THE PROS & CONS
What’s best: The off-road capability and optional third-row seats offer a lot of versatility.
What’s worst: The cabin is nicely finished, but a notch below the level of its German competitors.
What’s interesting: The Discovery Sport is competitively priced for a vehicle with so much versatility and off-road capability.
2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport at a glance
BODY STYLE: Premium compact sport utility vehicle.
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: turbocharged 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine (240 hp, 250 lb/ft of torque).
CARGO CAPACITY: 981 litres behind second-row seats, 1,698 behind first row.
TOW RATING: 4,409 lb.
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
PRICE: SE $41,490, HSE $46,490, HSE Luxury $49,990.
Just as the Range Rover Evoque made a splash in the luxury compact SUV world when it debuted a few years back, the new 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport is poised to do much the same.
Based on the same platform as the Evoque, the Discovery Sport is a versatile and attractive premium compact sport ute that replaces the LR2 in the lineup and thus becomes the entry model into the Land Rover brand.
Discovery Sport takes the brand in a different direction from the LR2, certainly more mainstream styling-wise with a shapely, less harsh and squared off design.
Some die-hard Land Rover fans may be disappointed with the departure from the old rugged look, but the Indian-owned brand is looking for new conquests with the Discovery Sport that is built in England like all Land Rover products.
The premium compact SUV segment has shown huge growth in recent years and Land Rover hopes to share in some of that sales momentum.
Only 622 LR2s were sold in Canada last year, so if Evoque sales (1,706) are any indication, the Discovery Sport should having no trouble surpassing LR2’s sales numbers.
It joins the Land Rover LR4 (which is sold as the Discovery in more than 170 markets worldwide) in the Canadian lineup.
Slightly longer (by 80 mm) than the more stylish Evoque, the Discovery Sport can be considered more versatile with an optional third-row seat that offers a 5+2 configuration. These rear seats are suitable only for children or teens for short trips, but they do add a level of versatility to the vehicle that is hard to find in the premium compact SUV segment.
Our test vehicle didn’t have the extra seating, but it was outfitted in top-level HSE Luxury trim, including among other features a monstrous fixed panoramic sunroof that takes up much of the roof area. The Discovery Sport also comes in SE and HSE trims.
Prices start at $41,490 for the SE, $46,490 for the HSE and $49,990 for the HSE Sport.
Although it is classed as a compact, the Discovery Sport feels anything but compact inside.
This is particularly true in the 60/40 split second-row seats that both slide and recline. Legroom is generous, especially when the seats are in their rearmost position, making for easy entry and exit.
The seats slide fore and aft a full 160 mm and the theatre seating in the second row makes for better visibility for passengers in the rear.
To this writer, the Discovery Sport has a little less flair than its Evoque sibling, but it still has a stylish, sporty look with a front end that is every bit Land Rover with its distinctive clamshell hood and two-bar grille with hexagonal mesh. And this is far from simply a ‘sport cute’ vehicle— the Discovery Sport is as rugged and tough as Land Rovers are meant to be yet with classy features like the rotary gearshift controller from the Jaguar line that rises silently out of the centre console when the start button is pushed.
Only one engine is available on the Discovery Sport, the 240 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that is also fitted into the Evoque. Range Rover quotes a 0-100 km/h time of 7.8 seconds and that seems about right from our experience with the vehicle. This makes it slower than many competitors, yet the engine seemed acceptable for all the driving conditions we experienced.
Built on a 2,741 (107.9 inch) wheelbase, the Discovery Sport has a low centre of gravity and planted stance with short overhangs and its wheels out at the corners.
Halogen headlights and DRLs are standard, but our tester had Xenon lights with LED running lights and front fog lights as part of the upgraded trim level.
Lest anyone think Land Rover is going soft with the Discovery Sport, look no further than their online sales brochure that even gives a water wading depth of 600 mm (23.6 inches) for the vehicle in their ‘Dimensions and Capacities’ section. While we didn’t get to do any off-roading, Land Rover promises impressive all-terrain performance.
With all-wheel drive traction, the body has 212 mm (8.3 in) of ground clearance and approach, departure and breakover angles of 25, 31 and 21 degrees respective. The Discovery Sport can scale gradients of up to 45 degrees and in extreme situations; lower trim on the front bumper can be removed to increase the approach angle.
The intelligent full-time all-wheel drive continuously varies the torque split front to rear to help with traction on all surfaces.
Meanwhile, the Land Rover Terrain Response that is controlled through an interface on the centre console allows four selections—General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts and Sand. This system is designed to tailor the steering, throttle response, gearbox, centre coupling and braking and stability systems to the terrain.
Further technologies like hill descent control, gradient release control, roll stability control, dynamic stability control, electronic traction control and engine drag torque control help out in slippery conditions off road.
All this adds up to an impressive package of off-road goodies. Nice to have and brag about, but certainly more than most buyers will ever need or use.
On the road, the Discovery Sport is easy to drive, thanks in part to responsive electric power-assisted steering that provides nice driver feedback. Body roll on corners is minimal for a tall wagon and the ride is more than acceptable.
The cabin is less luxurious than you might find in other premium sport utes, but it looks classy with high quality materials and functions well.
The leather front seats are both supportive and comfortable, although I would like a bit more length in the bottom cushion.
A new-style eight-inch infotainment screen sits atop the centre stack, including smart-phone like features that many users would find familiar. This touchscreen controls navigation, climate, phone and audio functions.
All in all, the Discovery Sport is an exciting new product in the premium sport utility marketplace.
Utility and versatility are the benchmarks of this vehicle that competes favourably in a crowded marketplace against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes-Benz GLK.