David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

We have towed with the Land Rover Discovery Sport before, but always one of the diesel models. Here we test a new petrol engine version.

Overview

Petrol power becomes more popular as diesel sales wane. But is petrol the right choice to power a heavy seven-seat 4x4? For the 2018 model year, Land Rover introduced new petrol engines to the Discovery range and we're driving the 290PS (286bhp) version here. How well does it tow? And is there a penalty to pay at the fuel pumps?

Towing

Petrol models tend to be lighter than their diesel counterparts, but don't worry - the petrol version of the Discovery Sport is still a heavyweight tow car.

Land Rover quotes a 1955kg kerbweight, giving an 85% match figure of 1662kg, well within the car's 2000kg towing limit.

We matched the Discovery Sport to a Swift Coronette Classic with a MiRO of 1485kg. The Land Rover easily pulled the van up to speed.

Typically, petrol delivers less pulling power than an equivalent diesel, and at higher revs. This means you have to work the engine harder than you would when towing with a diesel.

But the Si4 290PS engine has 295lb ft of torque, available from just 1550rpm, so it pulls strongly even from low revs.

The nine-speed (yes, nine!) automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly, and there are paddles behind the steering wheel so the driver can take charge. We were mostly happy to leave the 'box to its own devices.

There's a sport mode for the gearbox, which does encourage quicker downshifts, but also tends to hold a low gear for longer than seems necessary.

Hill starts proved stress-free. The Land Rover's electronic parking brake held the car steady on a 1-in-10 slope and released smoothly without allowing car and caravan to roll backwards. Even on a cold, damp surface, there was no wheel spin when pulling away, and the powerful engine allowed for brisk acceleration.

On country roads, the Discovery Sport handles well, with the caravan following obediently behind. Relatively firm suspension contributes to a confident and controlled feel over dips and crests.

Out on the motorway it tows securely. The car holds 60mph easily, without ever feeling laboured on inclines.

Stability is also very good. There's hardly any movement unless you're caught by a strong crosswind, and even then, any side-to-side motion from the caravan soon ebbs away.

When we arrived at our site, we found the Discovery Sport reasonably easy to manoeuvre. However, it's a shame the rear-view camera doesn't show the towball more clearly. We also found the electrics were tucked further under the bumper than we would have liked.

Everyday driving

The Discovery Sport is an accomplished car in everyday driving. It might not be as much fun to drive as a Jaguar F-Pace, but it handles neatly for such a large, heavy car.

The comfortable seats, high-up driving position and stable drive make this a relaxing long-distance car. There's some road noise over coarse surfaces and a little wind noise from around the mirrors, but you can still hold a conversation at 70mph without raising your voice. However, if you accelerate hard, the engine can sound strained.

The suspension is comfortable on the motorway and maintains control on country roads, but is on the firm side at lower speeds.

Space

This is a roomy car, although the third row is a bit cramped. Up front there's plenty of space, and a good driving position. But the cabin plastics are disappointing, considering the car's price tag, and we found the infotainment system rather fiddly.

Middle-seat passengers have plenty of space, and air vents to keep everyone comfortable. The seats slide forward for more room in the third row, but they are still better suited to children. We're pleased to see that Land Rover has placed vents to blow chilled air at whoever sits there.

With all seven seats upright, boot space is very tight, but with the third row folded, there's lots of room for bags, and luggage space is cavernous if the second row is also stowed.

Running costs

Our colleagues on What Car? have found discounts of around £3000, but even then, this is an expensive car.

Strong resale values help to compensate - What Car? predicts that the Discovery Sport will be worth 55% of its original price after three years and 36,000 miles. You'll pay a lot to run it in the meantime, however.

The car is in Group 40 (of 50) for insurance, so expect a fairly stiff premium. However, we'd be more concerned over fuel costs. Driven gently on the motorway, solo, it managed around 29mpg. Towing, that drops to 17.6mpg, making the Si4 290PS one of the thirstiest cars we've towed with.

Technical specs

Engine size1997 cc
Kerbweight1955 kg
85% KW1662 kg
Towball limit145 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power286.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG24.8 mpg
Towing MPG17.6 mpg
CO2208 g/km

Verdict

An accomplished tow car, but expensive to buy and run.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Excellent towing stability
  • Good driving position

Cons

  • High insurance group
  • Thirsty when towing

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