Elsa was an orphaned lion cub brought up in Kenya by Joy and George Adamson. The movie Born Free follows Elsa as she and her older and bigger siblings are cared for by the couple. Over time, Elsa’s sibling’s ‘Big one’ and ‘Lustica’ are relocated to the Rotterdam Zoo but the Adamson’s choose to rehabilitate Elsa (teaching her to hunt and survive) before successfully releasing her back into the wild. For some inexplicable reason, this story came to mind as I test drove the new Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Like you (probably), the image that springs to mind when I think of Land Rover is of an all powerful terrain conquering beast. A no frills vehicle that will happily take on everything that Mother Nature has to offer and smiles as it asks “is that the best you can do?”. Same goes with the Discovery; a little more refinement but still quite a big beast. A straight up and down vehicle with a bulbous roof and (in my mind) covered with jerry cans and cases. My first look at the new Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE brought to mind none of these images but as I went on to discover, you should never judge a book by its cover.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE is quite a tame and rather attractive looking SUV. I had the chance to take it to this year’s Land Rover Polo event and parked it next to several of its brothers, it was definitely not out of place – although it was plain to see that it’s the cub of the family. My one was dressed in Kaikoura stone metallic paint – a great choice of pelt – especially with the black design pack (Narvik black grille, mirrors and fender vents and 20” gloss black paws). It’s sleek and chic and doesn’t look like the type of vehicle you overtly want to get dirty. The roof is a vast full length panoramic affair complete with a power blind. It really brings the outdoors into the cabin and illuminates the leather and brushed aluminium that lies within. All these pleasantries don’t give you the impression that it’s a pedigree Land Rover but I said before, looks can be deceiving.
Under the stylish bonnet is a very capable 2.2 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine that roars out 140kW of power and dishes out 420Nm of Torque at a low 1750 rpm. 0-100 is a not so sporty 8.9 seconds but with its 9 Speed Auto box it’s very economical, combined it only sips 6.1L to cover 100k’s. It’s playful too, the 0-100 numbers may not seem life changing on the face of it but it zips around the town and countryside with torque to spare.
I unfortunately didn’t get chance to take the Discovery off road but I know that it comes equipped with Terrain Response. Amongst the cabin’s buttons and switches are images of a variety of terrains (grass, gravel, snow, mud and ruts and sand) and the push of any of these will instantly adapt the engine, gearbox, diffs, and chassis to ensure the Land Rover delivers you the best in driving comfort and traction. It also has hill descent control and hill assist – essentially it has everything you need to conquer almost any hill.
The interior is uncluttered and in a way stoic. Gears are selected via a pop up dial, and dials are also used for climate control. The dash is simple and yet uses quality materials and displays very uniformed stitching. Push-button start, head up display, leather wheel and one button cruise control all add up to a great driver experience. An 8’” touch screen controls the infotainment which is simple to navigate around plus if you’re looking for the call of the wild (Hauraki maybe); it comes equipped with a 250w stereo with 10 speakers.
One thing this Land Rover helped me ‘discover’ was that I drive with my legs splayed; the brushed aluminium on the centre stack kept hitting my knees to remind me. Aside from that, the driving position is good and the seats are comfortable – possibly more comfortable than I was expecting. The top of the door card could double at a parcel shelf (okay, I’m exaggerating a little); but it is a great place to rest your weary arm and has all the controls for the SUV’s electric windows. You can use or recharge virtually all your devices all at once as there are power sources everywhere, 12V in front, rear and load space with 4 USB sockets 2 front and 2 rear. It has a raft of things to keep you and it safe too, lane departure, ABS, DSC, Emergency Brake assist and a whole host of airbags – overall you get the feeling of superior protection.
On the road it feels solid and yet light, round the bends near my home it kept within the white lines at speeds where it possibly shouldn’t have. It’s manageable around town and easy to park. Load space is 981litres; which (thankfully) was ample for our weekly shop – The Discovery Sport took all my lifestyle needs in its stride; however it would be good to confirm my assumptions of its off road capabilities at some point.
In Born Free Elsa was reared by humans and virtually domesticated from an early age, but when it came to the crunch and she had to go back in to the wild, her feral nature, genetics and survival instincts came to the fore. I feel the same can be said about the new Discovery Sport. Having now spent a week behind the wheel it has demonstrated that it’s more than capable to manage the driving demands that come with the big city and yet underneath its core DNA is well and truly Land Rover.
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