertor and not a dual-clutch system. The more powerful SD4 is the same unit seen under the hood of the updated Evoque. Compared to competition, especially the Germans (See our spec comparison of the Discovery Sport, BMW X3, Merc M-Class, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque), the TD4 figures aren't really impressive. However, we were only able to test this model. We will test the SD4 engine when the Land Rover press fleet gets the HSE Luxury trim model.
The TD4 motor is refined and NVH levels are impressive. Power delivery is linear and it's a very likable engine character. Throttle response isn't aggressive and is well suited for crawling through bumper-to-bumper traffic or cruising on the highway. The transmission offers smooth shifts and if needed can be shifted manually using the paddle shifters. One can also hold revs at redline for a while before the system forces the upshifts. But upshift manually and the system does take time to downshift on its own when speeds reduce. This can be quite annoying especially while overtaking. One has to keep the throttle fully pressed for quite a while to remind the transmission to downshift or cheat the system by quickly shifting from N to D mode.
In terms of outright performance, the motor disappoints. 100kmph comes up in a not so impressive 11.5 seconds and the SUV maxes out at just 183kmph. Interestingly the engine doesn't feel strained and is actually quite calm even close to top speed. The lower state of tune and the 9-speed transmission however aids with fuel efficiency. In the city, it returns 13.1kmpl and increases to 18.9kmpl on the highway. Overall fuel efficiency then is an impressive 14.55kmpl.
Ride and Handling
'The Discovery Sport shines when it comes to handling and rides brilliantly both on smooth as well as broken roads. The all-independent suspension works well on most terrain making it ideal to drive on Indian roads. The SUV was a delight to drive on our usual test route that also includes twisty sections, high-speed corners and undulated straights. There is a hint of body roll and noticeable understeer but it is felt only when driven hard around sharp corners or series of curves. The HSE Luxury trim even gets adaptive suspension. Overall, the dynamics are confidence inspiring and right there when compared to competition. The steering is electrically assisted but feels more like an hydraulic unit. Steering weight is more than expected but it goes well with the SUV character.
Land Rover vehicles are great off-roaders. The Discovery Sport isn't a hard-core off-roader like the Defender or better than the Discovery 4 but is quite capable. It gets full-time 4WD (Terrain Response System) with various off-road programs that modulates the steering, torque, throttle response, centre-coupling, transmission and braking for optimum traction. There are four special programs to choose from manually based on the terrain one is driving on. So be it grass, gravel, snow, mud-ruts or even sand, there's a program for everything. We drove off-road too and traction was always good to keep it going. There is no low-range transfer box but the clever transmission features a low-ratio first gear for off-road use. Ground clearance could have been more than 200mm but is good enough, in fact the SUV didn't scrape despite being driven off-road. A claimed water wading depth of 600mm is very impressive. There's standard hill-descent control too.
There are four different variants on offer (S,SE, HSE and HSE Luxury). Feature wise, the Discovery Sport is quite loaded, however, most of the equipment like adjustable dampers, adaptive xenon lamps, Meridian audio system, rear seat entertainment package is only available on the top variant. The entry level S only gets a few features and comes with manually adjustable fabric seats and halogen lights. There's no cruise control, auto dimming interior mirror or even dual-zone climate control. The other variants also get a fixed panoramic roof, leather interior, electric seats, slide and recline middle row, tyre pressure monitoring system, keyless entry, cruise control and interior mood lighting. The HSE gets a parking camera with park assist and navigation. All variants offer standard safety features including driver, passenger and curtain airbags.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a capable SUV that's great to be driven both on and off the road. It's practical and an all-rounder like a typical Land Rover but it's also stylish and there's a hint of sport like the more premium Range Rover models. This SUV actually bridges the gap between the Freelander and Evoque and combines the best of both worlds. At a starting price of Rs 46.10 lakh, ex-Mumbai, this Land Rover actually offers good value. The Discovery Sport is the ideal Land Rover for India. But if you want one, you will have to wait long. Ever since the bookings opened a few weeks ago, Land Rover has already received 300 confirmed orders, so get in line.
Images by Ishaan Bhataiya
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