The Land Rover Discovery Sport, the Range Rover Evoque’s more ruddy faced brother, has been around for a while now, and I wanted to find out whether it was any good as a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, rather than just a cheaper way for middle class people to say they own a Disco.
See, the word ‘lifestyle’ is bandied about far too often. It’s taken on this awful Instagram influencer, active, MAMIL identity, whereas ‘lifestyle’ is the style in which you live your life. You can lead a lifestyle that purely involves sitting on the sofa in your boxers farting if you like. You don’t have to live in a multimillion pound beach house spouting aspirational BS every 10 minutes to have a ‘lifestyle’. Or maybe you do, if you’re that way inclined.
Anyway, cars like the Disco Sport have the potential to do some pretty awesome stuff, yet they’ll never likely do more than drive on some muddy roads, maybe over a rutted field to get to a school fete. If they weren’t able to do such things there’d naturally be outcry, but it would come, most likely, from the people who would never use the gizmos in the first place.
Rather than decide to challenge the Disco Sport to climb a mountain, ford a river, or cross a desert, I thought it would be best to use it as a normal ‘lifestyle’ person would buy it for, but never actually do: a road trip to do some Instagram influencer stuff. Across Australia.
First job was to use it as a city car, after all your average lifestyle person has a pad in the middle of town near their beautiful friends, so to get to the beautiful people many miles away I’d need to tackle traffic. I was in Sydney for my experiment, a city full of the ‘lifestyle’ crowd all trying to live their best Instagram lives (it’s not uncommon to see queues of Instapeople with their own camera people at the city’s big landmarks looking for ‘the’ shot). It’s huge, so big that telling someone you live in Sydney leads to confused faces, you need to be way more specific. Much like saying you live in LA or London, most people who know the place will ask for some clarification.
To get to the motorway from my base in Randwick, my road trip buddy and I had to rely on the Land Rover’s sat nav. Despite the fact that Sydney’s road network appears to have been designed by a drunk infant, the Nav guided us through town well enough. The only time we go lost is when I put us in the wrong lane, panicked and squirted us off in the opposite direction. My bad. It’s still not the best system in the world, occasionally crashing because… reasons?
On the motorway the Disco was super quiet. OK, a bit of tyre roar over ropey surfaces, and the odd bit of wind noise, but nothing that would irk. It was noise-free enough to send my passenger to sleep for large chunks of the trip to Byron Bay. Because they were asleep I had to stay comfy, alert and awake. Australia’s attitude to speeding is: 'Don’t', and the upper limit on the highways is 110kph, barely 70mph. When you have several hundred miles to go and a stupidly low speed limit enforced by cops who thoroughly enjoy arresting people for ‘hooning’, you need a car that’ll keep you alert. Only after 220 miles did my bum really ache, even then only a dull thud.
Admittedly, part of the alertness was the stunning scenery. Where Britain gets concrete barriers and the occasional bit of countryside, Australia gets paradise at the roadside. Suddenly travelling slowly didn’t matter as much.
The Disco Sport, then, will get you from city to (vast) country with ease. Great, what about being used to shuttle stuff around? Well, two people’s gear for a week, a tent, two sleeping bags, a Frisbee, a large chunk of driftwood, food, a bottle of Laphroaig (evening use only), cameras, chargers… stuff. All in with room to spare.
In fact, keeping the various phones, cameras, power bricks and gear charged wasn’t a problem thanks to the billions of USB ports dotted around the place. Land Rover made it very difficult to have a flat battery in anything.
Now, the travel part is good, the city stuff is ace, but what about the odd places to drive it? Well, parking it near a beach was a doddle, because there was barely any in the car parks. Driving along a muddy track to a campsite would have been challenging for a normal car, but the mud and ruts were dealt with by pressing a button and letting the machine do its thing. It makes mildly uncomfortable motoring deliciously easy.
And, when we got to a campsite that looked a bit too Jason Voorhees for our liking, the nav pointed us towards the nearest hotel and Chinese restaurant. Lifestyle people don’t like getting murdered and neither do I, so chalk up another win for the Disco.
Australia’s drivers have a bit of reputation for being a little unhinged. This is entirely deserved, but mercifully the various warning systems that came with the car alerted me to being run off the road by an errant Bruce or Shelia in a knackered Toyota. Aside from the letterbox rear window the visibility was solid as well, so seeing someone barrelling up behind wasn’t too much of an issue. Should they get too close for comfort, the 2-litre diesel motor has a modest 180bhp, but it was enough for the car.
A ‘dynamic’ setting did allow me to have some old school fun. I say fun – it’s an offroader, not a sports car in any way. It likes to lean in to corners, and its nine-speed gearbox, while fast, isn’t the slickest in the world. Still, you can get a bit tyre-squealy if you want.
After a week of long hours, filling it with sand, charging all the things, being used as a bed, dining room, map, shelter, tour guide, and thing of wonder (the locals seemed to love it), I understand the Disco Sport a little better. It’s not just an Evoque in North Face gear, it’s not an excuse for the middle classes to say ‘Oh, we just bought a Discovery…’, it’s a wonderful thing.
Wonderful because Land Rover knows it’ll be used for just the stuff I spent a week subjecting it to, but they wanted to make sure that if there’s a bit more sand, or a deeper puddle, or a nasty road to a camp site you’ll have confidence that the car’ll make it through unscathed, your tent won’t dislodge and unfold itself in the boot, and your iPhone won’t stop charging in the process. As a car it’s not the best in the world, but as something to see the world in? It ain’t bad.