2015 Land Rover Discovery SportPosted on July 17th, 2015
Family-friendly SUV with off-road capability
By Nina Russin
The Discovery Sport is Land Rover’s offering for active families who don’t want a full-sized sport-utility vehicle, but need the versatility traditionally only available in those types of cars. Although the newest Range Rover has a similar powertrain to the Evoque, the car’s character is completely different, catering more to buyers who want to spend time off the grid, and need a versatile cargo area to pack the toys.
Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged engine rated at 240 horsepower and nine-speed automatic transmission: the same components found in the Evoque. All models come with full-time all-wheel drive and the ability to climb up a 45-degree incline.
Land Rover was the first to market with a terrain response system that automatically adjusts braking, throttle, shift points etc. for a variety of off-road surfaces such as mud and ruts, rocks, sand and snow. The Discovery Sport comes with the newest version of that technology.
With over eight inches of wheel travel, drivers don’t need to worry about bottoming out of rocks or roots on rugged trails. The cabin is also watertight in case the vehicle needs to cross a small stream. Wading depth is a tick under two feet.
On the other hand, the Discovery is very much a road car, with a four-wheel independent suspension and available active safety features that include lane keeping assist, park assist and traffic sign recognition. Electric power steering saves space and weight under the hood, helping to extend fuel economy.
An optional HSE package on the test car adds xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, 10-way power leather front seats, power tailgate and front fog lamps. Other options on the test car include automatic climate control with heated front seats and steering wheel, 20′ alloy wheels with black exterior trim, an audio upgrade, app infotainment package and cargo area cover, bringing the final MSRP to $49,470.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
Nothing works particularly well in 110 degrees, but that was the weather I found myself in on the week that I tested the new Discovery. Adding a few seasonal monsoons into the picture made things even more interesting.
If there is one thing that defines the ideal vehicle for active lifestyles, it’s versatility. The car has to roll with the punches. While I had a lukewarm response to the Evoque, I’m much more excited about the new Discovery Sport for that very reason. It’s not a perfect car but it aims high and offers a combination of features unavailable anywhere else.
Available seating for up to seven passengers is huge for families who have several children of their own and might need to take on additional passengers for weekly soccer games. Urbanites with long commutes with appreciate the Discover’s luxury amenities including acoustic glass that keeps road, engine and wind noise out of the cabin.
Engineers created a rigid body structure by using a combination of high strength steel and lightweight aluminum for improved steering response. The optional twenty-inch wheels create a fat footprint for the road, although I’d probably opt for standard 18-inch rims and taller tires for off-road applications. A four-wheel independent suspension keeps both front and rear passengers comfortable. The multi-link rear design is compact so as to not intrude on valuable cargo and rear passenger space.
The two-liter turbocharged engine is a surprisingly competent performer, accelerating from zero-to-sixty in as little as 7.8 seconds according to the manufacturer. The nine-speed automatic transmission works flawlessly with none of the hunting that has plagued competitive systems. Because the engine develops 250 foot-pounds of peak torque as low as 1750 rpm, acceleration off the line and merging into high-speed traffic is excellent.
The electric power steering system is nicely tuned to the car, with plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuverability and a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. Braking is firm and linear.
Inside, the Discovery incorporates the upscale styling and luxury amenities a person would expect from Land Rover. The rotary shift lever on the center console works the same way as it does on Jaguar models, rising up out of the center console when the driver fires the ignition. The rotary design saves space as compared to a lever and is more attractive.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view: something especially important in a car designed for off-road travel. Lower lumbar support is quite good. Theater style second-row seats are mounted slightly higher than the front row so those passengers have good forward visibility as well.
The car has a few quirks. During the test drive, the speed limit warnings were not always accurate. In a 65 mile-per-hour zone near my house an audible warning continually stated that the speed limit was 50. The auto-stop feature that cuts the ignition when the car is idling to save fuel also makes the air conditioner stop blowing cold air because the compressor’s operation is dependent on the engine. That’s a problem.
The important thing is that Land Rover got the big stuff right. The test car was rock solid in monsoonal rainstorms. The powertrain is strong and the Discovery is a lot of fun to drive both on road and off. The car is compact enough park around town, but spacious on the inside to meet the needs of growing families who like to go camping on the weekend.
There are very few cars on the market capable of climbing goat paths by day and then after a quick wash, taking their owners out for a night on the opera. That alone makes the Land Rover Discovery a win/win.
Like: A compact SUV with optional seating for seven passengers, true off-road capability and luxury car performance.
Dislike: Option packages add significant expense over the base MSRP.
Make: Land Rover
Model: Discovery Sport HSE
Base price: $37,995
As tested: $49,470
Horsepower: 240 Hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 250 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 20/26 mpg city/highway2015, Luxury Offroad 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Land Rover, performance, pricing, standard safety