Land Rover Discovery Sport is one royally cool cat
WHILE marques are scrambling to make the grade in a world besotted by sports utility vehicles, Land Rover sits like the cat which got the cream. In fact the grin would be Cheshire Cat-like.
The famed British brand's bread and butter has always been the off-road world.
Now owned by Indian automotive giant Tata, Land Rover is using its heritage to offer more athletic offerings like the Discovery Sport to meet modern expectations.
Sharing some of its underpinnings with the stunning Evoque from upmarket parent Range Rover, it maintains off-road abilities but with greater car-like prowess.
That's exactly what the market is chasing. Buyers like the idea of conquering the beaten track - and it doesn't matter if they never try ... it's always an option.
Last year the Discovery Sport was winning the plush medium SUV segment, but it's since been overtaken by the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Lexus NX.
While we drove the little Disco soon after launch a couple of years back, updated models have improved engine offerings.
Luxury comes standard, with the likes of leather trim, electric adjustable front seats that can heat or cool your butt and back, power tailgate, eight-inch touchscreen, 380-watt Meridian sound system and satnav all complimentary. But, as always with the Land Rover realm, ultra-fancy extras are spec sheet deep.
Getting the really cool stuff means deep pockets.
Being Dynamic costs - the special interior and exterior packages (including 20-inch wheels) together are $7100. Our car also had the optional adaptive cruise control with queue assist and emergency braking for $1440. Blind spot and rear traffic detection, along with lane deep assist that shakes the steering wheel if you stray from your lane collectively add $2170.
Metallic paint is $1370, while the premium metallic increases to $2740.
That, along with other extras, meant our retail price crept up to $84,215.
On the plus side is servicing costs are surprisingly low for a premium car. For $1500 it's covered for five years with long service intervals.
Some owners have reported varying levels of quality and reliability, but Land Rover is typically good with customer support.
While the Disco Sport is only a couple of years old, it feels dated on the technology front. There's no smartphone mirroring apps (no Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto), which would address many of the issues as the touchscreen operation is clunky and time-consuming. A 10-inch screen is available in a pack with a more powerful stereo and digital TV functionality for $7360.
Motivated by the most powerful of three diesel options, this SD4 derivative cruises effortlessly and silently.
It's the same engine used in other larger offerings within the Land Rover world, including the more expensive and exclusive Range Rover Sport, but the Discovery Sport weighs less than two tonnes.
That makes it nimble and swift off the mark. The suspension is both capable and controlled, steering is well weighted, and it feels every bit a prestige machine ... which just happens to have the ability to tackle tough terrain.
With a wading depth of 600mm, its ability is only hindered by ground clearance of 221mm and not the four-wheel drive technology within. Towing capacity is 2200kg with a tow ball rate of 100kg.
The 54-litre fuel tank would restrict some travels, but it must be remembered the Discovery Sport is designed as an urban adventurer rather than pure bush basher, despite the all-terrain credentials.
Boot space is impressive for a medium-size SUV, and for those looking to occasionally carry seven there is an option for the 5+2 seating configuration. That means sacrificing the full-size spare - a rapidly disappearing feature nowadays.
There is a solid foundation, like autonomous emergency braking that can help stop or slow the car if the driver doesn't react fast enough to an impeding frontal collision, along with seven airbags and lane departure warning.
But you'd expect more at this price point. You have to pay extra to option radar cruise control, blind spot warning, rear traffic detection and surround camera view. Much of this equipment has become standard on cars circa $30,000.
Like the whole Jaguar Land Rover range it comes with the Royal seal of approval (the Royal Warrant holders' coat of arms is on the manual and only achieved after doing business together for five years). Better practise my wave, I do look pretty good.
It's a step away from the German big guns, but it remains something a little bit special ... even if some of the options are costly.
JEEP CHEROKEE TRAILHAWK FROM $49,950
New model is coming soon (that price may rise) and will be the most off-road capable Cherokee, running a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a nine-speed auto, 180kW/234Nm. Doesn't have the same posh factor as Land Rover, but will have impressive go-anywhere ability.
MERCEDES GLC 250D FROM $74,000
Leading the sales race, this all-wheel drive is based on the C-Class. Looks good inside and out, although it's a five-seater only. Loaded with safety tech with an outstanding diesel engine, 2.1-litre 150kW/500Nm.
Possessing slicker looks than its bigger Discovery brother, particularly at the back with a better design, the Discovery Sport offers badge and off-road cachet. With the right specification, which hopefully doesn't mean too many options to get the car you want, it's a capable and beautifully presented product.
AT A GLANCE
Range Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE
PRICE $71,355 plus on-roads (expensive)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3 years/100,000km (short), intervals of 24 months/34,000km, services five years or 102,000km $1500 (OK).
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel 177kW/500Nm, 9-spd auto (swift).
PERFORMANCE 0-100kmh in 8.3 seconds.
SAFETY 5-star, 7 airbags, lane departure warning, rear camera, AEB, options are adaptive cruise, surround camera view, blind spot monitor (latter should be standard)
THIRST 6.4l/100km (test was 7.2, very good)
SPARE Full-size alloy (outstanding)
CARGO 981 litres (very good)