It may be getting increasingly hard to tell an Evoque from a Velar but the Discovery Sport has always had a distinct look that blends traditional Land Rover farm practicality with sophisticated urban aspirations.
The 2020 update propels it to a fashionista status, especially in our Firenza Red test car. Sure, the 18in wheels could do with a more aggressive design but the way Land Rover designers have cleaned up the front end (while making it look more muscular), added another layer of dimensions to the rear and given the all-LED treatment to the lights have changed the entire persona of the Discovery Sport. The R-Dynamic variant that I drove also comes loaded with tech, putting it right up Stuff’s alley…or the Maharashtrian outdoors.
No thing like too much tech
Even before you get to the tech, you have to take a moment to just soak in the atmosphere inside the cabin of this refreshed Discovery Sport. The high seating position, the rich mix of softly padded dash with open-pore wood veneer and the instruments that sit silently under a gloss black cloak until you turn on the ignition. It’s the farthest thing you’d expect from a vehicle that loves to play in the mud, but that’s been the very ethos of the brand and this new Discovery Sport lets you experience most of that without spending ridiculous Range Rover money. The 12-way powered seats come with a memory function to help you get into the most comfortable driving position quickly and can be recalled at the press of a button. Though strangely, the drive profile feature doesn’t include seat memory when you select amongst different drivers.
The 12in driver information display sports new graphics with a dual-dial or single-dial format that can be clubbed with a myriad of other information from navigation to media or vehicle info. Resolution is crisp and perfectly legible without resorting to unnecessary gimmicks or colours in the name of “sport”. The steering is the now-familiar variety with touch-sensitive buttons that are contextual so change function depending on the menu selected on the screen. It takes a bit of getting used to and getting the touch input right can be a challenge but it’s not something you can’t learn to live with. What is more tangible are the slow responses of the 10.25in Touch Pro 1 infotainment system. It has been spruced up graphically and functionally but everything takes a second longer than you’re used to and that invokes multiple touch inputs. You have to pace yourself between multiple commands and once you do, there’s a fair bit to play with.
Lane Keep Assist, Park Assist, Cruise control, Driver Condition Monitor in terms of safety and basic ambient lighting in various colours, air quality sensor with ionisation for comfort and mood. As you’d expect, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a wireless charging mat is standard but the Meridian hi-fi system is reserved for R-Dynamic variant and comes with 11 speakers and 380W of power.
This is the entry-level Meridian system though and doesn’t have a DSP that simulates surround sound like the higher-end versions and you also don’t get a centre speaker. The result is imaging that is anchored to the speaker that is closest to you, so as a driver, I could hear the speakers mounted on the driver’s side door panel. Manually altering the balance and fader controls allows you to shift the image away from your side more towards the centre of the car but this workaround is acceptable only if there is a single person in the car. Or a passenger who couldn’t care less about the sound. Sound tonality and clarity itself is great with a nicely balanced signature that doesn’t tend to emphasise any particular area of the spectrum.
12V sockets and 2 USB ports are included in the centre armrest and the same amount for the rear seat passengers as well, so everyone gets their own charging port. The front headrests also get tablet holders with their own 5V USB-charging ports, bringing the total number of USB ports to….many if you include the one in the third row too! One of the biggest party tricks of the Discovery Sport R-Dynamic is the new ClearSight rearview camera that uses a direct video feed from a high-mounted camera. Its resolution is fantastically clear, more so than a mirror and comes with an added advantage of not being soaked by water or being blocked by luggage in the boot area. So you always have a clear view of the road and traffic behind you. The camera can even be adjusted for angle and brightness. You also do have a manual toggle that reverts the rearview mirror back to its ‘mirror’ position, if you happen to choose tradition over technology.
Of course, without the inclusion of a Terrain Response system, it wouldn’t really be a Land Rover now would it. The Discovery Sport gets the latest version of the system and the analogue dials that control the temperature double up as contextual dials when you engage the Drive Modes. You can select various levels of traction optimised for different surfaces like sand, snow, rock, grass etc but strangely, like in the last generation, there is no “Sport” mode on this Discovery Sport too. There are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and you can take manual charge of the 9-speed transmission, but don’t go giving looks to any X3s at the red light. But no Land Rover barring the SVR models should be about acceleration and in terms of refinement, this new generation built on a new platform with a new BS6-compliant diesel is absolutely lovely. 180hp and 430Nm are adequate numbers for any sensible SUV, but more than power, this luxury SUV is all about NVH levels.
At idling, it’s impossible from the cabin to tell if the engine is even running! Smooth and refined, the only thing it doesn’t like is being hustled, taking its own sweet time upon step-down and hard acceleration. The transmission is to be blamed for that but behave like a gentleman and the Sport gathers momentum progressively without ever calling attention to itself. It soaks up bumps and imperfections on the road like a sponge, actually getting you to your destination faster than sports cars, thanks to its tank-like build and unstoppable nature. Small speed bumps don’t even warrant brake pedal usage and Mumbai’s rain-ravaged roads are dismissed without a thud entering the cabin. This is where the Sport comes into its own, just ploughing through bad roads, gravel, mud and everything in between. Body roll is well controlled too, should you be in a hurry to get to the weekend home in the hills. You just have to plan your overtaking moves, thanks to the lazy gearbox but for everything else, this versatile SUV is the most amount of car you’ll ever need. No one is going to really mind the understeer when cornering hard since no one really drives these cars like that in the real world! With its flexible seating, you can choose between all 7 seats folded up or just two front seats with enough storage area to move houses in.
With looks that turn heads (in this shade of red), a meaningful facelift with superb quality inside and out, the 2020 Discovery Sport is a proper and relatively affordable introduction to this legendary brand. There are no visible signs of compromise anywhere besides the need for a faster processor to handle the infotainment system and the driving or riding in one is a calming experience, cut off from the madness outside and the mayhem under the tires. Now with enough tech to keep it competitive with the Germans, the Discovery Sport is also a lot more capable in the sludge should you ever find yourself in a sticky situation. With top-notch quality on all the touchpoints, the Discovery Sport keeps reminding you that you’ve bought something special and that’s enough to feel part of the legend on every drive.