Long-term test review: Land Rover Discovery Sport

Final report: our Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV displays its off-road talent before it leaves fleet

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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There are more efficient SUVs with sharper handling than the Land Rover, but few can match its breadth of ability. With its seven seat capacity, all-weather prowess and luxurious feel, the Disco is a car that rises to every occasion. It will be sorely missed from our fleet.

Mileage: 16,345Economy: 31.8mpg

Before a car leaves Auto Express’s fleet, it’s usually given a thorough clean inside and out. But I had something dirtier in mind for our Land Rover Discovery Sport’s send-off.

After a year in our hands, the Disco had proven its worth in virtually all conditions, but it never ventured much further off road than a gravel car park. Given its impressive rugged credentials, that seemed like a waste.

Happily, all new Land Rovers come with a complimentary half day’s off-road driving tuition at one of the brand’s nine Experience centres around the country. I plumped for a trip to Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire, which has hundreds of miles of track set in a 5,000-acre estate. Guiding me over this challenging terrain was senior instructor Simon Millest.

Before setting off, Simon talked me through the car’s Terrain Response system, with its traction control settings for Mud, Ruts, Rocks and Snow. Then we hit the muddy tracks, and met our first obstacle: a slimy, near-vertical descent. I voted for turning around, but Simon calmly instructed me to edge forward while setting the hill descent control speed.

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Amazingly, the Disco clawed its way down with barely a hint of a slide. And when the time came to go up a similarly steep slope, it scrabbled up effortlessly. Our most nerve-wracking moment was caught on camera in the picture below; you can see the rear wheel hanging in the air, but not the huge drop into a trench ahead. Let’s just say that the car was much more composed than I was. At the end of our session I was left staggered by the Land Rover’s abilities, and surprised at how much fun you can have going slowly.

It also reminded me of the Disco’s huge spread of abilities; it can switch seamlessly between MPV, estate car, executive express and rugged off-roader. I won’t miss the car’s thirst for diesel, but in all other respects it has been a talented family wagon. On the whole it was dependable, too. Senior staff writer Sean Carson had to call out Land Rover assist when the engine warning light illuminated, but the car never failed to start. And the only costs were for some AdBlue and a couple of new tyres – not bad for 16,000 miles of hard motoring.

The Disco’s new owner will be getting an extraordinarily capable all-rounder. Whoever they are, I can only apologise for the muddy state of the carpets.

Land Rover Discovery Sport: fifth report

Our hi-tech Land Rover Discovery Sport is proving a shining star in the middle of a gloomy British winter

Mileage: 14,545Economy: 34.8mpg 

The dark and gloomy winter weather is now in full swing, but thanks to our Land Rover Discovery Sport I’m still tripping the light fantastic every time I climb behind the wheel. From its brilliant xenon headlamps to the gorgeous glow of the cabin’s ambient lighting, the British SUV still leaves me with a smile that’s more dazzling than the car’s main beam.

Let’s start with the headlamps. While hi-tech LED units are all the rage today, our Disco proves that there’s still life in xenons yet. The standard set-up is excellent, with a wide spread of white light on dipped and a powerful and lengthy main beam that makes light work of the unlit country lanes around my Hertfordshire home.

Also included is high beam assist, which automatically dips the lamps when it senses oncoming traffic or you catch the car in front. It’s a neat set-up that’s rarely caught out, helping to take the strain out of night drives.

However, when I specified our car I also ticked the box for the £390 adaptive upgrade – and the set-up has proven to be money well spent. Put simply, the beams follow the steering, effectively allowing you to see around bends.

It works so well that it’s only when you jump in a car without the kit that you realise how much a standard headlamp misses. It’s the same with the separate LED cornering lamps that help take the guesswork out of negotiating pitch black junctions or really sharp hairpin bends.

There are other neat lighting touches, too. Unlock the car at night and puddle lights under the door mirrors create a pool of light around the sides of the car, while our car also includes the £1,140 Santorini Contrast Roof Style Pack, which adds illuminated kick plates and £210 configurable mood lighting. The former is a little chintzy, but the latter creates a real feelgood factor after dark.

You can choose between five different colours for the strips of LEDs set into the tops of the doors and around the base of the centre console. Of course, this technicolour display doesn’t improve the functionality of the cabin, but it’s impossible not to be seduced by the classy ambience the set-up creates.

However, it’s not just the Land Rover’s impressive light show that’s helping create a warm glow this winter. For instance,  when you start the car on really cold mornings, the heated seats and screen fire up automatically. It’s a small but thoughtful and thoroughly welcome touch.

And of course the Disco’s combination of four-wheel drive, all-season tyres and commanding driving position is making mincemeat of the wet, greasy and leaf-strewn roads – few cars inspire as much confidence in wintry conditions.

Yes, there are still niggles with the car, such as the firm low-speed ride and short distance between fill-ups – but neither is able to cast a long enough shadow to spoil my enjoyment of this excellent SUV. 

Land Rover Discovery Sport: Fourth report

Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV is relaxing and comfortable in all conditions

Mileage: 12,543Economy: 36.5mpg

Are you sitting comfortably? Well I certainly am, so let me begin. You see, after nine months behind the wheel of our Discovery Sport, I’ve got used to emerging from journeys feeling as fresh as when I set off. In recent years, we’ve become accustomed to cars with good driving positions, but even by current standards, the Land Rover is supremely comfortable. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the most relaxing machines we’ve had on our fleet over the last decade.

Part of this is down to the relationship between the seat and steering wheel, both of which give more than enough adjustment to accommodate a wide range of body shapes and sizes.

Then there’s the seat itself, which on our HSE features powered adjustment and lumbar support. The cushioning is just right, helping to spread the weight of your body and avoid the sort of pressure hot spots that can lead to pins and needles or irritating twinges. Plus, it also features chunky side bolsters, helping to keep you in place during spirited cornering.

This is just as well, because despite its rugged SUV looks and prodigious off-road ability, the Disco can be hustled through corners with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for lower and sportier models. There’s plenty of grip and the body control is excellent for such a high-riding machine, while the steering is well weighted and accurate.

But as any physicist will tell you, you don’t get anything for nothing, and the Land Rover’s combination of excellent agility and hefty 1,884kg kerbweight has taken its toll on the front tyres. Not only are the shoulders of the rubber very worn, the tread is almost down to its wear bars.

To give an idea of how hard the Land Rover is working its front axle, the rear tyres look almost as fresh after 12,500 miles as they did when new. Yet the tired front tyres are the only real clue to the Disco’s hard-working life. Despite the best efforts of my two young children, the Land Rover’s classy interior looks factory fresh, with no unsightly marks, scratches or missing bits of trim.

There’s a squeak from the rear bench over really bumpy terrain, but in all other respects, the car feels solid. Better still, the increasing mileage has had a positive effect on the car’s disappointing fuel economy, with the figure rising to a fairly respectable 36.5mpg. That means it’s now almost possible to squeeze 400 miles between fill-ups.

This is a very good thing, because I’m usually so comfy in the Disco that I don’t want to have to stop for anything.

Land Rover Discovery Sport: Third report

Third report: Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV still stands out on our fleet, and not just because of its paintjob

Mileage: 5,680Economy: 30.5mpg

Can the colour of your car really make a difference to the ownership experience? If you own a Land Rover Discovery Sport, then the answer is a resounding yes.

Our off-roader’s bright and cheery Phoenix Orange finish gives the car a real feel-good factor every time you approach it. Even on the greyest of days, this Land Rover still feels like a ray of sunshine.

Yet it’s the reaction it gets from other motorists that really lifts your spirits, especially drivers of other Phoenix Orange Discovery Sports. If there’s one coming in the other direction, you can guarantee there will be a flash of lights, some wild waving and a big grin. It’s certainly an exclusive society, as out of the nearly 70,000 Disco Sports that Land Rover sold last year, just 173 were finished in our car’s dazzling shade.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, because to my eyes, the orange paint really adds to the car’s kerb appeal, and picks out the Disco’s neat lines far more successfully than the more muted colours you usually see.

Equally impressive is the Disco’s surprising agility on the road, while the low noise levels make it an effortless long-distance cruiser. Yet it’s the feeling of security it gives you in adverse weather that’s really impressive, and not just the four-wheel-drive traction and high-set driving position.

For instance, in the recent heavy rain of our English summer, I was confronted by a ford in the road that had swelled to around four times its normal depth, with the marker post at the side of the road claiming it was now two feet deep. That’s around 600mm, which is exactly the same as the Land Rover’s claimed wading limit.

So with flooded and broken-down cars littering both sides of the crossing, I cautiously nosed our car into the torrent.

There was some mild panic as the murky water lapped over the bonnet, but from there on, the Land Rover ploughed confidently through and out the other side, where I gave an apologetic wave to a man standing by his stranded Jaguar XF.

When it’s not moonlighting as a rescue boat, the Disco is impressing with its practicality. Senior road tester Sean Carson borrowed the car for his annual trip to the Le Mans 24 Hours, and returned raving about its ability to swallow three adults and all their camping gear. Plus it triumphed when our man needed to escape the muddy, rain-lashed car park.

I’ve also had to call upon the Disco’s seven-seat abilities on a few occasions. Happily, my two kids’ car seats fit in the third row, and even with the middle row moved forward there’s plenty of legroom for all.

Any niggles? Well, the need to fill the tank every 300 miles is a bit frustrating in a car that’s such an accomplished long-distance cruiser. The blame for these frequent fuel stops can be shared equally between the disappointing 30.5mpg fuel return and the relatively modest 54-litre tank.

Still, these minor gripes can’t colour my opinion of this luminous Land Rover. 

Land Rover Discovery Sport: Second report 

Our Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV has been demonstrating its class both on road and off

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.

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.

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.

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.

Land Rover Discovery Sport: First report

Dealer adds a real sense of occasion to the handover of our new premium SUV

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.

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.

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.

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.

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