Steering buzz is a slight blemish on Land Rover's sterling Discovery Sport with Ingenium petrol engine
Verve and vibrations from Land Rover's latest Discovery Sport Discovery Sport's ride has plenty of spring action and body movement. The third row folds completely flat to free up more luggage space. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

These days, with all the new-fangled safety systems trying to wrest control of the car from the driver, it is getting a wee bit harder to tell if a vehicle is well-tuned.

Land Rover's latest Discovery Sport, equipped with a Jaguar-Land Rover 2-litre Ingenium engine, may be a case in point.

In the first few minutes of this test drive, the car's steering wheel goes off like a phone on vibrate mode. So you think it is because you are not concentrating after a heavy lunch at Samy's Curry and you are skirting the white lines on narrower-than-usual Lornie Road.

It is only on second take that you realise it is not some intrusive lane-departure gadget at work. It is just the drivetrain vibrating through the steering - something you would have zeroed in on without pausing 10 years ago.

The buzz, which is uncannily similar to a lane-departure warning, happens between 1,200rpm and 1,500rpm. Interestingly, this is where the new engine's peak performance kicks in.

Compared with the Discovery Sport's previous powerplant, the engine which bears the fanciful name is apparently built (in-house) for durability and efficiency.

Cylinders on the aluminium block are strengthened with iron sleeves and the walls are ceramic-coated.

Unlike the light-pressure turbo feeding the previous engine, the Ingenium family gets a twin-scroll turbocharger with variable turbines, which boost low-end performance.

So, there is 240bhp from 5,500rpm and 340Nm of torque from 1,250rpm. In the old engine, the same outputs arrive at 5,800rpm and 1,750rpm respectively.

This, apparently, is all it takes to improve the car's performance and economy. It reaches 100kmh in 7.6 seconds, a significant improvement from 8.2 previously. Top speed is now 204kmh, up from 199kmh. And fuel consumption improves from 8.3 litres to 8 litres/100km. All the more impressive for a car which is now 42kg heavier.

Not only that, you save $2 on annual road tax because the new unit is 2cc smaller at 1,997cc.

But what about the vibration? Truth be told, it goes away once you rev past 1,500rpm. This trait never surfaced in the Jaguar cars tested here. Perhaps that is because none of them weighed close to 2 tonnes. It could also because the nine-speed autobox (unchanged) resists dropping a gear to be as efficient as possible.

The Discovery Sport is a tad zippier than before if driven with verve though. It handles decently for a tallish vehicle, while ride quality remains SUV-like - with plenty of spring action and body movement.

As before, there is hardly any luggage space when all three rows of seats are occupied. And although the third row folds completely flat, the second row does not. This is a slight blemish to its versatility.

The car is priced at $229,999, which is much lower than the pre-Ingenium model if you discount the COE and emission banding differences. But you will have to pay a bit more if, for some strange reason, you want lane-departure warning.