Friday 15 December 2017

Why price is key as the new Discovery Sport puts it up to its rivals - on and off the road

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

IT was a long way from Iceland and blizzards, where I first drove this, but maybe in the more salubrious surroundings of Carton House we came to see Land Rover's new Discovery Sport in a slightly different light.

Skirting over a muddy, special off-road course was no bother to a 4WD of this stature and, I felt, left a bit of space to assess the car in other areas.

Ultimately it is a 5-seater (or 7-seater if you want it ) passenger motor that has phenomenal off-road ability.

I think the latter may risk diverting attention a bit from that central fact.

I also happen to think it is tightly priced at €37,100 and will pose a challenge to the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 neither of whom, it must be said, would pretend to mix it with the Land Rover off the road.

On the road, I know from previous drives, all three bring their own dynamics and comfort.

Land Rover do have an advantage with their option of the third row of seats (expect to pay up to €3,000 more for that privilege) which transforms it into a 7-seater.

People like to have that sort of accommodation in reserve, by all accounts and it could be a deal maker for some.

With just two banks of seats in conventional line-up, however, it has a serious amount of room in the cabin.

The Sport is wider than the old Freelander and its extended wheelbase means second-row leg room, with the sliding seats back to their limit, has almost as much as a full-size Range Rover. And when at its most forward point there's lashings of luggage space.

Additionally, the new multi-link rear suspension helps increase boot capacity - as well as improving handing.

Oh! yes. There is a spare wheel. It is standard and is inside on the 5-seater and under the floor on the 7-seater.

This is the first of the new Discovery family. It is much bigger than the Freelander it partially replaces (it's much more than that).

Right now there are the 2.2-litre diesels: the 150bhp TD4 and 190bhp SD4. The 9spd ZF auto box is an option but I think it's exceptional.

The 8ins colour touchscreen technology with Bluetooth and audio streaming is standard but later in the year they will have the InControl infotainment facility which can replicate smartphones etc.

There are four modes within the Terrain Response facility (gravel, mud etc) but in truth it runs the show itself. Would you believe the wading depth is better than the Defender's?

The torque vectoring by braking is also standard and improves cornering. And the Sport has autonomous emergency braking on all versions.

It also has a 2,500kg towing capacity with a range of deployables and detachables (Trailer Stability standard).

However, I needed to ask a few questions. There will be a new 2-litre diesel Ingenium later in the summer. It is brand new and will bring the emissions down to 119g/km - a seriously low level for a vehicle of this size.

There will also be a 2WD version to go with it. And they will have that InControl infotainment system. So why should you buy the existing versions now and not wait?

The truth of the matter, I discovered from an executive with the brand here, is that the new engine and the accompanying 2WD etc will NOT be here before quite late in the year.

I thought perhaps in time for 152 and was going to suggest that waiting might be an option.

But no, I was told. It will be for 161-reg so that probably changes things for people. And the current engines are well tried and tested with plenty of power.

Which is one reason they are expecting as many as 350 people to buy one this year - and around 500 next. That is a fair share of the market.

I also suspect that the price of the 2WD with the more economical engine may not be that much lower either.

But I do think that, for now, price (considering the spec level and its off-road prowess) is a major factor in this car and adds a real edge to competition in the sector.

Irish Independent

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