Land Rover Discovery Sport: First Drive Review
The baby Disco might look virtually unchanged from the outside, but look a little closer and you will see a host of updates made to bring the 2020 model up to pace with the competition
From the outside, it is easy to look at the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport and say nothing has changed. But you’d be so very wrong . This Disco Sport is in fact all-new in more ways than one.
The exterior design is decidedly similar with the only visible changes being a reworked face and new lighting elements that draw inspiration from the full-size Discovery. But under the skin, this is in fact based on the new Premium Transverse Architecture that all new Land Rovers will be based on and gets space for electrified powertrains in the future.
The Discovery Sport has, since its launch, been the most affordable SUV in the Land Rover line-up but has never skimped on the core fundamentals that make it a Land Rover. It still looks brawny and muscular with great road presence and it keeps in step with Land Rover’s off-road DNA. The strong shoulder lines, character lines and bulging haunches look like they have been accentuated by the redesigned headlights and taillamps. The haunches house 18-inch wheels on this S variant that we reviewed over the course of more than 1500km (because whenever we have a Land Rover on test, the editor is seized with this inexplicable urge to drop everything and drive down to Goa).
It is on the inside however that you will see the biggest changes and they are evident the moment you step foot into the Discovery Sport. Materials on the whole are nicer to the touch. There aren’t too many plasticky bits, at least not within easy reach, and everything feels more expensive than before. The biggest change is to the infotainment system which now gets a thorough overhaul with the Touch Pro making an appearance on the Discovery Sport as well as CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Noticeably, it doesn’t get the Touch Pro Duo twin touchscreens as in the Velar but it is hardly a downgrade. Below the solitary touchscreen, you get a vast slab of glossy black that has dials for climate control with the right one doubling up for the Terrain Response 2’s modes when you press the tiny black button next to it. The one on the left presents you with additional climate control options at the press of a button. Below that, on the gloss black panel are tiny buttons for Hill Descent Control and All-Terrain Progress Control — all of which feels rather unsatisfying. One would think Land Rover would want to advertise the fact that it can do some serious off-roading rather than hiding all this stuff behind shiny black panels that attract fingerprints like you would not believe.
The steering is new and gets touch sensitive controls on gloss black panels that transform when the need arises as you navigate through the menu. The instrument console in this Discovery Sport is part digital with the screen eating into the analogue dials. You get a fully digital high-res display in the R-Dynamic variant and it does make sense to splurge on it as traditional dials now look, erm, very traditional.
On the move
As you climb into the supremely comfortable 12-way electronically adjustable seats, you do get a commanding view of the road that’s typical of Land Rovers and the chunky steering wheel is certainly great to hold. Visibility is great all-around and the ergonomics are spot on too.
The engine is a lot more refined now but when compared to the competition, it is on the noisier side and isn’t very fuel efficient either; it delivered just around 8.5kmpl on our 1500km drive. The Ingenium 2-litre diesel is now BS6 compliant and makes 177bhp and 430Nm of torque. 0-100kmph is claimed to take a little over 10 seconds but this engine never feels as urgent or enthusiastic as, say, the BMW X3’s 2-litre diesel. It is paired to a 9-speed gearbox whose software urges it to shift to the highest gear at every possible opportunity to maximise efficiency. It does feel the ’box has one too many ratios to play with and at times you find it hunting for the right gear while sometimes you’re waiting too long for a downshift.
How does it handle?
As you get going, you realise that very little has changed in the way that the Discovery Sport drives which, is very surprising to be honest. The chunky steering wheel still doesn’t have much in the way of feel or feedback but is fairly accurate. Unlike how other luxury SUVs seem intent on trying to offer a car-like corner-carving experience, the Discovery Sport has no such pretensions. There is ample body roll that is amplified by the high driving position, the tyres start to squeal early in a corner and it feels cumbersome in quick direction changes. The steering has relaxed gearing for the rack and it does not like to be hustled. There isn’t even a Sport mode. And it is all the better for it!
Unmatched Off-Road ability
This is an SUV that is at home cruising for miles and miles endlessly. The driving position is brilliant, the seats are comfortable and you simply do not get tired. The suspension soaks in the potholes, speedbreakers and what not that come at you unannounced on every road that you drive on in India. When road works block your path you can drive into the field and get out the other side. It is an enormously relaxed way to do massive distances and that’s the key strength of the Disco Sport. And when you want to indulge in some off-roading the Disco Sport will go far, further than any of its rivals — the different modes in Terrain Response 2 make a genuine difference to the way it tackles different terrain or you can just stick it in Auto and the SUV will do everything for you from apportioning torque to reducing ESP interference to even locking the rear differential. ATPC even maintains a very, very slow walking pace (though it does go all the way to 30kmph) so all you need to do is steer it towards the lake and the Disco Sport will tip-toe over rocks and ruts to get you to your self-isolation zone.
Now I know most buyers will never subject their luxury SUV to any sort of off-roading, but the advantages of the Discovery sport’s off-road ability trickle down to everyday driving as well. It is very comfortable in the city. It is spacious and the glass roof makes the cabin even more airy. The third row is now standard. And it gets USBs everywhere, six of them including one each in the back of the front seats. If you head over to our YouTube channel, the editor has done a video on five reasons why India is SUV country and how the Discovery Sport fits the bill perfectly. The only downside he mentions is price. And like everything in this new BS6 era, the Disco Sport too has gotten more expensive. This version is Rs.57.06 lakh while the R-Dynamic is four lakh rupees dearer. But then again, there’s nothing that can do what the Discovery Sport can do, its own stablemate, the Evoque included. And that’s why it remains one of our favourite SUVs for road-tripping across the country.