The ‘new’ model doesn’t stray far from the vehicle launched just a year ago. There have been a couple of additions to the standard specifications and, due to its huge popularity with buyers, the HSE Black has been added as a fully fledged trim level rather than an option pack.
The big change comes just behind that wide toothy grille. Out goes the venerable 2.2-litre SD4 diesel carried over from the Freelander and in comes Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium unit in 150PS or 180PS tune (that’s 147bhp and 177bh respectively for those counting in old money).
The engine has been developed from scratch at JLR’s £500 million research facility and represents the company’s latest efforts in the search for that automotive Holy Grail: better economy and lower emissions without the loss of performance.
To this end every element has been designed to reduce friction and heat. Everything – from bearings that need less lubrication to a multi-stage exhaust system – has been engineered to help create an engine 16 per cent more efficient than the old unit.
In simple numbers this means the 150PS version returns 57.7mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2. The 180PS version returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km. Power is down slightly from the old 2.2 litre but torque is up and there’s more available earlier. On the road that means plenty of shove whenever you need it, and off-road it means the Discovery Sport can pull itself in and out of some pretty hairy situations.
In 150PS guise the Discovery Sport comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox and five seats. The 180PS comes as standard with a nine-speed auto and seven seats. We tested the 180PS model in top-of-the range HSE Luxury trim – expected to be the range’s best seller by quite some margin.
For the most part the Ingenium engine is nicely refined. It’s certainly smooth and has nice even power delivery but under heavy load there’s still an obvious diesel roar and the ZF2 auto ‘box can take a moment to drop down through the gears. However, once you’re up to speed the engine note is unobtrusive and when it’s paying attention the auto ‘box is silky smooth.
When Scotsman Motors first drove the Discovery Sport it was on the snow-covered lava flows of Iceland, hardly a fair test of its on-road manners. This time around we’re in the more welcoming Herefordshire countryside, close to Land Rover’s Eastnor proving ground.
Pleasingly, it feels just as at home here as out on the ice. While it’s a big car – the acres of head and shoulder room attest to that – its performance belies its size, slotting neatly and calmly along the twisting test route into Wales. Lean is kept to a minimum thanks to some suspension wizardry and even on 20” wheels the well-sorted ride smooths out uneven and broken surfaces. The electric power steering has been set up with a weight that reflects the size of the vehicle. There’s no unnecessary over-assistance, just a reassuring heft that means you feel connected to the vehicle.
Of course, you can’t go to Eastnor and stick to the roads. There’s a reason that Land Rover has a permanent presence here and that’s the 80 miles of prime off-road trails that wind themselves through the 5,500-acre estate. So, suitably convinced that the Discovery Sport can cut it in the boring old day-to-day commute, it was off into the woods.
Honestly, it’s ridiculous what this thing can do. There’s actually more drama in watching another car take on the off-road trails than in doing it yourself. From behind the wheel you’re never in any doubt that you can tackle the two-feet deep water obstacles or the rocky, muddy trails cutting up the hillsides, even on standard road tyres. But watching something that looks so ‘urban’ pause mid-way up a hill with one rear wheel deep in its arch and the other dangling in fresh air you appreciate the work done to imbue this SUV with the brand’s 4x4 DNA.
Most owners will never test its off-road abilities beyond crossing a muddy field at the county fair or tackling a snowy school car park and it’s a shame – this is a car that really puts the utility in sports utility vehicle.
It came as a surprise to me that Land Rover are targeting the fleet market with the Discovery Sport but with that magical sub-130g/km figure it starts to make sense. Even business buyers want a car that can be all things to all people and the Disco Sport makes a decent fist of that. Spacious? Check. Well-equipped? Yup. Green? Even the most polluting of the engines emits an impressively low 139g/km. Capable? Just look at the photos.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 177bhp and 317lb/ft
Transmission: Nine-speed auto driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 117mph, 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds
Economy: 53.3mpg combined
Emissions: 139g/km of CO2