Building a successful car in this age of sophisticated customers with dozens of choices is far from easy. But it’s a little less complicated if your task is to build a car with a whose purpose and target customer is very well defined — a super-fast McLaren 650S, a luxurious Mercedes S-class or a cheeky Mini.
Making a family-oriented SUV stand out from the crowd — as Land Rover has done with the new and excellent Discovery Sport — is a much tougher gig, not only because “the enemy” includes rivals of the calibre of Audi, BMW and Lexus, but also because affordable, multi-purpose SUVs like the Disco Sport are supposed to appeal to all kinds of buyers and as a result can’t be as focused as models that explore the limits of price and purpose.
Yet Land Rover has succeeded, big time, and its secret has been to choose with extreme care the ground on which to fight its rivals. Its biggest wins are in design and packaging; Land Rover’s director of projects, Murray Dietsch, confirmed as much at the car’s initial reveal.
As a result of the rare talent that lurks within Land Rover’s Gaydon design studio, the Disco Sport wins acclaim even among rivals for its beautiful, sculptural shape. In the five days and 1200 miles we spent on test with the Sport (taking it from the Halewood works, across England, through the tunnel, up the European coast and onto a ferry for the Faroe Islands) we must have had 30 conversations with people we met about the car’s exceptional visual impact.
Talking packaging goes, our 1200-mile mission required us to travel with luggage for our crew of three, plus stills and video camera gear, lights, tripods, batteries, cleaning gear and other assorted paraphernalia. None of it intruded into the cabin, and the single rear occupant was thus able to luxuriate in the Sport’s exceptional rear space, because the Sport’s generous boot swallowed all our gear with its middle seat in practically the rearmost position.
Throw in the expected impressive refinement and effortless performance on test (plus 38mpg) and it’s no wonder we reached our destination believing we were in the class-leading SUV whose strongest suits were great looks and remarkable interior space. I’m predicting buyers will rapidly reach the same conclusion.