Performance against the stopwatch has traditionally been an abstract concern for Land Rover, but models such as the Discovery Sport must today offer reasonable speed and good drivability to fulfil the expectations of owners migrating from more conventional cars.
It’s an area in which the old model at first rather fell on its face, using a Ford-derived diesel that would, as we wrote at the time, “shadow everything the car does with the clatter and gunsmoke odour of yesteryear”. Matters improved somewhat with the introduction of JLR’s downsized Ingenium diesel part-way through the model cycle, but even these EU6-compliant engines were no match for their smoother rival counterparts, generally of German origin.
Only the most wistful thinker would expect the addition of mild-hybrid technology to have a transformative effect on the Ingenium’s performance, and in the world of 2.0-litre turbodiesel premium off-roaders, the Discovery Sport remains the sauntering sort. With four-wheel drive, never does it struggle for traction, even on damp roads, but against a kerb weight flirting with two tonnes, the D180’s 0-60mph time still slips to the wrong side of the 10-second mark.
Neither is the car especially quick to respond to throttle inputs once rolling, although it is unlikely that anybody paying for a family SUV with genuine off-road ability will find progress so lazy as to be frustrating. The D180 moves well while in the meat of its torque band between 1500 and 3000rpm, although the busy nine-speed gearbox can take its time to find the right ratio, so overtakes executed at short notice are best avoided. The transmission software’s need to continually change gear has consequences at low speeds, too, when downshifts are occasionally accompanied by a small but nonetheless noticeable shunt through the driveline.
Overall, if there is any meaningful performance benefit from the supposed ‘torque-fill’ of the powertrain’s electric element, our testers failed to notice it, and this ponderous D180 stills lacks the drivability of the equivalent BMW X3 20d or Volvo XC40 D4. However, as we’ll shortly discover, the Discovery Sport now has new-found strengths that lie elsewhere.