When you learn that the new Discovery Sport will be built alongside the Range Rover Evoque at Land Rover’s Halewood plant on Merseyside, it would be easy to assume that the two share the same platform.
However, that’s only half of the truth. Although the two are largely the same at the front, the Discovery Sport is all new from the B-pillars back. This is eminently sensible. The major crash structure and most complex mechanicals of a modern car sit between the axle line and the A-pillars.
Making changes to those areas costs lots of time and even more money. So the subframe, with a magnesium crossmember and other components, is largely the same around the front, although, unlike the Evoque, the Discovery Sport has a pedestrian airbag in its nose.
Aft of the B-pillars, however, the Discovery Sport has a new structure that leaves it 80mm longer than the Evoque, all of which comes from within the wheelbase. The changes include a new multi-link rear suspension system that has only minimal intrusion into the passenger and luggage compartment, enabling the fitment of those +2 rear chairs.
JLR’s £500 million investment in its new engine plant in Wolverhampton has rid it of its reliance on other people’s powerplants, which has seen the 2.2-litre, Ford-derived turbodiesel become a thing of the past and replaced by the smaller capacity Ingenium units.
The model tested here is badged as the SD4, it’s offered in 188bhp form, which it generates at 3500rpm, with a torque output of 310lb ft at 1750rpm. Regardless of whether you buy Disco Sport with an SD4 or TD4 engine, that’s enough, says Land Rover, to tow 2200kg – or 2500kg if you delete the +2 rear seats. That’s quite a lot more than the claimed kerb weight of 1863kg, which might alarm some towers, so it’s worth noting that this test car tipped our scales at a substantial 2081kg.
That portliness will affect the fuel consumption, as will the Discovery Sport’s hardware. This is, after all, a Land Rover, so it isn’t let out of the factory unless it will do things off road that its rivals simply can’t.
To that end, the Sport receives Land Rover’s Terrain Response control, although because this is a coil and not air-sprung Land Rover, there’s a limit to what it can adjust and its performance largely centres around tweaking of the electronic stability program.
But the Discovery Sport also has a full-time four-wheel drive system with a Haldex centre coupling and is electronically controlled so it can push power forward or aft as it pleases. The Sport is also expected to wade through 600mm of water and have class-leading approach, departure and breakover angles.
Whether it can combine all those with fine on-road dynamics is what we’re about to see.