What is it?
Up to this point, our enjoyment of the otherwise impressive Discovery Sport has been spoiled a little by the sole occupant of its engine bay. With Jaguar calling dibs on the first Ingenium motors off the production line, Land Rover’s compact seven-seater was stuck with a venerable 2.2-litre oil burner, a relic of the not so distant past when Ford signed the cheques at Gaydon.
For as long as that engine remained, we urged caution, suggesting patience would be rewarded by the virtues of the all-new, incoming 2.0-litre unit. Well, that time has come: the Sport is the first Land Rover to receive the EU6-compliant Ingenium (it migrates to the Evoque next) and almost all the important figures shrink or swell accordingly.
There are two versions to choose from: a 148bhp example dubbed ‘E-capability’ that comes with admirably low 129g/km CO2 emissions - and doubtless a very small customer base because it can’t be had with seven seats or the nine-speed automatic gearbox - and a 178bhp variant tested here which will have both these things, and be bought by almost everyone despite its necessarily higher 139g/km.
For the record, that’s a 27g/km reduction compared with the outgoing motor, and less than Audi or BMW quote for a Q5 or an X3. It’s a similar story regarding fuel economy where the Sport’s wishful, official 53.3mpg marginally outstrips the figures claimed by the same rivals.
What's it like?
In the real world, favourable first impressions of the Ingenium are enhanced by recalling the particulate waft and gnawing vibrations its predecessor produced on start-up. The new engine isn’t whisper quiet (we’ll come back to that) but the fact that you can’t feel it through the control surfaces - or, indeed, smell it - is a significant advance.
With the start-up shudder gone and at low speeds, the all-aluminum unit spends its time convincing you of its better manners. It doesn't take long to be persuaded, given that one of the old engine’s worst vices was its inability to get underway without suffering chronic hesitation. Despite still defaulting into second gear (first being saved for towing or the muddy stuff), step-off is now seamless.
The nine-speed transmission is a big improvement on the old system. Inevitably, it favours a prompt downshift or two but, this time, the endless foraging for the torque band seems cleverly prearranged, rather than irritatingly ad-hoc.
This is important because, knowing that many of its buyers would never dream of troubling the rev limiter, Land Rover has spent its time extracting as much low-end tractability as possible. Consequently, at middling to high speeds, and with only shallow throttle input, the Discovery feels urgent with a pleasingly immediate, crest-of-a-wave kind of momentum.
True, the 2.2-litre motor was not short on twist either but this is a much sleeker brand of impetus delivered without any nasty swell, or surge or splutter. This progressiveness feels well connected to your right foot, too; an important quality given how the rest of the vehicle does such a sterling job of making you feel well connected to the road.