Africamps at Mackers sits quite low on the banks of the Sabie River, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Hazyview and its surrounding paper plantations. From its patios and terraces, you’re treated to a completely new perspective on a familiar place. That makes it the perfect location for us to explore with the new 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport, a new take on a classic theme.
Heritage may be an overused word these days, but you recognize it when you see it.
Most visitors to this area will spend their time touring the panorama route and enjoying tapas, or perhaps admiring the breath-taking Blyde Canyon. Step off the beaten track, though, and it’s still capable of surprising. You could say the same about the new 2020 Discovery Sport.
Meet the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery clan of cars sits squarely in the middle of the Land Rover’s family tree. On one end you have the Range Rover, which promises refinement with its off-road prowess, while on the other end the just-launched Defender epitomizes extreme durability. Somewhere in the middle, the new Discovery Sport tries to combine the best of both worlds in a compact premium SUV.
The Discovery is no stranger to the marketplace, being present in Land Rover’s line-up for the last thirty years. But while the 2020 Discovery Sport isn’t exactly brand new, this freshly minted iteration of the Discovery series has undergone an extensive mid-life refresh – the substantial exterior and interior updates must not be underestimated. Throw in new engines and loads of great tech to the mix, and there you have the “New” in the title.
What makes the 2020 Discovery Sport different?
Right, the New Discovery Sport features a “Premium Transverse Architecture” mixing High Strength Steel (HSS) with a host of other materials for a car body that’s a quoted 10-percent stiffer. That translates into a more stable and quiet ride. The all-new Ingenium engine is available as a mild-hybrid, too, to assist the combustion engine in achieving lower fuel consumption. Land Rover says you could see petrol savings of up to 6%.
The two options for now, then, are the 2020 Discovery Sport S, and the sportier-Sport, R-Dynamic version. Both use the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine with a 9-speed automatic as their starting point, with Land Rover’s second-generation All-Wheel Drive system. Our test model is the diesel powered R-Dynamic variant.
Land Rover takes performance on and off the road seriously. So, it’s worth noting some more titbits about the suspension and architecture. Active Drive Dynamics, for example, continuously monitor surface and terrain conditions and adjust the SUV’s settings for optimum performance.
Torque, meanwhile, is intelligently distributed between the front axle and each of the rear wheels. The new Discovery Sport can also switch between AWD and 2WD mode in under 400 milliseconds, for greater efficiency. This, combined with a MacPherson front suspension, makes for a comfortable driving experience.
Getting down and dirty
We started our drive in the city and made our way out to the N12 and later joined the N4 at eMalahleni before settling for the Panorama route on small and twisty town streets. The 9-speed can get a little agitated when searching for the right gear, but once through the travails of city traffic, the Discovery Sport starts to relax and show off its full potential out on the open road.
Hitting the highway means time to step on the pedal. The car does 0-100 km/h in about nine seconds, and while it doesn’t necessarily feel like an aggressive speed demon, it has plenty of power and hummed along smoothly in a manner worthy of a SZA playlist. The greater Mpumalanga isn’t short on demanding curves, but the Discovery Sport proved sure-footed, with communication of grip and balance coming through strong through the steering. Speaking of which, an accurate wheel with little play proved welcome when there’s a wall of rock on one side, oncoming cars, and then a precipitous cliff on the other.
Fun times off-road
You’ll be unsurprised to hear that we included an off-road section during our trip, not by intent, but only because our overnight stays featured this. Later during our weekend away, and deep into the heart of the Klein Drakensberg, the new Discovery Sport ploughed over rough dirt roads like child’s play. Wending our way over rocks, rock slabs, and through thick brush and forest, the steep uphill and downhill sections actually did manage to get our hearts pounding – with gradients that were 23-percent and higher – an apropos reminder of where Land Rover pushes the envelope and excels.
Fewer buttons on the more minimalist main control panel and Touch Pro screen make it easy to adjust the Terrain Response system. All it took was a slight turn of the dial from “Snow and Sand” to “Auto”, and the SUV could power over and around challenging ground without complaint.
The best was saved for last when, at the crest of a hair-raising downhill so steep I hesitated to proceed, the “Hill Descent” system engaged. Effectively cruise control for off-roading, I set a slow speed with the Forward Progress Controls on the steering wheel, and settled back as the Discovery Sport proceeded down in a safe and controlled manner.
Smooth ride, guaranteed
So, what’s it like to ride inside over all these bumps and humps? The cabin was quiet and the seats have a healthy degree of padding. We are stickler for the finer things, so our seats were crafted with handsome Windsor leather in the R-Dynamic version.
Ample leg room up front, and plenty of spots to stow your gear and keep it neatly organized, leave the cabin practical as well as handsome. There’s 1,794 litres of space, 24 seating combinations, and the ability to fit up to 7 people if your model allows. The row behind the driver is unexpectedly comfortable, with independent temperature controls and well-placed ventilation.
How is the 2020 Discovery Sport, really?
The new 2020 Discovery Sport may be a little less refined that the elegant Evoque, and slightly less rugged than the all-new Defender, but with a price tag that starts at R849 100 for a base model it’s a worthy way to land yourself a spot in the Land Rover club.
The brand’s goal of a premium compact SUV that’s equally good at city duty and back country excursions was an ambitious one. Overall, however, the new 2020 Defender clocks in at very decent value, given the pedigree of the brand, the materials and ride quality, its hauling and seating options – man oh man, and of course the technology and off-roading capabilities.
In short, the 2020 Discovery Sport sits in a versatile middle-ground, promising the ability to go just about anywhere while still delivering welcome degrees of refinement and luxury. Now we’re just eager to see a full electric plug-in Discovery Sport join the range. Land Rover, we’re ready.
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Tshegofatso Harmonix Phiri contributed his legendary photography work to this feature.