2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review
With CUV sales surpassing those of their sedan counterparts, it should be no surprise every manufacturer is trying to get in on the high ride height action. Land Rover, virtually absent from the hot CUV segment, has finally released the all-new Discovery Sport to replace the dated LR2. The new Disco Sport is first vehicle in what will become a family of Discovery SUVs, all styled similarly with cues to the big Range Rover, but differing in size.
Aimed straight at the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the new Disco is based on a modified Range Rover Evoque platform, giving it a longer wheelbase to increase rear seat volume. Most importantly, with some clever packaging, Land Rover has managed to squeeze an optional third row seat into the Discovery Sport. They call it a “5+2 seating configuration” and make no secrets the third row is best suited for taking kids across town.
Those without kids may ask: Why do so many parents want CUVs with a third row seat? The answer: kids have friends and those friends, along with one’s own kids, need to be chauffeured around. CUVs this size are popular because, due to their small footprint, they’re easy to drive. Yet very few – none in the premium segment – offer a third row seat besides the new Land Rover. Seating flexibility alone could be reason enough for buyers to choose the Discovery Sport over its direct competitors. (Please note the vehicle pictured was not equipped with the optional third row seat.)
The original Discovery, known as the LR4 in its current generation, is known for its commanding seating position. Unfortunately, due to the Disco Sport’s size, that same seating arrangement could not be replicated. However, it does offer windows bigger than most other CUVs. In concert with a huge glass roof, the Disco Sport evokes a sense of spaciousness. Likewise, rearward visibility is also improved over most CUVs, with parking sensors and a backup camera further aiding reversing, parking, and tight maneuvering.
The Sport has JLR’s new Autonomous Emergency Braking providing visual and audible warnings when it senses an impending collision. The system is capable of stopping the vehicle or, at the very least, slowing it down to reduce the severity of a crash. Other active safety features, such as Lane Departure Warning, trailer stability assist and hitch assist, are also included. (The Disco Sport can tow up to 4,409 lbs, although probably slowly.) An additional traffic sign recognition system displays the current speed limit on the gauge cluster, though it often sees yellow highway truck ramp signs and interprets them as normal highway speed limits. Thankfully, all of those features can be disabled for the driving heroes among us.
The Discovery Sport has an all-new (or at least all-new-ish) infotainment system which will eventually make its way across the model lineup. It is similar in look and feel to the old system (hence, the -ish) but improved in every way, especially in terms of speed and ease of use. The system’s eight-inch screen has a somewhat low resolution at 800×480 pixels, but offers a WiFi hotspot and does a great job of streaming music from the various apps on your phone. You can connect up to two Bluetooth devices, with one of them being for phone and music and the other for music only. Four high-wattage USB ports make sure everything stays charged on the move.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a direct transplant from the Range Rover Evoque, but in the Disco Sport is mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, good for 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The engine makes 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, enough to move the little Rover around but not enough to win many stoplight drag races. The Haldex all-wheel-drive system is controlled by Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, allowing the driver to choose the type of driving surface so the Landie can automatically adjust throttle response, gearbox, braking, and stability systems for maximum traction. Few will take their Disco beyond the dirt in the little league field parking lot, but this system works surprisingly well in the bigger Range Rovers.
It is difficult to describe how any new CUV drives, because they all drive fine. They’re all comfortable. They can all take an on-ramp much faster than they should. They all stop better than sports cars from a time not too long ago. Some manufacturers claim their CUVs are “sportier” than others, but how can you quantify that? Sure, compared to large SUVs such as the Lexus GX 460 or Land Rover’s own LR4, anyone can consider this to be sporty, but no one is going to autocross it, either. In the end, this Discovery Sport is a family-friendly, kid-hauling grocery-getter. And you know what? It drives just fine.
The Discovery Sport starts at $37,070 for the SE model. The HSE starts at $41,570 and adds power seats, HID headlamps, glass roof, power tailgate, 19-inch wheels, and various styling bits. The HSE LUX is $45,570 and it adds upgraded leather, better audio system, and a various items that are optional on lower models as standard. Third row seats are a $1,750 option on all models.
Land Rover finally brought a gun to the CUV gun fight. While it is not technically extraordinary, the Discovery Sport is a good looking vehicle, has all the features desired by its intended buyers including the cachet of being a Land Rover, and is competitively priced in its class. The Defender lovers of the world may hate it and all the other CUVs like it, but as our former Managing Ed. said, “millions of Americans couldn’t care less and have very rational reasons for buying them, nor are they in the grip of some false consciousness and in need of a vanguard to liberate their minds from the shackles of automotive marketing.” I imagine this vehicle will be the volume sales leader for Land Rover.
Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He once spent six weeks driving a Defender 110 around southern Africa and currently owns a green Bruder Defender 90.
Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.
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