Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Don Cheng and Calvin Chan
Premium compact SUVs have been selling like hotcakes these days. If you revile the parental styling of a minivan but want the added cargo space, ride height, and ground clearance, you’re probably looking into one of these luxury utes. So we’ve chosen two targets that might run through your crosshairs, the 2015 Lexus NX 200t and the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Both are entirely new models for 2015 and don new powertrains, exteriors, and interiors.
There’s no doubt that these two rivals are benchmarks of their segment, offering neat features that the others don’t. For example, the NX 200t has one of the most beautiful interiors in its class, while the Discovery Sport is the only one to offer seating for seven passengers.
The NX is also Lexus’ first attempt at the compact luxury sector, slotting nicely alongside their RX cash cow. On the other hand, Land Rover has had some time experimenting in this field with the outgoing Freelander and LR2 models. Furthermore, the Discovery Sport is arguably Land Rover’s most important product of the decade, putting oodles of weight on its shoulders to carry the sales pitch of the prominent off-roading trademark.
Both vehicles have a starting price of about $41,000, and when loaded up they can reach a whopping $54,000. So if you’re in the mood for some compact SUV goodness, which one should you choose? Let’s take a closer look at what the Japanese and British have to offer.
The NX’s exterior is surely more innovative and controversial, but don’t mistake the Discovery Sport as the underdog. With Evoque-shaped styling at the front and robot-looks at the rear, Land Rover has managed to conceive one attractive crossover. From the front, I could barely even tell it apart from an Evoque without looking at the badges.
It’s no spindle grill, but the iconic clamshell hood and graceful stance speaks volumes about the brand. The back I’m not such a fan of. The over-dilated taillights and upright hatch look a bit awkward through my eyes, and I prefer the sharply raked derrière of the NX 200t much more.
Inside, the NX 200t instantly feels more premium than the Disco Sport. Though it’s more snug and offers less cargo room, the NX exudes a sense of luxury and charm. It may feel less functional, but it’s certainly more stylish. The center console is raised up for a cluttered but purposeful arrangement of buttons, dials, and even a detachable vanity mirror. The seats are well bolstered and wrapped in what Lexus calls NuLuxe leather. It’s soft and supple but no matter how I sit, that angular headrest prevents me from sitting comfortably. It isn’t adjustable fore and aft, and hurts my neck after just a short journey.
The rear passenger seats are a different story though. I was surprised to find that much legroom in the second row. Headroom is lacking but it can be quickly remedied by reclining the 60/40 split seats. The snug feeling carries back here as well, and the NX’s small sunroof and narrow windows give it a darker and more bunker-like feel than in the Disco Sport.
The NX might just pull off the more premium look, but the Disco Sport’s cabin appears more rugged and durable. The leather used on both vehicles is top quality and beautifully stitched, but there’s something about the Land Rover that screams quality. Maybe that’s because the value of the design elements have shot up high in the food chain. It’s very Evoque-like on the inside, and details such as the exterior door handles, A/C rotary dials, overhead lights, and paddle shifters have all been ripped straight off the more expensive Range Rover Sport.
The Land Rover has a deeper center well than the Lexus and offers more storage cubbies. Both vehicles have high beltlines, so the windows and windshields are a bit narrow. However, if you’ve never been inside a Disco Sport before, you’d be firmly astonished by the sheer size of the panoramic roof. It stretches all the way from the front passenger’s head to the rear passenger’s headrest and subsequently floods the cabin with an abundance of natural light. The one catch is that it doesn’t open…
Where the Disco Sport steals the show is with its seating options. No other compact premium SUV offers seating for seven. They say it’s arranged in a 5+2 format because the third row seats aren’t really meant for adults, but for small children. Still, along with adequate side bolstering and stadium seating (rear seats are placed higher than the ones in front of them for a better view), it’s a welcome addition to an audience that clearly despises being seen behind the wheel of a minivan - and the Disco Sport offers a swift remedy.
On the plus side, the screen resolution is high-def and the button responses are quick and very adequate. One feature I love is how you can store your favourited Sirius XM stations and FM/AM stations on the same shortcut list, unlike the Land Rover where you have to manually switch modes to access your different stations. It’s a small difference but one that has greatly impacted the quality of my daily commutes.
The Disco Sport uses JLR’s new infotainment touchscreen system that replaces the archaic ones of the past. It’s a big step-up in terms of refinement and usability. The screen is more vibrant, responsive, and very colourful, almost like a Microsoft laptop. The menus are now simpler, less convoluted, and the fonts are much clearer this time around. The Lexus and Land Rover offer well-built infotainment systems but the NX will clearly draw the techy and more computer-oriented crowd while the more traditional folks will find solace in the Disco Sport’s simplistic touchscreen.
Next, the powertrains. This is where the NX 200t excels. As the first Lexus to ever be turbocharged, the NX 200t comes equipped with the automaker’s new twin-scroll turbo inline-four that whips out 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The turbo’s response is fairly impressive and the power delivery is surprisingly linear. You’ll have no trouble whatsoever with overtakes and instant manuevers once the RPMs starting swinging above 3,000.
The NX 200t also drives like the sportiest of the two. Switch into Sport+ mode and the turn-in becomes direct, the suspension stiffens up, and the balance is incredible. Coupled with its Adaptive Variable Suspension, and the NX 200t delivers precise steering feel and exceptional road feedback. Matched with a fine-tuned and eager 6-speed automatic gearbox, and the Lexus poses quite a challenge for the British ute.
I’ll get straight to the point – I’m not a fan of the Disco Sport’s powertrain. Loaded with an old turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine from the primitive days of Ford ownership, the engine feels forced and laggy. It’s the same one used in the Range Rover Evoque and even though it delivers a competitive 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque, the delivery of said output isn’t smooth.
The excessive nine-speed automatic transmission is of no help either, as downshifts are met with a oh-wait-nap-time approach. At cruising speed at top gear, you can hammer the gas pedal and nothing will happen. A few seconds later and out of nowhere, the engine surges up the RPMs so rapidly that you frantically get thrown back to your seat. In addition, a discernible amount of lag is felt when changing gears from Drive to Reverse, and vice-versa. I expected a more refined powertrain, but I guess they’re saving that for their new Ingenium engines that are slowly making their way into production models later in 2015.
But enough bashing on the Land Rover. We’ve already established the fact that there’s not much “sport” in the Discovery Sport. But it’s where the paved road ends and when the weather gets rough that this lively SUV will finally feel at home. With Land Rover DNA embedded into its core, the Disco Sport has the versatility and the ability to navigate through even the harshest of terrains.
You’ll certainly feel invincible with its 212 mm of ground clearance, steep approach and departure angles, a class-leading water fording depth of 600 mm, and a Terrain Response System with four adjustable driving modes: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts; and Sand. The same can’t be said about the NX 200t however. Though I’m sure it will get from A to B in one piece, I’d be afraid of letting even a rock chip its beautifully coated epidermis.
I’ll sum up my driving experiences like this: the Lexus NX 200t is the sportier and more exciting compact SUV to drive, but the Discovery Sport is the more functional and versatile one that does what traditional “utility vehicles” are meant to do. It begins to make sense when you look at the instrument clusters on each of the vehicles. Whereas the Land Rover offers a 4x4 suspension display for off-roading antics, the Lexus instead gives you a G-force sensor and turbo boost meter.
So then, F Sport or Disco Sport? The NX 200t has the better interior, infotainment system, and powertrain, while the Disco Sport offers better road versatility, more seating options, and an overall roomier cabin. Both of them have mainstream looks, though I’m beginning to think the Lexus designers had an affinity for sharp objects while Land Rover’s adored round ones.
Put it this way. Think of the compact SUV segment as a nice warm sweater. The Lexus NX 200t is the stylish, slim-fit, cashmere V-neck. It looks amazing, feels amazing, but you have to be careful how you wash it or you might damage its delicate fibres. The Land Rover Discovery Sport on the other hand is the durable and water-resistant wool sweater that your grandmother made for you. We aren’t sure why it’s so itchy, but all we know is that it’s warm and indestructible. You can roll through the mud, throw it in the wash, and it will still look the same years on end.
Both sweaters will keep you pleasantly cozy and protected from the hostile outdoors, but it’s up to you to decide which one looks and feels better on your body. Nine days out of ten, I’d be taking the cashmere. But on that tenth day when the road gets rough and the weather turns maniacal, every ounce of my stylish silhouette will regret not choosing the wool.
型号 Model: 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Series 2
顏色 Paint Type: Atomic Silver
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $41,450
試車售價 Price as Tested: $53,550
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,660
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,630 / 1,845 / 1,645
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,755
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 235 hp @ 4,800 - 5,600 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,650 - 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: MacPherson strut, coil springs
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Trailing arm double wishbone type, coil springs
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 10.8 / 8.8 / 8.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin Primacy MXM4; 225/60R18
型号 Model: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
顏色 Paint Type: Fuji White
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $41,490
試車售價 Price as Tested: $54,740
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,741
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,589 / 2,173 / 1,724
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,795
引擎 Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder with direct injection, dual-indepedent VVT
最大馬力 Horsepower: 240 hp @ 5,800 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 9-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 11.9 / 9.0 / 10.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Verde; P245/45R20