Test Drive: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury

A few months ago Land Rover invited the international media to Iceland to experience its new entry level SUV, the Discovery Sport. The stage was set – fantastic scenery for spectacular photo ops and challenging terrain to show off the Landie’s off-road prowess. Not to mention hot springs and bits of reindeer cooked in interesting ways.

Does its little turbo four-pot have what it takes to Do the Hustle on those crazy freeway onramps?

Party’s over. Now it’s time for this newcomer to prove its metal in the toughest of environments – the urban and suburban jungle. Sexy Icelandic moonscapes are all well and good, but how will the Disco fare disco-ing down to Loblaws? Or Boogie Oogie Oogie-ing on over to the YMCA? Will it do the bump on the notoriously crappy Rebecca Road here in Oakville? And does its little turbo four-pot have what it takes to Do the Hustle on those crazy freeway onramps?

Hey, come back. No more lame disco song references, I promise. Not.

With a starting of price $41,490 for the Discovery Sport SE, Land Rover is making it a bit easier for the everyman to buy into this storied marque. There are two subsequent trim levels – the Sport HSE at $46,490 and tested here, the $49,990 Sport HSE Luxury.

The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport replaces the not-particularly-loved LR2. Built on a modified version of the Range Rover Evoque’s platform, it sees an 8-mm wheelbase stretch, is 24 cm longer overall, and gets a more compact multi-link rear suspension instead of the Evoque’s strut setup. The latter allows for the optional third row that gives the Discovery Sport a leg up on its closest competitors with available 5+2 seating. Without the third row there is some under floor storage above the spare wheel.

Power comes from the Evoque’s Ford-derived 2.0L turbocharged four that generates 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. All four wheels are driven through a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission and Haldex AWD coupling.

Gerry McGovern and his design team have done a terrific job here. Having just been At the Car Wash, the taut flanks of the Disco state unequivocally, We Are Family. It looks handsome, purposeful and unmistakably Land Rover from any angle. The blacked out D-pillar and resulting “floating roof” is a cool touch. This HSE Luxury gets a few extra flourishes like script and trim in Atlas Silver, “Noble” plated door handles and special 19-inch 9-Split Spoke alloys, although this tester was fitted with optional 20-inch rolling stock ($1,500).

For its tidy size, interior packaging is excellent. Much of this can be attributed to the Disco’s upright architecture. The 40/20/40 second row slides and reclines, and unlike like its Evoque sibling, the Discovery Sport delivers masses of headroom and good visibility all around.

Similarly, hatch space is wide and unencroached by intrusions or a sloping roofline. The second row seats fold down easily and are nearly flat. This tester didn’t have the optional third row, but other reviews suggest they are only suitable for smaller humanoids. As would be expected.

 

The cabin design holds no surprises for those familiar with Land Rover vehicles. The broad central console houses the JLR “rising puck” rotary shift controller, and it boldly sweeps up to intersect with the horizontal dash. Between the two round major gauges is a five-inch display showing essentials like fuel, temp and trip info.

It looks good in here, but materials and build quality are not quite up to the level of the Germans or Volvo. Plastics in the lower console are hard, flimsy, and in this tester prone to buzz on some surfaces.

The HSE Luxury gets upgraded “Windsor” leather and a massive fixed sunroof overhead.

The eight-inch touchscreen mid-dash is our first look JLR’s all-new, (and badly needed) InControl interface. It greets you with four crisply rendered images for selecting either phone, audio, climate or navigation. I particularly like the classic British red phone booth picture.

Beyond that the system is still a bit hesitant, certainly not up to the response time of the best. Plus it’s a stretch to reach, along with the surrounding hard buttons – even for me with my monkey arms. And for this top-spec model you’d think navigation would be standard issue, but the spec sheet of this tester indicates it as an $850 option.

Also conspicuous in their absence are the expected blind spot detection and lane departure warning. They, along with autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, rear traffic alert and closing vehicle sensing come with the $1,350 Driver Technology Package that this tester didn’t have.

However, it was fitted with a $350 11-speaker audio upgrade that properly kicked butt and had me running inside to grab my best disco compilation CD. Only to discover there’s no CD slot in the Disco. Oh c’mon, Don’t Leave Me This Way. Oh well, I Will Survive… somehow.

Where the Discovery Sport probably won’t leave you is stuck. Land Rover’s Terrain Response is standard fare here, providing four presets – normal on-road driving, mud/ruts, grass/gravel/snow and sand. These tailor transmission mapping, throttle response, the AWD system and stability control for maximum effectiveness. It also brags hill descent control, aggressive approach and departure angles and the ability to ford 600 mm of water.

So should the Disco encounter some particularly rough terrain, you’ll be singing Ain’t No Stopping Us Now at the top of your lungs.

And to the driving part.

The 2.0L turbo engine is plenty punchy, but it and the nine-speed transmission do not make a particularly happy union. In fact, they seem to work against each other. As it is with many modern multi-gear transmissions, this one is programmed for maximum fuel economy, keeping the engine revs low and showing a pathological resistance to downshifts. Which isn’t so bad when leisurely tooling about. But problems arise in the cut and thrust of city driving.

Since you’re rarely in the power band of this laggy four (the 2.0L turbo fours from BMW, Volvo and Audi are more linear in their power delivery), a quick prod on the throttle goes unanswered. Wait a couple of beats for the tranny to kick down and the boost to come up, and whoa, you’re surging forward on a wave of torque you didn’t really ask for. The 1-2 upshift is jerky, too. Not an easy vehicle to drive smoothly around town.

Coming soon is the new JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) in-house Ingenium engine, which will indubitably be better.

The Disco is an excellent highway cruiser, with great seats, laser-like tracking and commendably low levels of wind and engine noise. It has a settable speed-limit chime which you’d think in a four-cylinder SUV is kinda’ silly, but it actually pretty useful. It’s easy find yourself at 140 km/h without knowing it in this compact ute.

Like its Evoque kissing-cousin, the Discovery Sport handles adroitly. It is highly maneuverable and shows its stuff on a bendy back road. But also like the Evoque, the ride is on the choppy side, and with these optional 20-inch wheels there’s plenty of tire whapping and a whole lot of jostling on less than perfect surfaces.

This ute never really settles down. Might be best to stick with the standard 19-inch wheels.

There were also a number of persistent squeaks and buzzes within the cabin. I’m hoping this is an anomaly – or perhaps early production gremlins.

Official fuel consumption figures for the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport (L/100 km) are 11.9 city and 9.0 highway. I saw 12.4 after a few days of tooling around town, and on the highway it averaged 8.0.

Despite my drivetrain gripes, the 2015 Land Rover Discovery has plenty going for it. Along with its legendary off-road mojo, you’re getting high style, lots of interior space and the ability to carry seven people in a pinch. It’s nimble in town, entertaining on a secondary road, has the structure of a Brick House and is competitively priced when looking at similarly equipped products from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

My advice would be to steer clear of those 20-inch clod-hoppers. And leave your disco CDs at home.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Acura RDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3
Infiniti QX50
Lexus NX
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes-Benz GLK

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
articles_PricingType 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
Base Price $49,900
Optional Equipment Retractable cargo cover $150; climate front and heated rear seats $1250; 20-inch alloys $1500; 11-speaker audio $350; navigation $850
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,375
Price as Tested $55,475
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.2
9 Exterior Styling
7 Performance
7 Interior
6 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy