Fuel economy: 30.5mpg
Given the choice of a rutted country track or a sweeping back road, you’d probably assume I’d be pointing the nose of our rugged Land Rover Discovery Sport towards the rough stuff. Well, yes and no.
You see, while the baby Disco is hugely accomplished off the beaten track, over the past 5,000 miles, I’ve been astonished at its composure and agility on good old tarmac.
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Look past its high-riding stance and tough off-roader proportions, and you’ll discover that this Land Rover delivers genuine driver engagement on sealed surfaces. In fact, no other rival comes close to matching the Sport’s dual personality.
Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as the Discovery Sport was signed off by chassis guru Mike Cross from sister brand Jaguar. As a result, it has the sort of well weighted and direct steering you’d expect from one of the big cat’s saloons.
Then there’s the multi-link rear axle that feels like it’s sharing the cornering load equally with the front wheels, helping deliver a remarkably neutral cornering stance and a car-like sense of agility. There’s plenty of grip, too – impressive given that the Continental Cross Contact LX tyres are designed to cope with tarmac, mud and snow.
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Yet it’s the Land Rover’s body control that really impresses. Yes, there’s body roll, but it’s never excessive, and quick changes of direction don’t upset the balance. When you’re attacking a twisting back road, the Disco flows with unflappable poise.
Unfortunately, the trade-off for this handling sparkle is a firm ride, particularly at lower speeds where the SUV thuds over potholes and fidgets over imperfections. It’s not uncomfortable, but this undermines the car’s otherwise excellent refinement – wind and road noise are very well suppressed.
Land Rover’s engineers have also done a fine job of isolating the 2.0-litre diesel. It sounds harsh when extended, but at all other times, you’re only vaguely aware of a low rumble from under the bonnet. Better still, the Ingenium engine has loosened up nicely, combining with the slick nine-speed auto to deliver punchy pace.
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To make the most of the available performance, you can take control of the transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles, although I’ve found that the ZF box responds nearly as well in auto mode, with only the slightest lift or stab of the throttle delivering well timed up and downshifts.
Economy hasn’t improved, though – our 30.5mpg return is nowhere near Land Rover’s 53.3mpg claim. Elsewhere, the Discovery Sport is doing a fine job of coping with family life. The lofty ride height and spacious rear seating make it a doddle to get my two children in and out, while the roomy boot swallows everything I throw at it.
But our favourite thing about the Land Rover is still its indomitable spirit –in true Discovery style, this is a car that gives the confident feeling you’ll get to your destination, whether that’s on or off road.
Dealer adds a real sense of occasion to the handover of our new premium SUV
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Fuel economy: 34.1mpgFirst impressions count more than ever these days, so it's no surprised car manufacturers are pulling out all the stops when handing over your new set of wheels.
Take the Land Rover Discovery Sport that's just joined our fleet, for example: when I collected the keys from the vast Lookers dealership in Battersea, London, 'my' car was hidden under a tailored cover in the showroom's glitzy reception area. There was even a plinth with my name on it alongside.
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I was greeted by brand ambassador Claudio Calabrese, who offered me a complimentary cup of tea before the grand unveiling of our Land Rover. I'll admit, I needed a calming brew, as the optional Phoenix Orange paint I'd confidently selected from the online configurator was making me increasingly nervous, as I wondered whether the bright finish would be too brash in the metal.
I needn't have worried - as soon as Claudio pulled off the covers, I knew I'd made the right choice. The Discovery looked stunning, easily standing out from the increasing number of white, black and grey models I've noticed on the road in the last few months.
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The eye-catching paint isn't the only option on our baby Disco. I'd also added the £1,140 Style Pack that brings privacy glass, illuminated kick-plates and configurable ambient cabin lighting, plus the £2,490 Entertainment Pack, which includes a 17-speaker Meridian sound system and dual-view infotainment screen.
Yet, even without these extras, the HSE model is pretty well-equipped. For instance, the lengthy standard kit list runs to leather seat trim, sat-nav, bi-xenon lights (we've added the £390 adaptive function), keyless entry, a reversing camera and cruise control. There really isn't much this car doesn't have.
Crucially, our model comes with Land Rover's all-new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine, which promises greater refinement and lower emissions compared to the old 2.2-litre unit. In combination with the nine-speed gearbox, it gives a CO2 figure of 139g/km and claimed efficiency of 53.3mpg.
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And, like all Discovery Sport models, you get four-wheel drive with the brand's clever Terrain Response system. Combine this with the spacious interior and seven-seat layout, and the Discovery promises to be perfectly suited to both my growing family and the muddy, flooded roads that surround my Hertfordshire home.
With the comprehensive handover complete, I excitedly edged the Disco out of the showroom, beaming as much as the paint finish. If first impressions really do count, then this car's future is going to be very bright indeed.
Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.