2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

Discovering a new side of Crossovers

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

Land Rovers are known for being able to go pretty much anywhere, so when it came to testing out the brand’s latest we traveled to quite literally the ends of the earth to do so.

And where better than Reykjavik, Iceland to put Land Rover’s claims about its new Discovery Sport to the test?

What is a Discovery Sport?

Land Rover’s product lineup isn’t very well understood, even though most folks are well aware of the brand. A common misunderstanding involves the Range Rover name, which, like the Discovery, is a model in the overall lineup.

The Discovery Sport is the first of a new line of products designed to target a more mainstream audience.

A more on-road focused Land Rover, it’s competing in the hot compact premium crossover segment alongside the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, but don’t for a second think its capability has been watered down.

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Off the Beaten Path

Quite the contrary. Land Rover says each Discovery model will be the most versatile in its class and we put that to the test, driving through a landscape that looked at times like Middle Earth and at others like the Planet Hoth.

Climbing over lava rocks, along snow-covered cliffs and across sheets of ice, we even traversed a river that was far deeper than you’d ever think of driving in. After dropping into the flowing current from an icy shoreline the sound of the water rushing past the car’s doors was both amazing and terrifying. Water tight, Land Rover claims the truck can safely wade through two feet of water. Crawling along the riverbed, the force of the current was obvious, requiring a significant level of counter steer just to stay on course before popping out the other side.

While not an editorial policy, we generally avoid referring to crossovers as “trucks”. After experiencing the level of its capabilities, the Discovery Sport is worth an exception to the rule.

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That said, this truck’s off-road specs are best-in-segment with approach, departure and breakover angles of 25, 31 and 21 degrees while it can climb a slope of up to 45 degrees. It offers 8.3-inches of ground clearance, which is also at the top of its class. About the only other crossover you’ll find with more in that department is a Subaru Outback.

Build and Price: Land Rover Discovery Sport

Like other Land Rover models the Discovery has a Terrain Response system designed to make off-roading more accessible. The simple-to-use setup includes several modes that can be scrolled through using buttons on the bottom of the center stack. With settings for grass, gravel and snow, one for mud and ruts, one for sand, plus a default setting, each of the four programs adjusts the vehicle’s steering, throttle response, transmission responsiveness, all-wheel drive system, braking and stability control to best match the conditions.

2016-Land-Rover-Discovery-Sport-interior-12.JPGIt should be noted that all of the test vehicles came equipped with studded winter tires (a normal feature in Iceland where many country roads are covered in a thick coating of ice) and while that did give an extra advantage in certain situations it also had some drawbacks.

On-Road Performance

Studded tires don’t give optimum grip on dry surfaces and so we can’t honestly claim to know the Discovery Sport’s handling characteristics. Nor can we accurately say how quiet the ride is, as the tires clicked across the asphalt like a dog’s claws on hard wood flooring.

And both of those are important because this is a crossover after all and as incredible as its off-road prowess is, what matters most is every day urban and suburban driving.

The engine itself is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder borrowed from the smaller Evoque. And while horsepower at 240 hp is reasonable, the 251 lb-ft of torque at 1750 rpm means gearing-down is unnecessary much of the time. Whether you hit an incline or you’re just looking to pick up the pace a little, the smooth thrust comes on easily.

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Harder acceleration isn’t quite as impressive. With a nine-speed automatic transmission (which, unlike some other nine-speeds we’ve tested, is without fault) and a turbocharged engine, there’s some delay when you really put your foot down hard.

The only other fault we experienced with the powertrain was some shuddering that could be felt through the car on cold start-up. It did, however, go away after the car achieved a normal running temperature.

The Numbers That Matter

Practicality matters in crossovers and here the Discovery Sport does not disappoint with stats that prospective buyers really care about.

2016-Land-Rover-Discovery-Sport-trunk-02.JPGAt its smallest, rear cargo area is 26.7 cubit feet while it can expand to up to an impressive 60-cubic-foot total. Rear seat area is also spacious with seatbacks that recline and seats that can slide fore and aft by 6.8 inches.

A surprising feature is the available 5+2 seating arrangement with a third row for occasional (and mostly uncomfortable) use. Still, it can come in handy.

Fuel economy is also impressive. With standard all-wheel drive, the Discovery delivers 21 MPG city, 28 MPG highway and 23 MPG combined, tying the BMW X3 xDrive28i.

But perhaps the best number, and the most surprising one, is the price. You might expect to pay top dollar for a Land Rover, but this new model starts at just $37,995 including destination.

Styling is often a top reason for consideration among premium crossovers and here the Discovery Sport comes out on top as well. We’re not overly enamored with it (few crossovers, if any, check the “emotional appeal” box) but it does look unmistakably like a Land Rover. When you’ve got a brand like that behind you it’s important to show it off.

Big Where it Counts

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A touch smaller than most of its rivals in terms of its overall exterior dimensions, the Discovery Sport doesn’t disappoint inside.

The second row comes with “stadium seating” with chairs that are two inches higher than the front ones. Better yet, they recline and offer 6.8-inches of movement with the capability of 40-inches of legroom.

As a surprise Land Rover offers a 5+2 seating arrangement. Sure, that third row is pretty useless, but there are times when you might want it. And for those occasions it’ll be much appreciated.

Spacious, but Stylish?

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The cabin is one of the few areas that could use some improvement. The material quality is satisfactory, though the simple design does nothing for the space. We did, however, love the brown leather in our tester.

The location of the window controls, at the top of the door (as per Land Rover tradition) is awkward to reach and would be much more convenient elsewhere.

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Located between the gauges is a five-inch digital screen while an eight-inch display sits at the top of the dash. It houses an all-new infotainment setup that the brand has sorely needed for some time.

It looks modern and acts it too, responding to swipe and pinch touch controls like your phone does. Unfortunately, it’s not quite at that level of responsiveness, though it’s certainly superior to some other touch-control systems on the market.

There’s also the new Land Rover InControl app, which you download to your phone and then access through the car’s touch screen, with numerous other apps, including music streaming services, which are optimized for in-car use.

And speaking of our many modern devices, Discovery Sport models are available with up to six USB ports.

Other notable technologies include an available Wi-Fi hotspot, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, a self-parking feature and even a self-braking feature that will stop the car completely at speeds of up to 32 MPH and reduce collision impacts at up to 50 MPH.

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Land Rover Discovery Sport Review: The Verdict

With a far off location and extreme testing it’s hard not to be impressed by the Discovery Sport’s off-road capabilities. Yet, when it comes to this segment the most important aspects are not the most exciting ones and we’re pleased to report that in those areas it also delivers top marks.

Being one of the last automakers to offer a compact premium crossover (if you don’t count the Evoque or archaic models like the LR2) it’s important to stand out from the crowd in order to succeed. Lucky for Land Rover, the name alone helps draw attention to this new product while the injection of true brand DNA sets this model apart from a sea of others.

Land Rover might be the last automaker to enter the premium compact crossover market but the Discovery Sport certainly lets you discover a new side of crossovers.

  • Felix James

    WOW! Iceland looks crazy!

  • Rickers

    Did all that water screw of the Land Rover’s electronics?

  • Honest Abe

    I don’t know what you’re bitching about, that interior looks great to me.

  • Panda

    First compact crossover? I thought the Evoque filled that roll?

  • Paolo Giulio

    Exterior styling, Interior design, MINUS?!?! … u, americans, don’t understand NOTHING about style… lol…

  • Wicken

    Yea. It’s certainly better than the X3.

  • jeffzx9r

    I like that….the LR2 is “archaic.” I still drive a Discovery-1. SMH…..

  • dark

    Why does it look like a Subaru Forester? From seeing the top picture in a feed I thought someone had changed out the front bumper and grill on an 09-12 Forester. Even the interior looks similar (center console), the view of the trunk open.
    Don’t get me wrong the Forester is a reliable “off-road” vehicle, in the same sense as this. I’m sure the amenities in this are much better than the Subaru’s.

  • sorento_user

    Exterior styling was somewhat borrowed from a Mitsubishi Outlander although I agree that even the inside styling was “cheapened” for the price, it is still luxurious and beautiful.

    My TOTL sorento has all that, and much much more for a cheaper price.
    Go figure.