The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport offers style, comfort and utility combined with an above-average ability to traverse snow-choked roads or muddy trails. If you're looking for a small luxury SUV with an extra degree of go-anywhere gusto, this newest Land Rover is worth a look.
With rare exception, today's small SUVs are designed more for comfort and everyday practicality than for fording rivers and traversing backwoods trails. The all-new 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport, however, is one such exception. Like other Land Rovers, it successfully melds current design with some old-school capability.
The fact that the new Discovery Sport manages to retain some measure of the Land Rover brand's legendary off-road capabilities has more to do with remaining true to the company's history than it does with consumer demand. Still, if there's a favorite fishing spot or weekend cabin waiting for you at the end of a muddy dirt road, the Discovery Sport and its clever Terrain Response system have what it takes to get you there with an enviable degree of panache. It's not a true rock crawler, though, so if that's important to you, stepping up to another Land Rover or moving over to Jeep is probably a good idea.
The Discovery Sport is a replacement for the unlamented LR2 and a complement to the fashion-over-function Evoque, with which it shares many mechanical components. The Discovery Sport rides on a 3.25-inch longer wheelbase, is 10 inches longer overall and has a taller roof line, resulting in an interior that's better suited for people and their cargo. And that's not just in comparison to the Evoque -- the Discovery Sport is one of the most spacious and functional compact luxury SUVs. There's even an optional third-row seat, though it's only suited for small children.
Among this new Land Rover's negatives is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that lines up well with rivals on paper, but ultimately delivers comparatively slow acceleration. Plus, there's no engine upgrade at the moment. As such, better performance can be found in competitors like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60. Most of these competitors also have a degree of interior design flair that the rather plain Discover Sport's cabin lacks. But if you're looking for a small luxury SUV with an extra degree of go-anywhere gusto, this newest Land Rover is certainly worth a look.
The 2015 Land Rover Discover Sport is a compact crossover SUV that comes standard with five seats. A third row that comes bundled with its own air vents and USB port is optional. There are three trim levels: SE, HSE and HSE Lux.
The SE base model comes well-equipped with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, heated power-folding outside mirrors, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a rear foglight, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, partial leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats, 60\/40-split second-row seats (folding, sliding, reclining), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a touchscreen interface, and a 10-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio jack, four USB ports and an iPod\/media player interface. The Vision Assist package adds xenon headlights, LED running lights and front foglamps. The Convenience package adds keyless ignition and entry, a power liftgate and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The midrange HSE trim includes the above optional package items along with 19-inch wheels, upgraded trim, a panoramic glass roof, full leather upholstery and 10-way power front seats with memory functions. The Audio Upgrade package adds an 11-speaker audio system with HD radio.
A navigation system and satellite radio can be added separately to the SE and XSE.
The top-of-the-line HSE Lux model includes the HSE's optional equipment along with upgraded leather upholstery, trim and carpeting, along with configurable mood lighting.
The HSE trims are available with their own Vision Assist package that includes adaptive xenon headlights, automatic high beam control, a surround-view camera system, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The Driver Assist Plus package adds frontal collision warning, automatic braking for frontal crash mitigation, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and, on the HSE, navigation. Also available is an automatic parallel and perpendicular parking system.
Every Discovery Sport can be equipped with the Climate Comfort package, which adds heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a heated windshield, and on the HSE trims, ventilated front seats. You can also specify one of several Black Design packages, which bring with them combinations of black exterior trim, black wheels of either 19 or 20 inches, and a black contrasting roof that is available separately. Smartphone app integration is also available.
Like its Evoque sibling, the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport is supremely stable and coordinated on winding roads, with the accurate steering imparting decent feedback to the driver. We highly recommend avoiding the optional 20-inch wheels, though, as they are at least partly responsible for a ride that tends toward jittery on imperfect surfaces. They generate a smattering of road noise, too. Smaller wheels would certainly improve things on both counts, but no Discovery Sport will deliver the sort of plush ride quality of its pricier air-suspended siblings.
It also can't match other Land Rovers off road, lacking their ground clearance, wheel articulation, locking differential and low-range gearing. It also falls short of similarly sized or priced Jeeps (Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, respectively). Nevertheless, the Discovery Sport does possess more capabilities off the beaten path than its compact luxury SUV competitors. It has short overhangs, a capable all-wheel-drive setup and most importantly, the Terrain Response system that adjusts various vehicle parameters for optimum traction on different surfaces like sand, snow or mud. You can't do that in a BMW.
Powering all these on- and off-pavement forays is a responsive turbocharged four-cylinder engine that offers sufficient punch for most buyers in most situations. Having said that, though, virtually every competitor not powered by diesel fuel or a hybrid powertrain delivers superior acceleration. The nine-speed automatic transmission can also be reluctant to downshift, which can be an annoyance when trying to merge into faster-moving traffic.
The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and all-wheel drive are standard.
In Edmunds testing, the Discovery Sport went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is about a second slower than average. Official EPA fuel economy estimates are 22 mpg combined (20 city\/26 highway), which is a few mpg less efficient than rivals. On the Edmunds evaluation route, it returned 25 mpg combined. Properly equipped, the Discovery Sport can tow up to 4,409 pounds.
The Discovery Sport's powertrain also includes Land Rover's well-proven Terrain Response system. The technology has four preprogrammed settings (General, Grass\/Gravel\/Snow, Mud\/Ruts and Sand) that adapt gas pedal and steering response, gear selection, center differential engagement and braking\/stability control systems to optimize performance in a variety of difficult driving scenarios. Unlike with other Land Rovers, there are no locking differentials, low range or adjustable suspension height.
The list of standard safety features on the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, a driver knee airbag and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera and parking sensors are also standard, as are hill descent control and hill start assist.
Safety-related options include a blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert system, lane departure warning, frontal collision warning and automatic braking for frontal crash mitigation.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Discovery Sport with 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet, which is better than average for the segment.
The 2015 Discovery Sport features a handsome interior marked by generally high-quality materials and a hushed ambience. The design is stylish but conservative, which may leave some shoppers wishing for something with a little more charisma.
Gauges and controls are easy to see and intuitive in their operation. The 5-inch screen between the speedometer and tach can be configured to display a range of useful information. The large 8-inch touchscreen mounted in the center of the dash offers a much-improved interface that uses smartphone-like gestures to control climate, audio, phone and navigation functions as well as to access available InControl apps including iHeartRadio, Stitcher and more. It works well, but it can be too much of a reach at times, especially the accompanying physical buttons on its right side.
The front seats are comfortable, and the second row offers decent legroom with the movable 60\/40-split bench that both reclines (common) and slides (rare). It's also mounted 2 inches higher than the front seats to provide a better view for its occupants. The available third row is going to be a tight fit for all but limber youngsters, leading us to suggest you look elsewhere if you plan on hauling seven passengers on a regular basis.
Speaking of hauling, fold down all the rear seats and you have a cargo hold with 60 cubic feet of space. Numerically, this is an average amount for a small luxury crossover, but the Disco's boxy shape makes the most of it. Although this SUV has "Sport" in its name, its utility is actually more appealing.
More passenger and cargo space than most competitors; above-average capabilities in off-road and bad weather conditions; comfortable passenger cabin; advanced technology.
Mediocre acceleration; transmission slow to downshift; cramped optional third-row seat.