Tuesday 20 February 2018

First Drive: Land Rover Discovery Sport, not just for the Fashionistas

Philip Hedderman and Bob Flavin

When Victoria Beckham pouted her way through the launch of the Range Rover Evoque it pretty much consigned the Freelander to the scrapheap. It just wasn't sexy enough any more, dalhing.

Fashionistas, hairdressers and ladies what lunch wanted/needed/had to have this latest accessory - albeit a €45k one.

Now, unlike grumpy spice we mere mortals occasionally smile, do the school run and even venture down to the supermarket ... and therein lay the problem.

You see all of that family stuff just goes against the grain of the Drummy mummy etiquette of the Evoque and besides a real bloke wouldn't be seen dead in one.

That all changed on Wednesday with the unveiling of the all new Discovery Sport - a timely replacement for the ageing Freelander and a proper man-up for Land Rover.

The designers have hit the nail firmly on the head with this rugged, yet stylish, all-singing, all-dancing 7-seat compact SUV with genuine 4X4 credentials.

Most importantly is the starting price of €37,100 which is substantially cheaper than its German rivals.

It's a magnificent looking machine too taking most of its styling from the king pin Range Rover with the same sleek nose, honeycomb grille and distinctive wraparound headlights.

At the rear it's a similar affair with unmistakable tail lights and a bold Discovery badge running right along the boot lid.

Inside it's an eclectic mix of luxury and practicality with high grade soft touch materials and wall-to-wall leather.

The big and airy cabin is similar to the Evoque with the same dials and switchgear giving it a real premium feel.

Of course leather is an option as are most of the goodies on the press cars, but space and versatility is the big selling point with the baby Disco.

From SE specification  and up comes with stadium seating in the rear with tilt-and-slide functionality, and is individually adjustable with a 60:40 split.

This enables row-two occupants to recline their seats or slide them forwards or back by a class-leading 160mm.

This is especially useful when row 6 and 7 are engaged which is operated by an easy one-tug system. 

 It also provides as much as 112mm of knee-room and 1011mm of leg-room – almost as accommodating as the daddy Range Rover. The Sport also boasts estate-like load lugging ability with 981 litres of luggage space which almost doubles to 1,698 litres with the seats folded flat.

There is oceans of storage too with boxes, cubby holes cup holders, and pockets peppered around the cabin and the availability of  up to seven (yes seven) USB sockets.

In Ireland there are four trim levels: S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury and standard kit is pretty generous with 17 inch alloys, Bluetooth, air con, 8 inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, multi-function steering wheel and push button start.

The colour display seemed a little dated for the rest of the cabin with less than impressive graphics.

All models come with a spare wheel stored in the boot (5-seater) or under the rear bumper for the 7-seat.

Under the hood is the same 2.2 litre diesel engine currently powering the Freelander and in Ireland will be offered in either 150bhp or 190bhp (AWD) and is twinned to either a six-speed manual gearbox or the sublime nine-speed automatic.

Although boasting fuel efficiency of 50mpg the emissions are high enough ranging from 149- 166g/km meaning higher road tax than  rivals like the BMW X3.

That said, Land Rover will be launching their more efficient ED4 in a two-wheel drive model but that won't be available until closer to the end of the year.

Drive-wise the new baby Disco, while not the most refined of the premium SUVs, is not left wanting with oceans of torque (420Nm) and the 190 horses are always eager to engage.

The lofty driving position is not impeded by the ride which is composed and the handling is confident and above all comfortable.

The lack of road noise in the cabin is a joy as is the steering which is precise and crisp giving a real connectivity to the road and saloon-like feel.

Take it off road and this little mountain goat really comes into its own.

Thanks to Land Rover’s Terrain Response system it'll climb Everest in a blizzard.

There are five simple settings: General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts; and Sand.

Couple that with Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Wade Sensing (up to 600mm) Roll Stability Control and a towing capacity of over 2.5 tonnes, there ain't nothing this baby can't do. With a starting price of €37,100 it's enough to put a smile even on Victoria's face.

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