This is the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, the first model in the second phase of Land Rover’s three-pillared regeneration plan. The Discovery Sport goes on sale soon with the first deliveries early in 2015.
One engine and two gearboxes are initially offered with prices ranging from £32,395 to £42,995 but the eD4 diesel will arrive later in 2015 with a price tag under £30,000. Trim levels run from SE, SE Tech (when navigation becomes standard), HSE and HSE Lux.
The new Range Rover line-up is complete (for now…), while the first of the new Land Rover Defenders won’t make production until at least 2018. But this replacement for the Freelander is the first of at least three models in the new Discovery family, with a new version of the current, larger Discovery due to debut in 2016.
The new Land Rover Discovery Sport model takes a very different approach to the Freelander, yet compared with the new Jaguar XE the Disco seems to be a poor relation. So there’s no all-new iQ [Al] platform and aluminium body – the Discovery Sport sits on a heavily modified version of the platform that’s used for the Freelander and Range Rover Evoque.
More controversially, there’s no new Ingenium family engine under the bonnet, initially at least. Instead, the Disco Sport launches with just the 187bhp 2.2-litre SD4 engine used elsewhere in the Jaguar Land Rover range.
It drives through a slick nine-speed auto or six-speed manual, four or two-wheel-drive transmission, but emissions of 157g/km and a claimed average of 46mpg are nothing spectacular. Wait until later next year, though, and you can have a Sport with the new eD4 turbodiesel and emissions from around 119g/km.
That, however, is unlikely to stop the many thousands who will flock to another stunning Land Rover design from Gerry McGovern and his team. The new car is longer, yet lower and narrower than the Freelander, and while clearly related to the new Range Rovers, shows the different direction the more leisure-orientated Discovery family is taking.
“It’s important to get the right level of differentiation between the families,” McGovern told us. “The Discoveries are more of a radical departure than the Range Rovers, but we’re tailoring vehicles to individual customers’ needs. Existing Discovery owners told us they wanted something more premium and less brutal, so that’s what we’re delivering.”
The car looks more rounded in the flesh than in these photographs, with some stunning detailing around the front lights (with new LED signature) and grille, creases along the sides and the number plate recess on the boot. But it’s the proportions and stance of the car that stand out most – this is a car with all the family friendly features you’d expect of a Discovery, but with a new sense of style and, as the name suggests, sportiness.
That’s highlighted by the reverse-angled C-pillar. “We’ve given the C-pillar far more attack and angle,” said McGovern. “There’s lots of character to the design and you’ve got to live with the car to see that.” Yet in spite of the sporty looks, visibility for driver and passengers was key.
The interior design is dominated by vertical elements – a feature of the new Discovery family – with what McGovern describes as a “premium, but rugged” style. There’s some delicious detailing again, like the ribbed leather on the seats inspired by high-end watch design.
Versatility remains an important Discovery philosophy and there’ll be seven seats in all UK Sports – although the rearmost seats are only suitable for children, young teens or small adults – and numerous clever cubbies in the cabin.
Tech plays a big part inside with an all-new infotainment system featuring an eight-inch touchscreen which operates like a smartphone with swiping and ‘pinch and zoom’ functionality.
Land Rover’s InControl apps feature everything from Internet radio to sat-nav, there’s on-board WiFi and you can specify a 17-speaker Meridian sound system. Plus, between the two main analogue instrument dials is a five-inch TFT screen, which displays key information, including off-road mode.
There’s standard autonomous emergency braking that works at speeds up to 50mph, while a pedestrian airbag will pop out at the base of the windscreen if the car detects an impact. Other advanced safety kit available includes lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and stability systems to aid towing.
That heavily modified platform features a clever compact multi-link rear axle that not only offers ride and handling benefits, but also allows a full-size spare wheel to be fitted while still offering decent luggage space inside, even with the foldaway third row seats.
Although the Sport doesn’t get an all-aluminium bodyshell like the XE, extensive use of stiff yet lightweight materials in the body allows engineers to tune the chassis for the optimum ride and handling balance – it’s been tested on everything from British B-roads to Germany’s Nürburgring race track. Just don’t get too excited – the Sport will only do 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds with a 117mph top speed.
In spite of the sleek body, there’s still 212mm of ground clearance and impressive approach and departure angles for serious off-road work. And that’ll be helped, of course, by a suite of mechanical and electronic engineering trickery to ensure the Discovery Sport is best in class when it goes off-road.
There’s a Haldex four-wheel-drive system and Terrain Response to tune steering, throttle, gearbox and four-wheel-drive system according to the conditions. And if you really want to get yourself into deep water, the Discovery wades to depths of 600mm.
Discovery Sport deliveries start early next year, with just that one initial engine and two gearbox options. Shortly after launch, you’ll be able to get a two-wheel-drive version, while Ingenium engines should arrive later in 2015.
At launch there will be four trim levels to choose from – SE, SE Tech (when navigation becomes standard), HSE and HSE Lux – with prices ranging from £32,395 to £42,995. The eD4 engine will arive later in 2015 dropping the starting price below £30k.
Production of the forthcoming Discovery Sport will take place at its Halewood plant in Merseyside. Around 250 new jobs have also been created to help manage production of the new compact SUV.
More than £200m has been invested in the plant, while the additional jobs to support JLR’s growth will see the Halewood workforce reach 4,750 – more than treble the number employed back in 2010.