New infotainment system is the cherry on top for Land Rover’s already appealing mid-sized plug-in hybrid SUV with a small yet effective three-cylinder engine.
We liked the plug-in hybrid version of the Discovery Sport when it was launched towards the end of last year. Rather a lot, actually. There was little call for Land Rover to bring it back in for an early refresh, but still it has done, and so here we are reacquainting ourselves with the latest addition to Whitley’s electrified family.
Launched alongside a mechanically identical Evoque PHEV, the Disco Sport P300e mates its new Ingenium 1.5-litre turbo triple with an electric motor on the rear axle for combined outputs of 227kW and 540Nm, and packs a 15kWh battery pack for a claimed EV range of 69km. A torquey rear motor is good news for off-road ability, too, which should please the purists, who no doubt are still struggling to reconcile the Discovery nameplate with a buzzy little three-cylinder engine.
So there’s nothing new underneath. Well, newer, anyway. The main change for 2021 comes in the form of Land Rover’s much-ballyhooed Pivi Pro infotainment system, which made its debut on the Defender in 2019 and is now standard fitment on all but the entry-level version of the Discovery Sport and Evoque. The Discovery Sport and Evoque also have a revised line-up structure for 2021, topped out by high-spec Black and Autobiography editions, respectively.
We’ve been behind the wheel of the second-from-top Discovery Sport R-Dynamic SE. Standard equipment at this level, aside from the aforementioned infotainment system, includes a slightly sportier bodykit, a raft of aluminium interior embellishments, dynamic indicators, an electronic bootlid, a panoramic (non-opening) roof and 12-way electronically adjustable, heated front seats.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around the concept of a three-cylinder Land Rover, it’s a very easy powertrain to get on with. The charmingly thrummy combustion element is more than gutsy enough in its own right and quiet at a cruise, its electric team-mate having whisked you slightly out of the cul-de-sac, through the suburbs and passed the baton once up to speed. The 0-100kmh sprint is put at 6.6sec, which, let’s be honest, is bloomin’ quick in real-world terms, so there’ll be no moaning here about the inadequacy of that turbo triple.
In fact, a combined power output of 227kW makes this P300e both the smallest-engined and most powerful version of the Discovery Sport. Not to mention the most frugal: not bad at all.
Fully charged, the battery should net you 69km of engine-off travelling, which is about as good as it gets from any PHEV SUV at the moment. That EV range, however, segment-leading though it may be, is the reason you can only spec a P300e with five seats; with the battery under the boot floor, there simply isn’t room for even a diddy third row. But a lofty passenger called the back bench one of the roomiest rear seats he’d ever sat in, so unless you have a particularly sizeable brood, the compromise on utility is minimal.
Indeed, the cabin in its entirety is a remarkably comfortable and convincingly premium proposition; the slick touch-panel control stack still feels brand new, and all materials feel what you might call ‘reassuringly expensive’. Which brings us to the main change for 2021: the infotainment system.
Land Rover’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system, first seen on the Defender, is now standard fitment from Urban Edition upwards (the entry level makes do with just Pivi), which brings quicker start-up times, over-the-air update functionality, real-time sat-nav and a customisable home screen that provides quick access for your most commonly used functions, all housed in a slick 10in curved screen.
It’s a well-rounded and stylishly rendered platform, and goes some way to making the case for the increasing dominance of touch-based controls, such is the ease of access and intuitiveness.
You can pinch, swipe and shout at it like you would with your smartphone, and unlike the infotainment systems of many rival firms, you’ll find yourself gelling with it in minutes, rather than days. If we were pressed for improvements that could be made, the screen could do with being angled slightly more towards the driver, and we’d be more than happy with fully physical controls for the climate stack, just to minimise eyes-off-the-road time when travelling at speed.
The new infotainment system, combined with a whisper-quiet and well-cushioned chassis, predictably low running costs and unexpectedly weighty steering, solidifies the P300e as a front runner in the burgeoning plug-in hybrid SUV segment.
This top-spec car is a significant investment, but you can save a couple of grand by specifying the P300e in mid-rung Urban Edition trim, and even more in the long run by using the hybrid drivetrain as intended.