Who buys a petrol SUV and that too an expensive and big one? This was the first thing one would hear if someone spoke of buying a petrol SUV and since people rarely spoke so, automakers hardly sold petrol SUVs. However, with the NGT crackdown on diesel vehicles, manufacturers of premium SUVs suffered the most as most of these vehicles were powered by large turbocharged diesel engines. Even though, the ban was later lifted, many customers felt uncomfortable considering a diesel vehicle. Plus, diesel has been getting more expensive, offsetting the running cost advantage for diesel. Some vehicle makers saw this as an opportunity to bring in their petrol SUVs in order to gain customers, who otherwise would've looked elsewhere and the Land Rover Discovery Sport is one of those SUVs. However, with a petrol engine, things can be very different, both on and off-road and hence we tested the vehicle extensively to find out the hits and misses.
When it comes to looks, the new Discovery no longer carries the brute, rough, masculine and go-anywhere looks. That doesn't mean you must turn away because the Discovery now looks sleek, modern, sophisticated and a bit sporty as well. The front section bears a design language similar to the Evoque, which a huge departure from the boxy and masculine look of the older versions. Overall, there is no change in this petrol version compared to the 2.2 diesel one when it comes to looks, sans the badging at the rear. The interior too is the same that one would find on the diesel version, which means you get a well-appointed and spacious cabin. Material quality is largely impressive but the plastic quality in the lower part of the dashboard and in the doors deserves to be better considering the vehicle's price and competition. Beyond that, there's not much to complain as the cabin is comfortable for long journeys and is feature-laden as well.
This is the main reason why you would buy the Discovery petrol and if you do, chances are you'll be quite happy. That is because the 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine develops a healthy 240 hp, which is about 90 hp more than the 2.2 litre diesel engine's output. At 340 Nm, the torque too is enough to pull propel the vehicle at any speeds with urgency. The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, which shifts quickly and complements the engine's drivability. However, the gearbox can be caught unaware by sudden kickdowns as it hesitates for a while before executing the downshift. Taking manual control of the shifts though improves things.
Off the start, there is hardly any lag and power delivery is smooth in the lower revs but once past about 3,500 rpm, the engine comes into its element and the surprisingly the Discovery turns into an SUV that feels fun to drive on tarmac. I know that a fun to drive SUV doesn't sound right but the Discovery petrol actually is one. We managed a 0 – 100 km/h sprint in 8.74 seconds, which is impressive for an SUV that weighs over two tonnes!
Nothing else changes in the Discovery petrol in terms of driving experience and it continues to be a great vehicle to go off-roading. We took the Discovery to a nearby construction site and it performed flawlessly without showing any signs of stress on mud, inclines and rocks.
Ride quality on the Discovery is on the firmer side so going through bad roads at slow speeds isn't a comfortable experience but at high speeds, the SUV is stable and just gobbles up road undulations. Through corners, the steering feedback too is good, allowing the driver to push the vehicle that little bit extra.
The Land Rover Discovery petrol is priced at about Rs 58 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi and at this price-point it makes a good case for itself by being more than Rs 5 lakh cheaper than its top-end diesel sibling. For the money you get everything that one would expect from a Land Rover along with a better engine, which adds a bit of extra zing to the driving experience. You can still take it off-road but the drive to wilderness is going to be more fun now. So unless, you're sure that you are going to drive enough to makeup for more than Rs 5 lakh of initial savings, the Discovery petrol is a great bet in all respects. Minus a few rough edges, it's a capable off-roader and a fun-to-drive SUV! Clearly, the Discovery Sport petrol does more than what an SUV can do, thereby turning an oxymoron into reality.