The old Discovery Sport handled well despite its agrarian underpinnings, and this new version’s updated platform promotes better handling still. And yet this car drives not in the alert-steering, low-roll, slightly artificial manner of so many nouveau off-roading crossovers, but in a laid-back manner recognisably and enjoyably Land Rover in feel.
It starts with the leisurely geared steering, which ensures the Discovery Sport will never be considered among the most agile cars of its type but lends proceedings a level of composure and, for the want of a better word, class. As with other products in the JLR stable, there’s an elasticity to the motion that’s married with good linearity. The result is a steering set-up that suits the heavy, high-riding Discovery Sport. It doesn’t attempt to disguise the car’s physics but still breeds confidence.
As expected, body control is relaxed, although not to the extent that the Discovery Sport lollops down a B-road in the manner of an original Discovery without anti-roll bars. In fact, Land Rover deserves recognition for its tuning of this suspension, because the car’s rate of roll is well-judged and pretty much seamlessly matched to the steering response. It all makes for a pleasant, easy experience as the Sport flows along – so long as you don’t stray too far from the stately pace it demands.
Do so and you’ll find this chassis, anchored to the road with Pirelli all-season tyres, isn’t one overly endowed with grip, which is perhaps why the ESC is quite conservatively tuned. Given the car’s reasonably good balance and the progressiveness of the weight transfer, you’re unlikely to trigger the electronics during normal driving. Grip levels are also well matched to the ability of the chassis, and the overall driving experience is not one defined by particularly notable levels of agility or precision but rather by dynamic coherence and surprising polish in the controls.
No ladder chassis or full-time four-wheel drive here, but a conventional monocoque architecture and on-demand Haldex driveline still deliver more off-road ability than most are ever likely to need. This platform heralds new electronic wheel-management controls, which can direct torque across the axles to maximise traction. All the driver needs do is keep their foot deep into the throttle, at which point the Terrain Response brain, which also controls the locking rear diff, takes matters into its own hands. Modes include Sand, Grass-Gravel-Snow and Mud & Ruts, with differing levels of slip and torque profiles for each.