Jaco van der Merwe
Fascinating technology allows you to see right through the bonnet of this compact SUV from Land Rover.
For hard-core off-roaders, the first rule when navigating your way over seriously rough terrain is to walk every obstacle first.
This way you not only eliminate any nasty surprises on the other side of a ridge or going through a slippery ditch, but have a much better view of the line needed for the optimal entry and departure angles.
But now Land Rover has thrown a spanner into the traditional puristic approach of getting your shoes dirty by virtue of equipping the new Discovery Sport with what they call ClearSight Ground View. This is a projected image created from cameras on the side mirrors and front bumper displayed on the touchscreen as a virtual 180-degree view beneath the front of the car, effectively making the bonnet – and everything underneath – invisible.
Land Rover claims this clever piece of technology will help the driver “navigate high city centre kerbs or tackle rough terrain”, but we largely opted to try it out on the latter during the week we recently spent in D180 R-Dynamic HSE guise.
The bad news for city slickers who don’t like to get their designer boots dirty is that ClearSight Ground View, which is available on Discovery Sport HSE models as well as the Range Rover Evoque First Edition and new Defender, is not completely failsafe. While the front camera does help project a generous forward view to help you align the front wheels over obstacles, you’ll be either very brave or stupid solely relying on what you see on the screen when approaching sharp drops on unknown terrains. For these the old-fashioned approach remains the safest bet if you want to avoid a nasty surprise.
But for clearing the kind of obstacles I’m referring too, getting mud on your soles is not your only problem. It isn’t advisable to take the flashy 20-inch two-tone alloy wheels clad in 245/40 R20 rubberware the Discovery Sport comes standard with too far into the bundus. Not only will you run the risk of scratching those shiny rims on Mother Earth’s bare teeth, but the tarmac-specific tread on the tyres also lacks the grip accustomed with out and out all-terrain rubber.
Speaking of grip, the Discovery Sport is equipped with All-Wheel Drive and Active Driveline system featuring Terrain Response 2, which eliminates the guesswork for almost any surface or weather the car will encounter. The driver still has the option of manually selecting a terrain, but it’s just so much easier letting the car automatically detect the surface and adjust the torque delivery to best suit conditions.
There is the further benefit of Driveline Disconnect which through the feedback from a power transfer unit at the front axle disconnects drive to the rear wheels under steady state cruising, thus maximising efficiency by reducing frictional losses. It can re-engage AWD in less than half a second.
The D180 is powered by the Ingenium 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine producing 132 kW of power at 4 000 rpm and 430 Nm of torque between 1 500 and 3 000 pm and is married to a very smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox. Despite the manufacturer’s claim that fuel consumption of 5.8L/100 km is possible, we could only manage 10.3L/100 km over the 528 km we covered in a week. One open-road stretch of 135 km did return figures of 7.9L/100 km, which indicates that the new 65-litre fuel tank should at least help you get from Joburg to Durban in one go.
And the elegant interior will ensure occupants reach the shores of the Indian Ocean in comfort. More premium materials throughout the cabin and reduced noise and vibration made possible by a 13% stiffer body and rigidly-mounted subframes ensure every journey is a pleasurable one.
The latest version of Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system enhances the interior appeal along with a 4G WiFi hotspot and wireless charging tray in the lower centre console. On the safety front, highlights include Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist, plus Lane Keep Assist and Driver Condition Monitor. Safety is also aided by the ClearSight Rear View mirror that transforms into a video screen to display what is behind the vehicle in crisp high definition.
On the outside, the Discovery Sport keeps its customary design cues with the addition of new signature LED headlamps at the front and rear along. Along with new front grille and bumpers, the car is very easy on the eye, especially the eye-catching Firenze Red our tester was clad in. And practical over the gravel or not, those big alloys do round the car off very nicely.
The Discovery Sport comes standard with a Five-year Care Plan giving peace of mind with a 100 000km warranty and servicing within in five-year period, whichever comes first.
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