Abroad, troubles in the Chinese market in 2018 catalysed a sales nose-dive, while back at home the simultaneous public flogging of diesel cars and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit did their best to add two black eyes to the firm’s already bloodied nose. This axis of misfortune, along with a £3.1 billion write-down in the value of company’s capitalised assets, saw this storied British manufacturer post a staggering £3.6bn loss at the end of the last financial year.
Encouragingly, things have started to look up in more recent months – if only slightly. With its £2.5bn ‘Charge and Accelerate’ turnaround plan now in place, and faint signs of a sales recovery beginning to shine through in China, JLR was able to post a pre-tax profit of £156 million in the second quarter of last year. But while this news is certainly positive, it seems unlikely that the concussive effects of that earlier beat-down have completely waned from Coventry’s corridors of power.
It’s into this somewhat tempestuous environment that the subject of this week’s road test emerges. The importance of the Discovery Sport’s role in the wider Land Rover picture should not be underestimated. Since its arrival as a replacement for the Freelander in late 2014, the seven-seat family SUV has been a shining beacon of success for the marque and quickly became its best-selling model.
In 2017 Land Rover sold 126,078 examples of the Discovery Sport – the highest single-year sales figure for any Land Rover model in the firm’s 71-year history. And while that figure slumped by a considerable 26% in 2018, this dip was attributed to customers holding off for this highly anticipated new model.
It might only be a mid-life facelift, but it brings with it a new platform, new technology and a range of mild-hybrid petrol and diesel powertrains to help keep it competitive and give it a new lease of life. If it’s to nurse those declining sales figures back to health and do its part to contribute to the rejuvenation of its marque as a whole, surely these are encouraging signs that JLR isn’t resting on its laurels.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport range at a glance
Engine choice for the Discovery Sport is based around Jaguar Land Rover’s family of 2.0-litre Ingenium units. All have four-wheel-drive and a 48V mild-hybrid system, apart from the entry-level model, which also comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. Trim starts at standard Discovery Sport level, moving up through S, SE and then HSE.