There is only one engine option on the Land Rover Discovery Sport for now – a 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel unit. More engines will arrive later from JLR’s new range of efficient ‘Ingenium’ four-cylinder engines.
Despite its Freelander heritage, the Sport’s most noticeable connection to the past is unmistakably that engine, which currently shadows everything the car does with the clatter and gunsmoke odour of yesteryear. Denying the car the new four-cylinder Ingenium oil-burner from launch is clearly the model’s on-paper Achilles heel and, to a greater or lesser extent, that’s the way it plays out on the road.
However, although the direct-injected 2.2-litre motor is not a paragon of refinement or efficiency, its later-life development has at least ensured that it produces the unmistakable surge expected of a modern blower-equipped diesel.
On stream, its 310lb ft of torque is a plentiful amount, and it feels that way. For a car that tipped the scales on the wrong side of two tonnes when we weighed it, a sub-9.0sec 0-60mph time is very decent. So is the 9.0sec it takes to get from 30mph to 70mph, very slightly bettering the time we recorded for the much-admired 2.2-litre engine in the Mazda CX-5 a couple of years ago.
In fact, the soft underbelly of the package is at times evident less in the 20th century motor and more in the 21st century gearbox to which it has been shackled.
Rather inevitably, the nine-speed automatic transmission’s keenness to keep the engine spinning at its productive mid-range pitch means that you’re going to have to live with a lot of downshifting – particularly on the motorway, where the never-ending 47.5mph per 1000rpm final ratio cannot be trusted with even modest acceleration.
However, it’s the intermittent hesitancy experienced at fast getaways that tends to chafe. It’s not quite clear whether this is a function of the gearbox’s default to second – keeping an ultra-low first ratio chiefly for off-road duties – or the initial reluctance to lock up that we’ve sometimes encountered in other ZF-equipped Land Rovers, but the half second of driveline bemusement is infuriating when you’re trying to make a gap in the traffic.
Nevertheless, the nine-speeder’s otherwise swift function (it will block change rather than cycle sequentially) and inclination to shift are what make the automatic Sport significantly faster than the six-speed manual and keeping the fire stoked is an attitude that suits the car just fine.
MPG and Running Costs
At present, the Land Rover Discovery Sport doesn’t feel like especially good value, not because it isn’t very well kitted out (it is) but because the smaller yet more stylish Evoque and the much quicker BMW X3 xDrive30d are both available for less.
The fact that the BMW, despite being 68bhp superior in output and two cylinders to the good in size, also trumps the Sport on quoted economy and emissions highlights just how badly this new model needs its Ingenium engine.
Later, a more frugal two-wheel-drive model will prop up the range. For now, though, buyers will have to make do with 44.8mpg combined – pruned to just 33.9mpg when we subjected it to True MPG analysis – and 166g/km of CO2, a full 49g/km more than the two-wheel-drive Volvo XC60 D4, which is the class leader on running costs. However, the Sport has excellent resale values and trumps the BMW X3 and XC60 in this area, being able to hold its retained value stronger over a three year period.
Nevertheless, in SE auto spec, the Sport is decently equipped and generally well priced compared with its mostly German rivals, even if some of the things you really want – sat-nav, a powered tailgate, front foglights – are the preserve of the aptly named SE Tech trim and above.
We’d avoid the manual gearbox and the top spec HSE Luxury trim level. Our pick would be the nine-speed automatic transmission with the mid-level SE Tech trim and all the optional USB sockets.