2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport First Drive Review

The facelifted baby Disco is here, but with updates being more significant on the inside than the outside – can this 2020 avatar revitalise Land Rover’s fortunes?

Overview:

The Land Rover Discovery Sport was originally launched in India back in 2015, and ever since it’s been the best-selling model in Land Rover India’s portfolio – given its sweet positioning in the premium luxury SUV segment featuring a 5+2 seating capacity, upmarket interiors and the legendary off-roading capabilities that LR’s are known for.

So, it’s perhaps no surprise that its mid-life refresh has seen the exterior remain largely the same, a set of fancier LED lights and restyled bumpers sum about its aesthetic evolution. But what’s pleasantly surprising is that with this facelift, Land Rover have completely changed the car’s architecture – with underpinnings similar to the new Range Rover Evoque slotted underneath that rather familiar looking body.

Land Rover Discovery Sport Drive Review - Topgear Magazine

We get the option of two BS6 compliant engines each 2.0 litres in size, though without any mild hybrid engines that this new architecture was actually designed for. The one we drove was the 177bhp diesel powered motor with 430Nm of torque operating through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The S trim in this spec also represents the tempting Rs. 59.91 lakh entry point to Land Rover ownership.

Land Rover Discovery Sport Drive Wheels - Topgear Magazine

And as before, it’s described as a 5+2 seater SUV; which simply means it’s a seven-seat car with tiny boot space when you deploy its last row of seats, strictly good for kids. But for its length of 4,600mm which is shorter than a Mercedes GLC and width of 2,069mm that’s slightly wider than an Evoque – that’s an impressive amount of flexibility which’ll go down well with your in-laws on that clichéd outing for a family dinner.

Exteriors:

The exteriors remaining largely unchanged, although the visual impact now is closer to the full-size Discovery’s with new LED lighting elements, re-profiled bumpers and an aggressive front stance with the front grille embellished in LR’s signature honeycomb design. And I’m very glad that the design team wasn’t tempted to copy the Discovery’s asymmetric rear-end design. Overall, the car’s styling is oozing Land Rover’s DNA, only let down by those rather plain looking 18-inch wheels.

Land Rover Discovery Sport Drive Review- Topgear Magazine

Interiors:

Its within, amidst soft-touch leather, an open-pore wood inlaid on the dash with JLR’s latest ‘Touch Pro’ media system that you realise, you’ve been upgraded to Range Rover levels of luxury, and this feeling was really missing in the pre-facelift car.

While the R-Dynamic variant gets a fully digital instrument cluster, the base S variant gets a part-digital, part-analogue cluster that feels out of place for a 60 lakh rupee car. This variant also misses out on the ‘ClearSight’ rear-view camera and mirror screen package but you do get features like the massive panoramic sunroof and a powered tailgate.

Land Rover Discovery Sport  Interior - Topgear Magazine

Seven seats is rare in a car this size, and as you’d expect, there’s minimal room for luggage with the rear seats deployed. I tested this car with my family of 3 adults, a child’s seat and a boot full of luggage with sporting equipment – and it worked out perfectly for a 2-day trip to Lonavala with some occasional dirt trails along the way!

The third-row maxes out with fully-sprouted teenagers over shorter distances. But there are dozens of formations available as you flip and fold each chair, with almost 1,800 litres of storage space on offer.

Land Rover Discovery Sport  Space - Topgear Magazine

Driving:

Climb into that 12-way adjustable, comfortable high set driving seat, and you get a commanding view out with the Sport’s new, albeit large and certainly great to hold steering wheel. Its drives incredibly neatly for a seven seat SUV with its small footprint and 2-tonne weight. The 9-speed auto transmission does feel slow to kick down, but when driven in a relaxed manner it does its job well.

And while it’s sporty by name, it’s less so by nature; as it emanates the feeling of a car geared towards comfort, which, given the Discovery Sport’s majority customer base – is not a bad thing; but that whiny engine at medium to high revs with not so great fuel efficiency is truly the only chink in its armour.

Land Rover Discovery Sport  Exterior - Topgear Magazine

Because off the paven track, this car provides confidence like no other in its class. Whether you deploy its numerous rock-crawling and hill-descending systems or trust the auto select driving mode, this is a car that’ll take a serious bashing without complaint, even wading through 600mm of water. Most buyers I suspect won’t do any of it. But the simple knowledge of its inherent capability will be enough to lift a Land Rover above less illustrious SUV rivals in this class.

Land Rover Discovery Sport  Exterior - Topgear Magazine

Final Verdict

The facelift has certainly enhanced the appeal of this Landie over its more comfortable and quicker alternatives. Despite the convincing showcase of comfort, premium-ness and technology in this facelifted version, the Sport may feel a touch traditional and not match the refinement offered by the likes of a Mercedes or a BMW’s offerings. However, the updated interior quality with that commanding driving position and extensive seating flexibility should convince most buyers to sign up for Disco Sport – but with its Land Rover off-roading credentials, it should seal the deal for most potential owners.

Model Tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport | 2.0 L Diesel S
Price: Rs. 59.91 Lakhs (ex-showroom)

Photography: Mohammad R Merchant