Land Rover’s new Discovery Sport has adopted some of the impressive tech reserved for more expensive models in the range.
The mid-size family SUV can project an image of the ground underneath it, helping driver navigate tough terrain without bashing the underneath of the car.
Nicknamed the “transparent bonnet”, the Clear View Ground View feature uses cameras in the front grille and on the door mirrors to project an image onto the centre screen showing what is directly ahead and underneath the car.
The Sport also has as standard equipment Land Rover’s wearable activity trial, which allows you to lock and unlock the car using a waterproof wristband. For surfers, it means no more hiding the trial in the bushes.
Apart from the new tech, the updated baby of the Land Rover line-up isn’t radically different to look at than the model it succeeds. Main body panels — including aluminium boot, roof and tailgate — are unchanged and the cabin still has five sumptuous seats plus two smaller pews in the third row.
That five-plus-two layout is now included in the $60,500 (plus on-road costs) starting price, making for a tempting differentiation from rivals that include the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Step back to just five seats and there’s the rare inclusion of a full-size spare, a nod to the Sport’s respectable off-road ability.
There’s also more safety gear, Land Rover incorporating autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control as standard equipment.
Not that everything made the cut: digital radio tuning and power tailgate still cost more.
And there are dozens of options — bigger wheels, 360-degree camera, metallic paint, massaging seats, digital rear-view mirror (via the rear-facing camera) and some tricky off-road tech, including water depth sensors and Clear View Ground View.
Choosing a model is easier. The shortened range follows the familiar prestige pattern of teaming more power with more features.
There are S, SE and HSE grades plus two petrol and three diesel 2.0-litre engines. The optional R-Dynamic styling pack replaces silver highlights with black and fits unique seat trims.
In all combinations, the cabin is satisfyingly more luxurious, with additional smatterings of carpet and leather covering the scratchy plastics of the predecessor. It’s restrained but elegant.
Between the 10.25-inch touchscreen, digital instrument cluster and adaptable ventilation dials — which also change the Terrain Response driving modes — there’s a pleasing mix of functional technology and style.
It’s comfortable, too. Adult-friendly headroom, rear air vents and USB ports enhance the middle row, adding to the sense you’re not being short-changed out back.
The generous legroom shrinks once you slide the middle seat forward to make for modest space in the third row. It’s best left to little ones, though, as the lack of foot space folds longer legs tight and high.
Still, there’s genuine substance to the upgrades elsewhere. The maker claims to have renewed 3500 of the Disco’s 5000 parts.
trial to the changes is mild hybrid assistance for the diesels, which is claimed to reduce fuel use by 7 per cent. Its 8kWh battery harnesses energy normally lost through the brakes when decelerating, then the small electric motor provides a subtle boost to mask some of the delay as the turbo spins to its operating peak.
ON THE ROAD
In the D240 we sampled — the most powerful of the diesels with 177kW/500Nm and available only as an HSE from $79,700 — it makes for relaxed and effortless acceleration, thanks to the standout torque surge.
The petrol P250 makes 183kW but feels more sluggish due to modest mid-range oomph, while the 365Nm is borderline when it comes to shifting a car exceeding 1900kg with any enthusiasm. It’s healthier once you rev it but at freeway speeds the turbo is working hard for little reward.
Changes to the suspension add suppleness and impressive body control quickly settles things over bumps.
It’s quiet, too. Only at highway pace do occupants hear the unwanted rumble of tyre noise from the optional 21-inch wheels with Pirelli rubber.
The driving experience is competent and comfortable but the sportiness is largely limited to design touches.
Ultimately, its versatility, two extra seats and everyday liveability make the Discovery Sport an appealing British antidote to the Germans.
A simplified range with more efficient engines headlines a worthy update that steps up comfort and convenience ahead of sheer sportiness.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT
PRICE From $60,500 plus on-roads (D240 from $79,700)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 yrs/100,000km, $1750 for 5 yrs/130,000km
SAFETY 6 airbags, pedestrian airbag, AEB, rear camera, lane keep assist, blind spot assist, driver monitor
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 177kW/500Nm
BOOT 754L (5 seats), 157L (7 seats)
The Discovery Sport will add a plug-in hybrid to the line-up next year, teamed with a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo diesel. Details are scant but expect the PHEV to drive about 50km on electricity alone, with the three-cylinder on hand for snappier performance and battery charging for longer journeys.
Originally published as Discovery’s weird X-ray vision camera