This is the new 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport, a replacement for the Freelander, and the model that kick-starts the rejuvenation and expansion of the Discovery family.
For the past four years it’s been Land Rover’s Range Rover brand getting all the love and attention, first with the Evoque (originally shown as the Land Rover-badged LRX concept), then the full-size Range Rover, and most recently with the Range Sport and LWB Range Rover.
Now the focus is shifting, and it’s the turn of the Discovery nameplate, which will grow to encompass a full family of family-focused SUVs.
So the Land Rover Discovery Sport is Freelander Mk3 by another name?
That’s exactly what it is, but as Land Rover starts to build up the Discovery family to the same extent it already has with Range Rover, the Freelander is now badged Discovery Sport. The next step after Disco Sport will be a replacement for the existing full-size Discovery, and that fifth-generation model (as previewed by the Discovery Vision concept) is expected in 2016.
It definitely doesn’t look like a Freelander, or even a Discovery for that matter…
The new Disco Sport has some trademark features from across the Land Rover and Range Rover family, like the clamshell bonnet, but it’s been predominantly influenced by the Discovery Vision concept.
The Sport is the first production model to usher in the new design direction of the Discovery family, and details like the ‘floating C-pillars’ will feature on the bigger Disco too.
‘With the Sport we looked at quite a few different interpretations,’ Land Rover design director and chief creative officer Gerry McGovern revealed to CAR. ‘One of them was to take the Discovery as we know it today and scale it down, but for me it wasn’t pushing the boat out. We intend to sell over 100k of these each year, and vehicles that are over-utilitarian looking have a limited appeal.’
How much is the Discovery Sport actually an Evoque beneath its new skin?
The front end is pure Evoque (which in turn was once Mk2 Freelander before it was lowered by 27mm) but from the B-pillar backwards the steel chassis is new. As is the new multi-link rear suspension, which drops the boot floor, making loading easier and making room for a third row of seats.
‘It’s about 40mm shorter than an Audi Q5,’ Land Rover’s chief engineer Murray Dietsch told CAR. ‘But it has seven seats, about 80mm more legroom, and 20% more luggage capacity.’
The seven-seat configuration will be standard in the UK, and all future Discovery models will feature seven seats and major on versatility, to help differentiate the Discos from the Range Rovers. McGovern admits that the Discovery family is deliberately being brought closer to the ‘premium execution’ of the Range Rover family, but Range Rovers will focus on luxury while the Discos will be versatile. LR prefers the term ‘leisure’. You'll hear it a lot...
And inside the Disco Sport's cabin?
Nothing like as adventurous as on the outside – which reflects the apparent family focus – with many of the parts pinched from the Evoque. The important stuff is much more rear legroom, and compared to the Evoque, more buttons so busy mums and dads don’t have to delve into the touchscreen with sticky fingers to turn up the radio and drown out their darlings.
That touchscreen is new though – it’s Jaguar Land Rover’s new InControl infotainment system which the Sport will share with the forthcoming Jaguar XE small saloon. The user interface is supposed to be like that of a smartphone. Other tech includes an emergency braking system, park assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, and a pedestrian airbag that deploys from the base of the windscreen. Trim levels in the UK will be SE, SE Tech, HSE and HSE Luxury.
What’s the engine spec of the new Discovery Sport?
The Disco Sport will launch with the turbocharged direct-injection petrol 2.0-litre and the turbocharged diesel 2.2-litre four-cylinder engines already seen in the Evoque. Only the latter will be available in the UK, badged as SD4 and priced from £32,395.
Key figures are 187bhp, 310lb ft from just 1700rpm, 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, and 162g/km of CO2. Four-wheel drive (with 4kg now trimmed out of the Haldex centre coupling) and a ZF nine-speed auto (now 7.5kg ligther) are standard on the SD4.
An eD4 model arrives in the second half of 2015, using the new JLR ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre diesel that’s set to appear in the new Jag XE too. With a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive, CO2 emissions will drop to 119g/km on the cleanest Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Is it any good off-road?
Land Rover reckons it’s at least as good as the Freelander, which was more than up to what most owners would ever need. ‘The Discovery Sport has slightly different break-over angles and a different wheelbase,’ explains Dietsch.
‘But it has the same level of clearances as the Freelander, or slightly better, the latest Terrain Response technology is a step on the from the Evoque's, and we can use the nine-speed automatic to our advantage with first gear used as a crawler gear when we select the off-road modes.’
The Discovery Sport will go on sale in early 2015.
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