The all-new Discovery Sport is possibly Land Rover's most compelling model

The all-new Discovery Sport is possibly Land Rover's most compelling model

Unless the next Ice Age happens by the middle of this year, when the new Land Rover Discovery Sport makes its debut, there is a good chance most buyers in Singapore will never have a chance to enjoy the full measure of the SUV's capabilities.

That is a shame because it is rather capable, across just about any sort of terrain and climate imaginable.

Its capabilities include the more mundane, such as the ability to keep its driver warm, achieved through a heated steering wheel and seats. These features, useless in tropical climes, are a boon when it is minus 2 deg C outside and the wind is howling like a banshee.

There are also useful features, such as Land Rover's Terrain Response system that optimises the car's all-wheel-drive system, granting its wheels better purchase on the loose, powdery snow that covered much of our test route.

Drivers in Singapore might appreciate the Discovery Sport's ability to ford bodies of water up to 60cm deep, which should come in handy if you need to get some shopping done when flash floods hit Orchard Road.

And Land Rover was not just blowing hot air our way (which might not have been an entirely bad thing because there was a severe lack of warmth in Iceland). We crossed a stream deep enough to cover the vehicle's grille almost entirely.

But even if the most challenging terrain you are likely to encounter with the Discovery Sport in Singapore is a multi-storey carpark littered with treacherous speed humps. The Landie's handsome styling is still appealing. Highlights include its clamshell bonnet (a cue taken from the striking Evoque) and fashionable C-pillars.

What we think potential buyers will appreciate most is how much of a quantum leap the Discovery Sport is over its ageing predecessor, the decade-old Freelander 2. And we are not just talking about aesthetics.

The first car in the new Discovery family, it will be joined by a larger and possibly more luxuriously appointed Discovery in time to come.

It is based on the mechanical underpinnings of the Evoque, although everything is new after the A-pillars. Despite being slated as an entry-level model, the Discovery Sport has an interior quality that will rival even that of the flagship Range Rover, with a solidly built centre console and switchgear that is pleasingly damped.

In fact, it feels German - a sign that the Jaguar-Land Rover Group's era of Ford ownership is truly behind it. Indeed, there is a newfound spring in its step.

For such a tall-riding car, it is surprisingly spry, with a beautiful float to its damping (which is unusual for an SUV, as such vehicles tend to have a rather crashy ride). The Discovery Sport may be a big car, but it seems to "shrink" around you when you drive it hard.

Contributing to quite a bit of that spring in its step is a 2-litre turbocharged engine with 240bhp and 340Nm of torque, hooked up to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. This is a similar drivetrain to the one used in the Evoque, but the Discovery Sport's transmission works far more smoothly, without the driveline shunt we encountered in the former.

The Discovery Sport will even function as a seven-seater MPV in a pinch, with a pair of third-row seats. Granted, they are best used for children and even then, only for shorter journeys, but these are two more seats than the Freelander 2 had. They are good to have, should the need to haul people, not cargo, arise.

It is precisely because of this versatility that allows Land Rover to finally enter the SUV big league and mount a serious challenge to stalwarts such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

Its good looks and improved quality help too.

The car is a fine addition to Land Rover's local line-up, especially for those who feel the Evoque is a little too pretentious (or impractical) and the Range Rover a little too pricey.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is the associate editor of Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.