The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a premium compact SUV smaller than the Land Rover LR4, larger than the Range Rover Evoque. Discovery Sport seats five, but it can be ordered with a third row suitable only for small children and referred to as 5+2 seating.
Discovery Sport competes with Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Volvo XC60, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and GMC Terrain Denali, none of which offer a third-row. Less luxurious, less sophisticated vehicles such as the Nissan Rogue, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Mitsubishi Outlander do offer a third row. For five seats with greater cargo area and good off-highway capability consider also a top-line Subaru Outback.
Discovery Sport sets itself apart because it is a Land Rover with Land Rover styling cues, an airy, efficient cabin, modern safety and telematics features and better-than-average off-highway performance and towing ability (to about 4400 pounds). With the right equipment, InControl lets you run iOS and Android phone apps through the car.
A torquey turbocharged 2-liter engine and nine-speed automatic transmission (shared with Evoque) provide good performance and a semblance of highway fuel economy. EPA City/Highway estimates are 20/26, 22 Combined.
Just more 15 feet long, Discovery Sport is a convenient daily-driver size and a few inches longer than the original box-shape Discovery. However, beyond the cantilevered roof of previous LR models it shares more styling cues with Range Rovers, including front running lights, side gills and a rounded tail similar to that of the Range Rover Sport and wheel-arch openings virtually identical to those on the Evoque.
Forward rake and roof drop aren’t as pronounced as an Evoque and side window glass is generous. Choices include a contrast-color roof, big and/or black wheels and black trim. The look is modern aero crossover rather than squarely functional utility, as evidenced in its ability to approach a steeper incline in reverse than going forward.
Discovery Sport seats five adults, with a kid-size third row optional for seven or more accurately referred to as 5+2. The driving position is more car-like than previous Land Rovers and just as comfortable and supportive. The second row slides fore and aft more than six inches for more room, the seatbacks recline for more comfort, and the seats are perched higher for better visibility for back-seat passengers. The second row is split and it folds almost flat to expand cargo capacity from 33 to 67 cubic feet. When fitted, the 50/50-split third row is higher yet for theater seating, and by dimension and cushioning built for children.
The cabin is businesslike and functional, with straightedge styling, legible white-on-black soft-touch controls and Jaguar climate controls. The forward console houses the electronic parking brake and pop-up shifter. Console flexibility includes rolltop covers, removable cupholders to fit a 2-liter bottle and storage room suitable for concealing a camera or small purse.
Features include face-level air vents and a USB charging port for all seat rows, eight-inch gesture touchscreen, and potentially six USB ports, four 12V DC power points, 3D navigation with on and off-road modes, and Wi-Fi hotspot.
Discovery Sport drives much like a car-based crossover, with good road manners and performance, yet it has Land Rover’s above-average ability once the pavement ends. Consider what’s underneath the bodywork: a long-wheelbase, heavily revised and updated Range Rover Evoque.
Discovery Sport uses the Evoque’s Ford-sourced, 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and ZF nine-speed automatic transmission. With four overdrive gears the engine’s good low-end torque, peaking at 251 pound-feet, is a more important number than the 240 horsepower, allowing it to run in higher gears at lower rpm more often for better fuel economy. It is fairly smooth when pushed and Land Rover claims 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds; tires are designed for a top speed of 124 mph.
The transmission can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles. It starts off in second gear when appropriate for better fuel economy, and can skip multiple gears when downshifting because there is only very modest acceleration in eighth or ninth gear.
Terrain Response controls the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system, steering effort, and electronic chassis aids for five modes: the default daily-use Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Dynamic for more spirited on-road response. Terrain Response makes Discovery Sport as easy to drive on the trail as on the highway and accounts for much of its off-road ability. The rest stems from good clearances, ability to stay dry and ease of seeing out.
Suspension is independent all-around for good ride quality and agility, also aided by keeping mass to about 4000 pounds for the base model. Brakes offer a firm pedal that’s easy to modulate, a gentle touch for working a muddy two-track and good feel and performance on the highway.
In addition to stability control, the Discovery Sport also has trailer sway control and tow assist. Optional driver aids include parking assistant, lane departure warning, speed limit/passing restrictions on nav screen and autonomous emergency braking to avoid, or mitigate the effects of, a collision at speeds from 3-50 mph.
The Discovery Sport is smart, functional and versatile. It combines the ride and features you want for a daily drive with superior-to-class ability for off-highway travel and inclement weather.
Driving Impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection; G.R. Whale, New Car Test Drive, contributed to this report.