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Land Rover Discovery Sport – long-term review
What's the smart way to spec a Land Rover Discovery Sport?
Recently the Disco faced off against the new Mercedes GLB in the pages of Top Gear magazine, and it acquitted itself well in the face of stiff competition - in 2020 the Sport has a weirdly calming USP that derives from its off-roadability. Strange to say it, but the very fact that it is so capable off-road means that it’s less focussed on being psuedo-sporty on it, and that’s actually a welcome thing when you’re talking about naturally compromised SUVs.
Every time I get into it after a long day and fire up the excellent Meridian stereo (a £630 option), journeys just seem a little less stressful. But there’s a few things that can’t be ignored. One, the nine-speed auto ‘box sometimes suffers from downchange dementia and forgets which ratio it wants to be in, especially when on/off throttle approaching, say, a roundabout and you’re feathering the throttle. It also has a habit of shunting through the driveline if it decides that it needs to drop a gear coming to a slow stop.
Neither of which scream either premium or optimised. I also think it may be a software issue more than a physical one, seeing as though the fuzzy logic sometimes gets it completely right - there’s no particular rhyme or reason to it. Still, it’s annoying when it just feels like there’s a pair too many ratios in the ‘box for the computer’s comfort - yes, there’s a defined percentage increase in efficiency, but it feels like chasing numbers rather than making it functionally a ‘better’ car. We’ve also dropped from 37.5mpg (ish) to 35.4 average over the course of this month, which is a lot. Blame more short journeys and cross-country stuff. It matters.
There’s also no escaping the fact that in the higher echelons of Disco Sport spending, you have to want one for the outlay. Our D240 HSE R-Dynamic breaches £50k (they start at £31,095 for a D150 manual with FWD, mind), and for that, you can get into a full fat Discovery (starting at £48,340 for an S with a 240bhp diesel and a full 7-seat - rather than 5+2 - configuration), or even a stylish Velar D180 diesel - albeit on little 18-inch alloys that don’t especially suit it. The GLB spec did make the Land Rover seem expensive, although the Land Rover - even in more modest specs - is still just about the better car, especially if you value that comfort over out and out ‘handling’.
It’s been a busy month for it generally, too - we went and traced some lineage by tracking down an original Freelander, chased an extremely powerful vintage Aston and did some light off-roading, at which point I got lightly obsessed with the ‘transparent bonnet’ camera (it really is useful), and the Clearsight rear view mirror, which you can use when the back of the car is so muddy you worry that you’ll scratch the back window if you use the rear wiper… The rear seats have seen plenty of use, even if it comes down to giving three kids some elbow space by splitting them across two rows, and if you just pop up one of the third row chairs, there’s still plenty of room for luggage.
Overall, it’s still a wildly useful bit of kit - I’m just getting itchy feet to see if it really can do all the mucky stuff that Land Rover says it can. Oh, and I’ve got a tonne of dog-friendly equipment that I’ve been putting to the test, so a bit of an update on that soon.