Solid start in a brave new world, but hang on a minute…
Even though it remains a minnow compared to the big German producers, car manufacturers around the world are in awe of Land Rover, and in particular the way it has managed its brand. Or, I should say, brands. Because today Land Rover itself seems more like a holding company than the marque it once was and the brands are now Range Rover, Discovery and Defender.
For that is where the company is heading. Range Rover now has its flagship model plus the Sport and the Evoque, while the first of the new Discoverys, also called Sport, is before you now. A replacement for the actual Discovery is on its way as, you will know already, is a clutch of all-new Defender models.
The Discovery Sport is essentially a replacement for the old Freelander and in certain respects is less changed than it looks. Visually it draws heavily on the wildly successful design language of its Range Rover stable-mates, but deep underneath there still lies a heavily adapted version of the old Freelander platform that was itself a version of the old Ford Mondeo’s architecture. And the engine – for there is just one for now – is still a Ford/PSA 2.2-litre diesel.
On the other hand, Land Rover claims the car is new from the B-pillar rearward and, most significantly, has brand-new rear suspension designed to enable the fitment of a sixth and seventh seat – the first time three rows of seats have been available in a Land Rover of this size.
The interior is as plush as an Evoque’s, as it needs to be given what Land Rover has done to the price: the least expensive Discovery Sport now costs £32,395, a substantial rise over the £27,765 charged for the entry-level Freelander (even taking into account additional feature content).
In parts it’s impressive to drive, especially considering it weighs more than a long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ limousine. It has that fine supple ride that seems to be a hallmark of JLR cars, accurate steering and excellent body control both on and off the road.
Given the additional practicality of those extra seats, plus the appeal of its looks, I’d understand anyone racing towards their dealer to snap one up.
But I wouldn’t. Not yet at least. Quite shortly Land Rover is going to ditch the old, expensive, off-the-pace Ford/Peugeot engine for its new home-grown Ingenium powertrains. Expect performance and refinement to be transformed, and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions to plummet. Remember, too, the company has previous in this area: it put the Jaguar XF on sale in 2008 with a 2.7-litre diesel without bothering to mention the superior 3-litre unit that would replace it the following year. I strongly suspect also that, at the same time, Land Rover will introduce JLR’s new electronic architecture already seen in the Jaguar XE, finally consigning its current obsolete navigation and entertainment system to history.
In short, the new Land Rover Discovery Sport is an excellent example of its type, possibly the best in its class. But don’t buy one.
Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE auto
Engine: 2.2 litres, 4 cylinders, turbo diesel
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 310lb [email protected]
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 117mph
CO2: 166 g/km