Drive Reviews the Land-Rover Discovery Sport SE SD4

In Car Reviews, Land Rover by Neil Lyndon

“I should turn back now!” said a voice in my head. “I just don’t fancy this,”

Sometimes, talking to yourself can be a sign of sanity.


I was on my own in the new Land-Rover Discovery Sport SE SD4 near the summit of Walter Alexander’s fiendish course at SCOTOFFROAD at Glentarkie in Fife. It was a chilly morning. The nearest human being was about two miles away. If the car got stuck, it was going to be a long, cold walk to get help.

Maybe I was erring on the side of caution but this Disco didn’t feel entirely unconquerable in the circumstances. Its reinforced and armoured undersides were grounding hard on humps. I had the queasy apprehension that one of those rises might leave the car suspended in mid-air like a see-saw. A foray along a deeply rutted track had been such a struggle to find grip, and traction that, at times, I doubted we were going to make it to the end.

Better beat a dignified retreat, I told myself, while we ‘e still in one piece.

Perhaps the fault was with the driver but, if so, it was a shortcoming that might be widely shared. After several decades of driving regularly off-road and learning from some of the country’s most skilful instructors, I would guess my off-road driving abilities are on about the same level as my circuit skills – ie not remotely in the same class as a professional but better than, say, 95% of normal drivers. If I couldn’t negotiate the SCOTOFFROAD course without help in the Disco Sport, I wouldn’t be the only one.

This is an unusual finding for a Land-Rover. Decades of previous experience assure us that you could bet on a Land-Rover to conquer any terrain except the upper reaches of the Himalayas and the lowest depths of the Mariana Trench. Wimping out is not in the nature of the brand. You might faintly suspect that an Evoque could have a little fit of the vapours at the fearsome gulches and vertiginous descents of the Glentarkie course but, surely, not a Disco?

But, then, there’s a strong touch of the Evoque about the Discovery Sport. From its bulbous, rounded stern to its thrusting, forceful snout, it looks uncannily like a stretched version of the smallest member of the Range Rover family. The rear section, going back from the C-pillar, looks like an addition as an afterthought.

Is this what the purchaser of a Discovery Sport wants – that onlookers should think they’re looking at an Evoque? Wouldn’t that be a bit of a come-down in the swank stakes?

In fact, however, the new Discovery Sport is the replacement for the old Freelander and is, therefore, positioned beneath the Evoque in the Land-Rover/Range Rover food chain. What we have here is – despite its £40,000 price tag –  the entry model for the entire range. No wonder it feels a tad lacking, especially compared with a fully grown-up Discovery. If it had carried the Freelander name on its bonnet, I shouldn’t have been surprised by its frailties at Glentarkie.

Not only does it look like an Evoque, the version I borrowed has the Evoque’s 2.2L SD4 190PS diesel with nine-speed automatic gearbox and shares many of its underpinnings, except for the addition of a new multilink rear-suspension.

On the road, the Discovery Sport comes into its own. The confidence that shrank under the demands of the SCOTOFFROAD were fully restored charging on country roads – perhaps because the 235/60 R 18 Continental Cross X Sport tyres were more at home on Tarmac than on one-in-one-and-a-half slopes slimed with deep mud. Acceleration from 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds and top speed of 117 mph together with firm turn-in and secure road-holding make this a good choice for any farmer who needs to race around country roads between far-flung fields to supervise the harvest. The adaptable seven-seat set-up, with occasional third row in the rear, would also make it an express bus for the field crew. If you drive like an idiot, as I did, you can get the body to dive under hard braking but, for all my heavy footedness on the throttle pedal and enthusiastic gear-changing through the paddles on the steering-wheel, I was getting 35.8 mpg which makes L-R’s claim of 44.8 mpg almost credible.

It was somehow reassuring that the radio kept cutting in and out following its own unpredictable whim. No Land-Rover product would be complete without a fault in build quality that would cause a senior executive at Toyota to commit public hara-kiri if it was discovered on a car for which he was responsible. It’s good to know that, even under Tata’s ownership, L-R still contrive to keep up the old traditions.

Land-Rover Discovery Sport SE SD4

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The lowdown

Price as tested: £40720 HSE Spec
Engine: 2.2L SD4 190PS Diesel
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
Max Engine Power: 190ps@3500rpm
Torque: 420Nm@1750rpm
0-60mph: 8.4 seconds
Top Speed: 117mph
CO2: 166 g/km

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About the Author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.