Launched as an all-new model for 2015, the Discovery Sport is Land Rover’s entry-level vehicle, a highly capable unit-body SUV competing against other premium crossovers like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class.
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport offers a new Dynamic Design Package with special front and rear bumper designs, integrated rear tailpipes, glossy black 20-inch alloy wheels, and black trim inside and out. The 2017 Discovery Sport offers an optional infotainment system with an upgraded 10.2-inch screen.
While the competition seats five, the Discovery Sport seats five or seven, the latter with an optional third row. However, it’s an exceptionally tight third row, so we’re inclined to consider it a five-seater. Land Rover does not call it a seven-seater, either, rather a 5+2.
Discovery Sport takes some underpinnings from the Range Rover Evoque, stretched and pulled to be longer and wider. Its hood, roof and liftgate are aluminum, and about 20 percent of the chassis is high-strength steel, taking about 150 pounds out of the LR2, despite being four inches longer.
We found the Discovery Sport handles with verve and tackles off-road challenges with ease. The engine is smooth and strong.
Discovery Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder with direct injection, making 240 horsepower, mated well to a responsive paddle-shifting 9-speed automatic. Discovery Sport can accelerate from zero to sixty in 7.8 seconds and can hit 124 miles per hour.
Haldex all-wheel drive is standard. The system moves power between the front and rear wheels, up to 100 percent at each end, and then between the left and right wheels, depending on where the traction is needed. Its Terrain Response system has normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand modes, along with a new dynamic mode.
Discovery Sport is rated to tow up to 5500 pounds, with standard Tow Hitch Assist, Tow Assist, and Trailer Stability Assist.
Available safety equipment includes lane-departure warning, parking assist with perpendicular parking, trailer-sway control, and automatic headlamps. In the top two models, the optional automatic emergency system uses cameras to detect objects and will brake to reduce the impact or stop before impact if there’s time, from a speed no more than 32 mph.
EPA fuel mileage is 20 miles per gallon City, 25 Highway, and 22 Combined. It requires Premium gasoline. Discovery Sport hasn’t been crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport comes in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury models, all equipped with all-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE ($37,695) includes leather trim, eight-way power seats, a 10-speaker audio system, an app-based infotainment system with an eight-inch screen, rearview camera, 18-inch alloy wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $995 destination charge.)
Discovery Sport HSE adds 10-way power seats in upgraded leather, a fixed glass roof, xenon HID headlamps, front parking sensors, a power liftgate, and a proximity key. The HSE Luxury has high-grade leather seats finished with a special diamond pattern, navigation, 19-inch alloy wheels, and some styling items.
The SE makes optional much of the HSE equipment, plus heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate that can be opened with a swipe of a foot under the rear bumper, ambient mood lighting, and a Meridian audio system. The Entertainment Pack adds a 16-speaker audio system, navigation, and Land Rover’s new 10.2-inch infotainment system. The Intelligent Dynamics Pack includes a mode that tightens up the suspension and steering for better handling on curvy pavement. Several appearance packages are available including exclusive alloy wheels.
You have to squint to find traditional Land Rover design cues. It’s not boxy and angular any more. The Discovery Sport doesn’t fully commit to the soft crossover look, but the sculpting is smooth and not chiseled. It adds Land Rover ruggedness. It looks rakish from the side. It’s all about the stance. The wheels are big for the body, so the Sport looks planted.
The thin strips of honeycomb grille, clamshell hood, skid plates, short overhangs, and keyed headlamps say Range Rover. The roofline pulls over the rear pillars in an athletic manner, ending at a stubby tailgate spoiler as it does. If North Face designed cars, they would look like this.
The Discovery Sport is business-like in the cabin, its horizontal dash and vertical centerstack meeting with the rigidity of a T-square. It’s not stark, however, but rather an elegant contrast to the contemporary exterior. Soft-touch surfaces abound, especially on the knobs and dials, and the rotary shift controller, rising from the piano-black center console upon startup, is a nice centerpiece. Climate control knobs are from Jaguar. There’s plenty of hard plastic, but it’s mostly hidden away where it doesn’t matter as much.
Graphics on the optional 10.2-inch infotainment screen are really nice, but the option requires adding a number of other features that shoot the price still higher. There’s a USB charging port for every passenger, including in the third row.
Thanks to the high seating position and thin pillars, the forward visibility is excellent. Not so the rearward visibility when the third row is deployed. But that’s normal, and it comes with a rearview camera for improved safety when backing up.
There’s good space in the first two rows, and the second row sits higher than the first, for good passenger visibility through the windshield, part of the Land Rover identity. The second row also reclines, and slides on a 6.3-inch track, allowing for lots of leg room.
The optional third row very small and poorly padded. It folds up from the cargo floor and has an even higher seating position than the second row, great for kids but it puts adults’ knees into their chins. So forget it, for adults. Families needing a third row should look to the Discovery, not the Sport, but it is there for the rare need.
Land Rover blends road tenacity with offroad ability like no other brand. The stocky 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, making 240 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque at just 1750 rpm, is responsive and confident. The broad torque curve helps the Discovery Sport feel peppier than it actually is. It’s as comfortable on the freeway as it is rock crawling on trails.
The paddleshifting 9-speed automatic can launch in second gear for smoothness and skip gears if necessary, for example when you floor and it shifts down. It can be a little busy as it sorts through gears, but it’s mostly unobtrusive. Speaking of unobtrusive, we found the standard engine stop-start system to be relatively smooth.
The suspension is front struts and rear links, both mounted to subframes for isolation from noise and vibration. The electric power steering has a variable ratio to improve on-center response. There’s not much feedback but it’s nicely weighted. It’s confident on a curvy road and unwinds predictably. Big disc brakes on all four wheels provide terrific finesse and a firm pedal feel at speed. The brakes stop the weight of nearly 4000 pounds just fine.
The suspension allows more travel and more control during rebound than the Evoque, not surprising because the Evoque is intended to be less of an offroad vehicle. The traction control system with its modes decides which wheel gets the power. That might not be traditional off-roading, but it works. The Discovery Sport can handle a steep rocky climb. The weak link will be the tire sidewalls.
The Discovery Sport offers approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees, along with 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a wading depth of nearly 24 inches. The maximum tilt angle and gradient angle are 27 and 45 degrees. That all translates to high capability over very difficult terrain. Through the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation at the individual wheels, the system can send torque to whichever wheel has the most traction, and up to 100 percent to either axle.
The Terrain Response system’s modes affect throttle sensitivity, transmission response, differential behavior, steering weighting, and stability systems. It works with the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation to deliver torque to the wheel that has the grip to use it. We drove the Discovery Sport on some steep trails covered by snow and ice, rugged enough to challenge the car’s angles, ground clearance, and traction systems. We found it to be not just very capable, but very easy to drive off-road.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport SE offers a huge amount of capability, style, and premium trim at a competitive price point. Land Rover retailers have an excellent reputation. Discovery Sport features a fabulous powertrain, great cabin, competent on-road ride and handling.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.