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Land Rover Discovery Sport


Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Summary

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover’s Discovery Sport occupies a close to unique position in Australia’s premium, mid-size SUV market.

At less than 4.6m long it sits at the more compact end of the segment, but offers seating for seven. Okay, Land Rover labels the layout ‘5+2’, a refreshingly up-front concession that the third row is a kids-only zone. But it’s there.

Then the Disco Sport adds all-wheel drive with multi-mode ‘Terrain Response 2’ off-road capability. Go anywhere Land Rover cred, combined with seven-seat flexibility, and a price tag sitting just over $60K, before on-road costs.

There are several mainstream equivalents, and even some more modestly priced Euro alternatives. So, is this Land Rover, which received a substantial mid-life upgrade in 2019, a demonstrably superior package? We lived with one for a week to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Just how important are looks, really? Sure, if you’re a model, or you’re asking Rihanna or Brad Pitt for a date, or you’re a sports car, or a super yacht, being attractive is helpful. But if you’re an SUV, like Alfa Romeo’s new, brand-reshaping Stelvio, does it really matter?

There are some people who believe all SUVs are ugly because they are simply too big to look good, in the same way that all 12-foot tall people, no matter how good-looking, would be undeniably off-putting.

Yet there are undeniably a lot of people who find SUVs, particularly expensive European ones, very much attractive, as well as practical, because how else could you explain the fact that cars like this Stelvio - mid-sized SUVs - are now the biggest-selling premium segment in Australia?

We’re set to snap up more than 30,000 of them this year, and Alfa wants to take as much of that tasty sales pie chart as it can. 

If success could be put down to looks alone, you’d have to back the Stelvio to succeed fabulously, because it truly is that rarest of things, an SUV that’s actually attractive, even sexy. But does it have what it takes in other areas to tempt buyers into choosing an Italian option over the trusted Germans?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Land Rover Discovery Sport7.6/10

Flexible, dynamically capable, and nicely put together, the Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 packs a lot into a small/medium SUV package. It gives some ground to its premium competitors on equipment, but has a seven-seat ace up its sleeve, with genuine off-highway ability to boot.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

Properly beautiful in a way only Italian cars can ever be, the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio really is what the marketeers promise - a more emotional, more fun and better-looking option to the German offerings we’ve been served up for so long. Yes, it’s an Italian car, so it might not turn out to be quite as well built as an Audi, Benz or BMW, but it will definitely make you smile more often. Particularly when you look at it.

Are the Alfa's looks enough to tempt you away from the Germans? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

Launched globally in 2014, and arriving here a year later, the Discovery Sport was given a comprehensive makeover in mid-2019, with an evolution of its exterior design, a refreshed interior, improved tech, and optimised packaging.

But at first glance you won’t notice a huge difference. The car’s overall proportions are unchanged, the signature clamshell bonnet remains in place, as does the familiar, broad, body-coloured C-pillar, and a strong, horizontal character line running the length of the car (just under the windows).

Although it looks like the roofline tapers to the rear, it’s more a case of the base of the windows (car designers call it the beltline) rising towards the back of the car. 

Styling tweaks include a new headlight shape (they’re now LED), as well as a revised lower grille and front air vents, bringing the baby Disco more in line with its larger, and newer, Land Rover siblings.

Changes at the rear are even more subtle, with a rearranged tail-light design the only discernible difference.  

Interior highlights include two large digital displays - a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and a 10.25-inch ‘Touch Pro’ multimedia screen - as well as a new centre console design.

The previous rotary gear select dial has been replaced by a more conventional shifter, buttons and controls have been made softer and set in ‘hidden-until-lit’ gloss black panels, and the door grab handles have been relocated and reshaped to be… grabbier.

A reprofiled steering wheel with sleek black control panels attached is also new, but as with the exterior, big-ticket items like the flowing dashtop, main dash panels, and key storage areas are unchanged. 

Overall, the interior feel is clean, comfortable, and precisely composed. The Land Rover design team is on its game.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio9/10

It might be unfair to suggest Italians are more interested in design than anything else, but it would only be honest to suggest that it often feels that way. And when that obsession with making things look good results in a car as curvaceous, sensuous and sporty as this, who could argue that it’s a bad thing?

I once asked a senior Ferrari designer why Italian cars, and super cars in particular, look so much better than German ones, and his answer was simple: “when you grow up surrounded by so much beauty, it’s natural to make beautiful things”.

For Alfa to produce a car, like the Giulia, that reflects its brand’s design aesthetic and proud sporting heritage - it is the brand that gave birth to Ferrari, as its spin doctors like to remind us - is almost expected, or predictable.

But to perform the same feat on this scale, on a big, bulky SUV with all of its proportional challenges, is a real achievement. I’d have to say there’s not a single angle from which I don’t like the look of it.

The interior is almost as good, but does fall down in a few areas. If you buy the 'First Edition Pack', a $6000 cost and one that’s only available to the first 300 people to rush in, or the 'Veloce Pack' they’ll also offer ($5000), you get really nice sporty seats and shiny pedals, and the panoramic roof, which manages to let light in without cutting your headroom off.

Buy an actual base model, however, for a notional $65,900, and you’ll get a lot less class. The steering wheel won’t feel as sporty, either, but no matter which variant you buy you’re stuck with a slightly cheap and plastic-feeling gear shifter (which is also a bit counterintuitive to use), which is a shame, because it’s a touch point you’ll use every day. The 8.8-inch screen is also not quite of German standard, and the sat nav can be temperamental.

The cool-steel gear-shift paddles, on the other hand, are absolutely gorgeous, and would feel at home on a Ferrari.

Practicality

Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

As mentioned, the Disco Sport isn’t huge on the outside (4.6m long), but interior packaging is impressive. A dash which slopes markedly back towards the base of the front screen helps open up the front passenger space, with 12-way electric front seats (with two-way manual headrests) adding extra flexibility 

There’s plenty of storage on offer, including two cupholders sitting side-by-side in the centre console, and a drop-in cover for them is supplied if you’d prefer a shallow, dished tray. There’s also a lidded storage box (which doubles as an armrest) between the front seats, a generous glove box, an overhead sunglasses holder and door pockets with enough room for bottles.

The second-row seat is amazingly roomy. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm height, I had ample leg and headroom, and at getting on for 2.1m from side to side, the Discovery Sport punches above its weight division in terms of width.

Which means you can realistically seat three adults across the middle row, for short to medium length trips, at least. Adjustable air vents for back-seaters are a welcome inclusion, as are a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and decent door bins.

If you’re willing to launch a UN-style diplomatic mission to negotiate relative space for those in the second- and third-row seats, the manual slide and recline function for the centre row will act as a handy mediator.

As mentioned earlier, Land Rover makes no bones about the fact that the third row is best for kids, but having that occasional seating capacity can be a godsend in helping the car accommodate extra family friends or relatives. There are cup/bottle holders and small elasticised storage pockets for each ‘way-back’ seater.

Getting in and out is relatively painless because the back doors open to almost 90 degrees, and the centre row seats fold forward easily. 

Worth noting the third-row seat is standard, and removing it is a no-cost option, the trade-off being the move to a full-size spare wheel and tyre rather than the otherwise standard space-saver.

Boot capacity comes in three sizes, depending on which seats are raised or lowered. With all seats upright, load space is a modest 157 litres, enough for a few grocery bags or some soft luggage.

Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row, via a user-friendly release mechanism, and 754 litres opens up. Our three-piece hard suitcase set (36, 95 and 124 litres) slipped in with room to spare, as did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.

Fold away the third row as well as the 40/20/40 split second row, and no less than 1651 litres will have you thinking about starting a furniture moving side hustle.

There are sturdy tie-down anchor points at each corner of the load floor, and a handy netted pocket behind the driver’s side wheel tub.

In terms of media connectivity and power options, there’s a 12-volt outlet in the front and centre rows, and a USB port up front.

‘Our’ car was fitted with the ‘Power pack 2’ option ($160), which adds USB sockets for the second and third rows, as well as a wireless charging bay up-front ($120). 

Towing capacity for a braked trailer is 2200kg (with 100kg towball download), 750kg unbraked, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist’ is standard. The stability assist system detects trailer sway movements at speeds above 80km/h, and manages them through symmetric and asymmetric braking of the car.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

We were lucky enough to drive this car early, on a recent family holiday in Italy, and can tell you that the boot (525 litres) can swallow an astonishing amount of poorly packed crap, or a metric tonne of Italian wine and food, if it happens to be shopping day.

The load space is practical and easy to use, and the rear seats are also capacious We may or may not have tried to pack three adults and two kids in there at one stage (not on a public road, obviously, just for fun) and it was still comfortable, while I can easily sit behind my own 178cm driving position without my knees coming close to brushing the seat back. Hip and shoulder room are also good.

There are map pockets in the seatbacks, plenty of bottle storage in the door bins and two American-sized cupholders, and a big storage bin, between the front seats.

Price and features

Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

At $60,500, before on-road costs, this entry-level Discovery Sport S P200 is at the lower end of the price ballpark occupied by a slew of small-medium premium SUVs, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, Merc GLC and Volvo XC60.

But not all of them are all-wheel drive, and precisely none of them offer seating for seven.

Dip into the mainstream and a bunch of similarly sized seven-seaters pop up; think Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-8, and Mitsubishi Outlander

Then there are those living between these two worlds, like the Peugeot 5008, Skoda Kodiaq, and VW Tiguan Allspace.

So, this Disco Sport’s value equation is critical in allowing it to stand up to its five-seat luxury rivals, stand apart from its seven-seat mainstream competitors, and get ahead of everything in between.

To that end, aside from active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section), this entry-level model’s standard equipment list includes, rear fog lights, auto LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically-adjustable front seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and ‘Luxtec’ faux leather and suedecloth seat trim..

Then you can add, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio (with eight-channel amp), Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, the ‘Online Pack’ (browser, WiFi, and smart settings), 10.0-inch media touchscreen, central TFT instrument display, adaptive cruise control (with speed limiter), as well as keyless entry and start. 

Overall, a solid but not eyebrow raising suite of standard features for a car that’s crested the $60K barrier.  


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

If you’re buying the absolute base model Stelvio at $65,990, which we’d suggest you shouldn’t because it is a far, far better car with the adaptive dampers fitted, you get all those good looks thrown in for free, plus 19-inch, 10-spoke alloys, a 7.0-inch driver instrument cluster and the 8.8-inch colour multimedia display with 3D satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an eight-speaker stereo, the 'Alfa DNA Drive Mode System' (which mainly seems to light up some graphics but supposedly allows you to choose between Dynamic, Normal and an eco-friendly option you’ll never use.

But wait, there’s more, including cruise control, dual-zone climate control, an electric tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, hill-descent control, electrically adjusted front seats, leather seats (not the sporty ones, though) and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. 

It’s quite a lot of gear for the cash, but as we say, most people will want to step up to the extras you get - and most tellingly the adaptive dampers - with either the First Edition ($6000) or Veloce ($5000) packs.

Alfa Romeo is keen to point out how keen its pricing is, particularly against German offerings like Porsche’s Macan, and it does seem like good value, even at just north of $70k.

Engine & trans

Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

The Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine producing 147kW at 5500rpm and 320Nm from 1250-4500rpm.

It’s part of Jaguar Land Rover’s family of modular ‘Ingenium’ diesel and petrol engines, built around multiples of the same 500cc cylinder design. 

The all-alloy unit features variable intake and exhaust cam timing, variable (intake) valve lift and a single, twin-scroll turbo.

Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed (ZF-sourced) automatic transmission, and front and rear diffs, with torque on demand to the rear axle.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio7/10

Because I am older than the internet, I’m still mildly baffled every time I see that a car company is attempting to fit a four-cylinder engine into a largish SUV like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, so I’m always politely surprised the first time such a small-engined big car manages go up a hill without exploding.

While bigger, faster Stelvios will arrive later in the year, with the all-conquering QV set to land in the fourth quarter, the versions you can buy now must make do with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 148kW/330Nm, or the 2.2T diesel with 154kW/470Nm (a 2.0 Ti will also arrive later, with a more fabulous 206kW/400Nm).

It should come as no surprise from those numbers that the diesel is actually the better option to drive, with not only more usable, down-low torque (the max arrives at 1750rpm) but more kilowatts as well. The 2.2T thus gets from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, quicker than the petrol (at 7.2 seconds) and also quicker than competitors like the Audi Q5 (8.4 in diesel or 6.9 petrol), BMW X3 (8.0 and 8.2) and Mercedes GLC (8.3 as a diesel or 7.3 in petrol).

Even more surprisingly, the diesel sounds slightly better, more growly, when you attempt to drive it hard, than the slightly wheezy petrol. On the down side, the 2.2T does sound tractor like at idle in multistorey car parks, and neither engine sounds even vaguely like you would want an Alfa Romeo to.

The diesel is the pick at this level - doing an impressive job despite being asked to do the equivalent of piggybacking Clive Palmer up a hill - but the 2.0 Ti (which will hit 100km/h in a more impressive 5.7 seconds) would be worth waiting for.

Fuel consumption

Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 8.1L/100km, the S P200 emitting 188g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over close to 400km of city, suburban and quite a bit of freeway running, we recorded 10.1L/100km, which is a passable result.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 65 litres of it to brim the tank.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

Alfa is also keen to point out that its new Stelvio is class leading when it comes to fuel economy, with claimed figures of 4.8 litres per 100km for the diesel (no one else gets under 5.0L/100km, they say) and 7.0L/100km for the petrol.

In the real world, driven enthusiastically, we saw 10.5L/100km for the petrol and closer to 7.0 for the diesel. The simple fact is you will need, and want, to drive them harder than those claimed figures suggest will be possible.

Driving

Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

Land Rover claims 2.0-litre turbo-petrol versions of the Discovery Sport will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.2sec. Anything under 10 seconds is reasonably swift, and the S P200 makes good use of all of its nine gear ratios to keep things on the boil.

Maximum torque of 320Nm isn’t huge pulling power, especially when we’re talking about shifting a close to 2.0-tonne (1947kg) seven-seater. But the twin-scroll turbo’s contribution means every one of those torques (actually newton-metres) is available from just 1250rpm, all the way to 4500rpm. So, mid-range performance is energetic enough. 

If you really want to press on, peak power (147kW) arrives at a lofty 5500rpm, just 500rpm away from the engine’s nominal rev ceiling. At which point, having remained a relatively low-key whirr in the background, the engine makes its aural presence felt.

The Cleary family (of five) took to the highway and some rural back roads for a weekend away during the test period, and open road performance was stress-free, with more than enough oomph for easy cruising and (well-planned) overtaking.

Seamlessly shuffling drive between the front and rear axles, the Terrain Response 2 system coped admirably with graded, but slightly rutted dirt roads, the car feeling secure and composed at all times.

Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear, and ride quality is good, especially in the context of an off-highway capable SUV. And the seats proved supportive and comfy over long stints.

Standard 18-inch alloy rims are shod with 235/60 Michelin Latitude Tour HP rubber, an on-road focused tyre which proved grippy and surprisingly quiet.

Electrically-assisted steering delivers impressive feel and accuracy, while the brakes, by ventilated disc all around (349mm fr/325mm rr), are progessive and strong.

And although we didn’t push into hardcore off-road conditions, those keen on doing so will want to know the car’s wading depth is 600mm, obstacle clearance is 212mm, approach angle is 25 degrees, ramp angle is 20.6 degrees, and the departure angle is 30.2 degrees. Enjoy the rough stuff.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

Much like sitting down to watch the Socceroos lose again, I’ve learned not to expect too much from the driving experience offered by SUVs, because  the way they drive clearly has little relevance to the way they sell.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes as a genuine surprise then, because it drives, not just like a sports car on slightly rubbery stilts, but like an impressive but high-riding sedan.

Reports about how good the QV version is have been flooding in for some time now, and I've been taking them with large spoonfuls of salt, but it’s clear to see how that car can be so sharp and exciting to drive, because the chassis of this car, as well as the suspension set-up (at least with the adaptive dampers) and the steering, are built to cope with far more power and vigour than is on offer in this base model.

That’s not to say this version feels horribly underpowered - there are a few times when we were overtaking up a hill that more power would have been welcome, but it was never slow enough to be worrying - just that it’s clearly built for more.

In almost all situations, the diesel, in particular, provides enough grunt to make this mid-size SUV genuinely fun. I actually smiled while driving it, several times, which is unusual.

Most of that is down to the way it corners, rather than the way it goes, because this thing really is a light, nimble and enjoyable car on a twisty bit of road.

It feels genuinely involving through the steering wheel and genuinely capable in the way it holds on to the road. The brakes are genuinely good, too, with plenty of feel and force (apparently Ferrari had some involvement here, and it shows).

Having driven a far more basic model, without the adaptive dampers, and being less than impressed overall, I was surprised at how good the First Edition Pack cars we drove on some properly challenging roads were.

This really is a premium mid-size SUV I could almost, just about live with. And, if it’s the right sized car for your lifestyle, I’d absolutely understand you wanting to buy one.

Safety

Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

The Land Rover Discovery Sport scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in 2015.

Active safety tech includes the usual suspects like ABS, EBD, EBA, traction control, stability control, and roll stability control, with higher level systems including, AEB (low- and high-speed front), lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and driver condition monitoring. 

Off-road and towing tech includes ‘Hill Descent Control’, ‘Brake Hold’, ‘All Terrain Progress Control’, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist.’

An impressive suit, but… you’ll have to pay extra for, a 360-degree surround camera, park assist, blind-spot assist, rear cross traffic alert, and tyre pressure monitoring.

If a crash is unavoidable, you’ll be protected by seven airbags (front head, front side, side curtain covering all rows, and driver’s knee).

The Discovery Sport is also equipped with an airbag under the bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries. Big tick for that..

There are three top tether points to secure child seats/baby capsules across the centre row seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. 


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

There’s much talk from Alfa about how its offering wins on emotion and passion and design, and not being bland and off-white/silver German, but they’re also keen on saying that it’s a rational, practical and safe alternative, as well.

Alfa claims, yet again, a class-leading safety score for the Stelvio, with a 97 per cent adult occupancy score in Euro NCAP testing (aka a maximum five stars).

Standard equipment includes six airbags, AEB with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection and lane-departure warning.

Ownership

Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

Land Rover offers a three year/100,000km warranty in Australia, with 24-hour roadside assistance included for the duration.

That’s well off the mainstream pace, which sits at five years/unlimited km, but on the upside, three years paint surface cover, and a six year anti-corrosion warranty are part of the deal.

Service requirement is variable, with a range of on-board sensors feeding into a service interval indicator in the vehicle, although you can use 12 months/20,000km as a guide.

A fixed ‘Land Rover Service Plan’ set at five years/102,000km is available for $1950, which isn’t too shabby at all.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio8/10

Yes, buying an Alfa Romeo means buying an Italian car, and we’ve all heard the jokes about reliability, and heard companies from that country claiming those problems are behind them. 

The Stelvio comes with a three-year/150,000km warranty, to make you feel safe, but that’s still not quite as good as the Giulia, which is being offered with a five-year one. We’d be pounding the desk and demanding they match that offer.

Servicing costs are another point of difference, the company claims, being cheaper than the Germans at $485 a year, or $1455 over three years, with those services coming every 12 months or 15,000km.