Land Rover is practically synonymous with off-roading. Since the late 1940s, Land Rovers have conquered mountains, crossed deserts, forded rivers, and slogged through jungles. But a lot has also changed since the brand first started over 70 years ago and has grown from making utilitarian 4x4s to leather-lined cross trekkers.
The entire line-up has expanded exponentially too. Starting with the Series 1 in 1948, it was followed by the Range Rover, Discovery, and Freelander, while the 'Series' Land Rovers were subsequently dubbed Defender. These days, it is even wider with those labeled Range Rover serving the upper crust of society, and Land Rover for the more mainstream (but still well-heeled) audience. One of those offerings from Land Rover is the Discovery Sport.
From its "Sport" name alone, one can tell that it's the junior version of the much larger Discovery. In fact, the Discovery Sport is somewhat a successor to the Freelander, which means it has to face other luxury offerings such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus NX, and Audi Q5. Tough crowd.
When you look at the Discovery Sport, you won't mistake it for anything other than a Land Rover. The front end, for instance, takes a lot of cues from the Discovery and Evoque. Slim headlights, equally slim grill, a clamshell hood (or bonnet, if you prefer the English term), and clean lines make it look distinct in a sea of mostly German luxury options.
This particular Discovery Sport comes with the R-Dynamic package which, of all things, comes with a body kit. Personally, I'm not a fan of kits on SUVs as I believe that it somewhat defeats the purpose of having an extra ground clearance. The R-Dynamic pack does reduce clearance on the Discovery Sport, but it doesn't look too low to the ground. Still, I wouldn't dare take it too far out off the road at the risk of getting those panels snagged on rocks. If you want to go off-road, perhaps the standard Discovery Sport SE would be a better pick.
That aside, the rest of the SUV is handsomely styled. It looks purposeful with its high window line, relatively upright flanks, and generous glass area. The only rakish bit of design on the Discovery Sport is the windshield (sorry, windscreen). Over to the rear, those Evoque-inspired tail lights wrap up the well-proportioned package.
Step inside and it's a textbook exercise in minimalism. Whereas most new cars these days have curves, lines, or sharp angles, it's totally different in the Discovery Sport. It's mostly flat inside with the occasional sweeps to add some visual flair. The slim air-conditioning vents make it look like the entire dash is a single solid piece rather than bits and pieces stuck together too. Its center stack, on the other hand, has little in the way of physical buttons as most controls are by touch panels. Even the controls on the steering wheel is a touch panel. Land Rover went to great lengths in making the cabin look as clean as possible. Just make sure to wipe down those gloss black trims to keep the interior from looking grubby.
You might have to get used to some of the ergonomic quirks in the Discovery Sport. For instance, some of the switches have a different orientation, and scrolling through some menus could require browsing through the owner's manual if you're jumping from a Japanese car to a British one. Another thing you have to adjust to is the window switches. They're not in the usual spot by the doors but rather, they're at the top of the door panel. I found myself reaching for the armrest when I had to wind down the window.
Space is what you expect from a vehicle of this size. It's in the same league with compact crossovers so there's a fair bit of stretch-out room at the back. Head, hip, and shoulder room is good, although the high window sills make it feel like there's less of it. Still, once inside, you won't find yourself rubbing arms with your fellow passengers too much. Also, the wide body of the car means there's a good amount of cargo space over at the back. Land Rover Philippines got rid of the third-row option for this model, but the trade-off and much larger load capacity.
Now, for the oily bits and this Land Rover is powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel mill. Dubbed the Ingenium, it makes 150 PS (hence the D150 tag) and 380 Nm of torque. It's a far cry from the old turbo-gas offering which made 250 PS. It does have slightly more torque, which should give it a little bit more kick off the line. Transmission, on the other hand, is a nine-speed automatic, so I was expecting good fuel economy figures out of it.
However, it just wasn't the case. In heavy traffic (19 km/h average), the trip computer registered 8.2 kilometers per liter. Sure, it sounds decent but not something I'd expect in a diesel. Perhaps it's the weight of the four-wheel-drive system that contributed to that figure. It could also be the fact that the particular unit we tested didn't even have 1,000 kilometers on the odometer. For reference, the gas-fed version did 7.5 to 8.0 kilometers per liter, which was impressive given its power output.
At least it made up for it when the road opened up a bit. In moderate traffic conditions (average speed of 24 km/h), it did 10.8 kilometers per liter. On the highway, that shot up to 17.8 kilometers per liter with the cruise control nailed at 97 km/h.
So it's a bit on the thirsty side in the city but at least the engine does have some good punch. Sure it only makes 150 PS but there's a good response out of it, getting off the line with minimal effort. There's a good wave of torque carrying you to cruising speeds too. The power figures may not have sounded impressive on paper, but it sure felt like it had a bit more when I drove it.
On the subject of comfort, the Discovery Sport's ride is firm but supple. The bigger wheel and wider tire combination do contribute to that. Yes, you feel the bumps from time to time, but it won't send a shock to your spine. Minimizing the impact of road imperfections are the seats, which offered a good amount of lumbar support. I do reckon that the ride will be even better if it didn't have the R-Dynamic package. It's quiet inside though, despite the diesel engine.
Handling isn't a usual talking point for SUVs, but the Discovery Sport takes on corners with confidence. It feels planted, never feeling sloppy or uncomfortable when you're on winding roads. Steering, on the other hand, is light, but you might not really mind it because, again, canyon carving isn't its priority. There is a bit of feel and feedback, which is always good. Plus, the light steering makes it such an easy car to maneuver in tight spots.
The Discovery Sport D150 R-Dynamic is an interesting alternative to the usual luxury options of BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, and it's certainly a left-field choice. At Php 4,790,000, it's also on par with the prices of its European competition. The thing is, its rivals are equipped with more powerful engines at the same price point and that might be enough to turn people away from the Land Rover. However, if you opt for the standard S variant, the price drops to Php 4,590,000, which should make it a little more palatable to those shopping for a luxury crossover. It has about the same amount of standard equipment in the R-Dynamic for Php 200,000 less.
To sum up, this junior Land Rover has quirks here and there and it's certainly not perfect. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but what you get is an SUV that stands out from the usual options. Either way, give the Discovery Sport a shot. You won't know you like it unless you try one for yourself.