The sister car to the hugely popular Range Rover Evoque, the Discovery Sport is focused on versatility and marks the launch of a new family of Discovery models. It’s much more spacious than the Evoque and boasts the option of 5+2 seating. Handsome and capable, it is a world away from the lackluster LR2 it effectively replaces and will provide strong competition for the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK.
What Is It?
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a high-end, compact SUV that focuses on versatility as opposed to the rakish but less practical Range Rover Evoque, with which it shares many of its mechanicals.
It’s a new part of Land Rover’s strategy for the future that includes three families of vehicles. The Range Rover lineup stresses luxury and refinement, the Discovery models will focus on versatility, and the forthcoming Defender range will be all about utility and durability.
The Discovery Sport will sit alongside the Range Rover Evoque, but will seek to offer more space and practicality. At launch, the Discovery will come standard with all-wheel drive, a nine-speed automatic and a 2.0-liter turbo engine that’s also used in the Evoque.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
There’s only one four-door body style but three different trim levels available. Even the entry-level SE ($37,070) comes well equipped with partial leather seats, cruise control, two-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system and rear parking sensors as standard.
Upgrading to the ($41,570) HSE adds full leather seats, a panoramic roof, front parking sensors and a powered tailgate. The top specification HSE Lux ($45,570) includes mood lighting, higher-quality leather and an upgraded audio system with satellite radio.
How Does It Drive?
Our test-drive of the Discovery Sport was in Iceland, where heavy snow had rendered some roads all but impassable and all the vehicles were fitted with studded winter tires. Although we were able to gain some insight into how it drives, we’ll reserve definitive judgment until we’ve driven it in more favorable conditions.
The 2.0-liter turbo delivers 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. As drivers of the identically powered Evoque will attest, it’s smooth, relaxed and offers a healthy dollop of midrange pull. The Sport moniker might be stretching it a bit, as Land Rover predicts a 0-60-mph time of 7.8 seconds. The nine-speed automatic is also a fine companion, made more versatile by the inclusion of steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting.
Land Rover completely redesigned the rear suspension compared to the Evoque in order to include the Discovery’s optional third-row seating, but it also results in a more composed ride quality. Despite the “Sport” tag, the Discovery’s role is to provide smooth, efficient, capable transport, and it feels well tuned to that task.
It’s a very easy vehicle to drive. The steering is light but not excessively so, and in common with every recent Land Rover, it benefits from a linear feel that makes it easy to place the Discovery on the road. It offers a level of precision that will be a revelation to owners of the LR2, and its compact size (nearly an inch shorter than the Audi Q5) lends it an agility that larger Land Rovers lack. Also worthy of praise is its high-speed refinement. Wind noise in particular is extremely well suppressed, befitting this Land Rover’s luxury price point.
The Discovery Sport uses an all-wheel-drive system that continuously varies the torque split between the front and rear wheels according to the available grip. It doesn’t have the off-road firepower of the larger LR4 but it’s still capable of scaling gradients of up to 45 degrees and wading at a depth of 23.6 inches. In other words, it offers more than enough off-road ability for most needs.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
This is the Discovery Sport’s trump card, particularly when compared with the Evoque, which has always emphasized style ahead of practicality.
In the best Land Rover tradition, the Discovery Sport offers a commanding view out. The seats have plenty of adjustment, and the tilt-and-telescoping wheel makes it easy to find an ideal driving position. The transmission shifter is a rotary knob on the center console, and an electric parking brake button does the work of a traditional hand lever.
The rear seats in the Discovery slide fore and aft by up to 6.3 inches, and with the seats in their rearmost position, there’s nearly as much legroom as in the full-size Range Rover. Rear passengers also sit 2 inches higher than those in the front to provide a better view forward.
The Sport will be offered with third-row seats as a $1,750 option. These child-size seats fold out of the floor in one simple movement. Land Rover has also ensured that every seat has its own air vent, and there are six USB power supply points so those in the rear no longer feel like second-class citizens.
Those in the front enjoy a dashboard that’s eminently sensible. While the Evoque’s design focuses on a horizontal bar, the Discovery’s controls are located on a vertical column, which the designers have decreed will be a key differentiator between the two “brands.” The quality is good, if not quite up to Range Rover standards, and everything’s sensibly arranged.
In most models Land Rover’s ancient infotainment system has also been updated with a touchscreen that now responds in an appropriate time scale and looks like a product of the modern age. An InControl Apps function enables the system to replicate apps found on Apple and Android smartphones, including music streaming and navigation.
The trunk space is best described as competitive. It extends to a maximum of 24.3 cubic feet with the seats up and 60 cubes with the seats down, compared with 29.1/57.3 for an Audi Q5.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
No official EPA figures have been released for the Discovery Sport, and Land Rover is also yet to unveil its own figures.
The Range Rover Evoque, with the same engine and drivetrain, is rated by the EPA to deliver 21 city/30 highway mpg.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The premium compact SUV class has grown considerably in recent years and is fiercely competitive. Here are three of the Discovery’s closest rivals.
Audi Q5: One of Audi’s most popular models, the Q5 offers a range of drivetrains along with a first-class interior. It does not offer a third-row option, however, so if you need extra kid-hauling space it comes up short.
BMW X3: Like the Q5, the X3 is only available with two rows of seats. If that’s not a problem, the X3’s excellent driving dynamics and sharp interior make it worth considering.
Mercedes-Benz GLK: Another German rival with only two rows of seats, the GLK also offers a diesel engine option if you’re looking for superior mileage.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
It delivers a unique combination of size, capability and features in a sharply styled package with excellent all-weather capability.
Why Should You Think Twice About This SUV?
It may offer a third row, but even Land Rover notes that it’s only big enough for children. And although it has respectable capability off-road, this Land Rover isn’t nearly as trail-worthy as some of its Range Rover cousins.