IN A film shot at the Virgin Galactic launch site in New Mexico, from where space tourists will depart for a sub-orbital tour of the globe, Land Rover has unveiled the new Discovery Sport, due on sale in January 2015.
A spacious cabin, the next generation of suspension systems, a choice of two powerful and economical diesel engines, and a suite of safety and infotainment features are key attributes of the new model, which replaces the Freelander and goes on sale in January 2015.
However, perhaps its most compelling feature is the availability, as standard, of seven seats, arranged in a 5+2 formation. This has been made possible, says Land Rover, by the adoption of a new, more compact multi-link rear axle that also aids agility on and off-road.
The design of the model, which will be built at Halewood in Liverpool, sets the tone, says the car maker, for a new generation of Discovery premium SUVs positioned in the brand’s leisure category between Range Rover (luxury) and Defender (dual-purpose).
Though it has seven seats as standard, the new model is 239mm shorter than the existing Discovery, which will remain on sale, at least for the moment. According to Land Rover, occupants in the rearmost seats won’t feel shortchanged thanks to an overall wheelbase of 2741mm that creates “exceptional legroom” throughout the cabin.
Land Rover hopes the new model’s wheel-at-each corner design and low, sporty stance will attract a new generation of buyers to the marque, in a sector that is already brimming over with strong rivals from the Mazda CX-5 to the Porsche Macan.
At launch, power will be provided by a four-cylinder 2.2-litre SD4 diesel engine producing 310 lb ft torque and 184bhp, and driving all four wheels via a choice of nine-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmissions. A more economical eD4 diesel driving just two wheels and with Co2 emissions of around 119g/km, will join the range later in 2015.
The brand’s off-roading credentials should be secure thanks to the new model’s raised ride height and competitive approach and departure angles, so-called Terrain Response technology that tailors key functions including steering and braking to the terrain, and additional driving aids ranging from Hill Descent Control to Engine Drag Torque Control which helps prevent lock-up under heavy engine braking.
These are joined by a suite of safety technologies including a first-in-class pedestrian airbag, and Autonomous Emergency Braking to help avoid or mitigate the consequences of collisions below 50mph.
Meanwhile, the all-new infotainment system includes an 8in screen users can swipe, drag or scroll like a tablet, and a sat-nav system optimised for off-road with features including “breadcrumbing”, which marks the vehicle’s route on the map and allows the driver to re-trace their steps. In addition, the Discovery Sport comes with Land Rover’s new InControl apps, compatible with Apple and Android smartphones.
Prices for the new Discovery Sport start at £32,395 for the 2.2 SD4 SE, rising to £42,995 for the 2.2 SD4 HSE Lux automatic.
Over the next four months, Land Rover will support the launch of the new model with a competition to find the world’s most adventurous spirit. Together with three friends, the winner will enjoy a flight on Virgin Galactic to see the world from space.