Words and images by Andrew Middleton
Don’t let the name fool you: the new Discovery Sport is not a Land Rover Discovery, neither is it particularly sporty. What it does manage, rather well, is to have a great breadth of talent. It’s the replacement for the Freelander, and it’s here to stay. Bridging a gap between the rather pretentious (in my opinion) but extremely popular Evoque and the larger, more manly Disco-proper, the new baby Land Rover will go up against Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3, amongst others. Despite its initial foibles, the good old Freelander proved to be a great vehicle, especially in its second generation.
A perfect balance between get-you-there ability and get-kids-to-school practicality, the hardy soft-roader proved a hit thanks to Land Rover’s three key product pillars: luxury, leisure and dual purpose ability. Let’s see if this new one is any good in those departments, then, shall we?
Simply put, the new interior is far better than its predecessor. In some respects, even better than a top-of-the-line Range Rover − but we’ll get to that in a minute. Tactile quality is high, and despite my giving the girl a good run, over hundreds of kilometres of gravel, no rattles surfaced. I suppose only time will tell whether or not build-quality is up to scratch; Land Rover is not well known for their immaculate panel gaps and absence of rattles.
Our middle-of-the-range SE spec (pick of the bunch) Disco Sport was fitted with the feature that defines this vehicle: a third row of seats apparently designed for the average 15-year-old. That’s if the average 15-year-old is grossly malnourished and enjoys being crushed into a shoe box with slits cut out, in which case the third row of seats will be perfect. We exaggerate a bit, because the packaging is rather clever.
But, instead of the extra pews, rather go for the optional (R2 500) full-sized spare tyre and call it all square. With the third row of seats folded flat into the boot floor, you get over 800 litres of space − which increases even more after sliding the second row forward, as then it’s plenty for four guys’ fishing tackle and a gas braai. Another plus is that everything inside has been thought out thoroughly. The brand new infotainment system (better than anything found to date in any other JLR product) works wonderfully – though the Germans, for some unfathomable reason, still seem to do it better.