Like its British brethren, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is not without its faults: poor reliability scores, many known issues, lackluster on-road performance. However, it offers some class-exclusive capabilities including wading ability, a third row, and serious off-road chops. The picture-perfect exterior, badge panache, and Land Rover refinement make a compelling argument for the Brit’s character. We can understand why nearly half a million Americans agree and buy the Discovery Sport anyway.
No one expects the Land Rover badge to offer exceptional value, at least in the traditional sense. However, the Disco Sport does arrive priced a few thousand lower than its main German Rivals. For that money, you get a compact luxury SUV that’s actually quite qualified to tackle difficult terrain. There aren’t any other compact luxury SUVs that can make this claim. For those who need these capabilities, the Discovery Sport’s traits may outweigh any other perceived shortcomings. Then there’s the issue of a badge. The Land Rover brand is a prestigious one and this is its most affordable entry. Many are willing to put up with imperfections for an SUV with a higher pedigree.
The lone power plant available in the Disco Sport is a 2 Liter turbocharged and intercooled inline 4 cylinder that produces 240 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 251 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 revs. Respectable numbers but not enough to motivate the two-ton SUV with the zest of its competitors.
The ZF nine-speed automatic transmission doesn’t do performance any favors, it often hesitates to find the proper gear and delivers power with a sudden burst. The Disco Sport’s throttle is difficult to modulate smoothly.
The suspension and chassis, in contrast, are some of the best in the segment. We wouldn’t call the ride firm or sportier but suspension handles anything the roads, or trails for that matter, through at you. The sturdy steel unibody chassis construction isolates the cabin thoroughly from wind and road noise.
The Discovery Sport packs the brand’s off-road accouterments to make this the most capable compact luxury SUV off the road. It can even wade up to almost two feet of water. Even though there’s no low-speed transfer case, the Disco Sport can scale technical rock hills without much fuss. A feature we’re sure many owners won’t take advantage of but it’s nice to know those capabilities are available.
If you’re willing to sacrifice on-road performance for Land Rover toughness, style, and comfort, the Discovery Sport isn’t a bad choice. If you plan to stick to paved roads, some competitors are better equipped for the task at a comparable price.
The interior is not as nice as we’ve come to expect from Land Rover. At first glance, the soft touch dash and brushed aluminum inlays are nice, and the rising shift knob exciting.
Once you consider the price and compare it to German rivals, the interior strikes us as ordinary. There’s a lot of hard plastic if you look around for it and the neoprene trim materials come off as cheap in an SUV you’d expect to have loads of leather.
The front seats aren’t what you’d expect either, they’re short on comfort and smaller than typically found in the brand’s SUVs. The rear seats buck this trend and are actually more comfortable than the front seats with ample leg and headroom, one of the best second rows in the class. The second row slides and reclines to find an optimal seating position, to tall passengers’ delight.
As far as we know, it’s the only compact luxury SUV available with a third row, which costs an additional $1,750. This could prove useful for families who ferry small children. Land Rover’s InControl infotainment system is well-designed but can be slow to respond at times and disconnects for seemingly no reason.
A strength of this compact SUV is its impressive cargo capacity despite its size, with up to 60 cubes with rear seats folded and 32.7 cubic feet behind the second row. Though there’s no denying the cabin is a nice place to be, we expect more refinement for an SUV that can easily beg for close $50,000 of your dollars. Money that can easily fetch a highly refined and optioned German rival. On the upside, you may not worry about getting this interior dirty since the simple design makes it easy to clean.
The baby Land Rover makes a big impression. It resembles a scaled down version of the Range Rover Sport and larger Discovery. That’s a good thing because both are quite attractive SUVs. The front grille is a smaller homage to large Rovers, while the headlamp and taillamp designs are unique to the Discovery Sport. The sloping roofline is finished with a large spoiler, giving the Disco Sport an aggressive appearance, further enhanced by the dual exhaust and skid plates.
The available Black Design packages offer additional attitude by painting the mirrors, wheels, and body trim Gloss Black. It looks especially appealing when complemented by contrasting Glacier White. Though the exterior design is largely a matter of personal preference, we think most will agree that this one of the better-looking compact SUVs on the market.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has performed crash testing on the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Fortunately, ANCAP, Australia’s NHTSA equivalent, has tested the Discovery Sport. They offer a 5-star overall rating, including a high 82% rating for the optional Safety Assist technology. They note the standard inclusion of dual frontal, driver knee, side chest, and side head airbags standard. They rate the Emergency Brake Assist and traction control systems highly.
ANCAP classifies vehicles with 5-star ratings as vehicles that provide Good protection for the head and acceptable ratings on lower legs and chest. This means there is no likelihood of life-threatening injuries from the dummy kinematics report. Given this information, we think the Discovery Sport provides a high level of safety.
The Discovery Sport receives deserved low predicted reliability ratings from the major players. It’s understandable why, as the Discovery Sport has several recalls and Technical Service Bulletins on its NHTSA record. There are 570 of latter for the 2015 year model for several known issues with the engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, steering, and all kinds of electrical systems.
There are hundreds of “electrical gremlins,” squeaks, rattles, and minor issues that plague these compact SUVs. Still, there are fewer than 30 complaints filed with the NHTSA. That’s low for the number of units sold, almost 200,000 in the US alone in 2016. We suspect many Discovery Sport models are still under warranty and have had many of the issues addressed by dealerships at no cost to the owner.
As more hit the used market, we’re sure these complaint figures will increase. We would avoid purchasing an out of warranty Discovery Sport, as these repair bills are costly. If you want to buy this SUV, we’d recommend you consider leasing or purchasing new.
There isn’t a true “luxury” competitor to the Disco Sport but we think a well-trimmed Grand Cherokee is a skillful surrogate. A Limited 4x4 has an MSRP of $39,995 and typical incentives put the base price below the Discovery Sport SE trim.
The standard configuration is a 3.6 Liter 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing paired with a ZF 8-speed automatic. The duo provides a smoother, more capable powerband that’s quicker to respond without being less efficient. A 5.7 Liter Hemi V8 is available for $3,295 more if you really want some ponies.
The ZF 8-speed is not without its complaints like slow shifting, slow response when using paddle shifters, and occasionally stumbling. However, the general consensus states it’s superior to that found in the Discovery Sport which is also the same used in the smaller Jeep Cherokee and receives similar charge. The standard Quadra-Trac II suspension and traction management system is every bit as capable as the Discovery Sport’s.
If you option out the Land Rover, the Grand Cherokee's starts to make even more sense. With a base price of $50,495, the Grand Cherokee Summit provides considerably more value than the Disco Sport. You get an immaculate, dare we say, “Range Rover” like interior with quilt-stitched leather, ventilated seats, CommandView Dual-Pane sunroof, Bi-Xenon HIDs, and Quadra-lift air suspension. Additionally, JEEP’s Active Safety Group is standard, which includes Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop, LaneSense departure warning with lane keep assist, and Advanced Brake Assist.
Some of these features, like air suspension, aren’t even available in the Discovery Sport. Equipping the Rover with similar safety features alone can total in well over 50k. For the money, you get an interior that’s far superior with a simpler infotainment system, more off-road capability, greater towing capacity, and a better all-around SUV that only lacks in badge appeal.
We’d obviously recommend the Grand Cherokee as a better buy but we won’t fault you for choosing the endearing little Land Rover, that makes up for much with a certain British charm.
The Discovery Sport SE starts from $37,695 with a turbocharged inline 4 cylinder mated to a 9-speed automatic that powers a 4 Wheel Drive system. Standard drivetrain features are Terrain Response, Hill Descent Control, Efficient Driveline, Electronic Traction Control, Electric Power Assisted Steering, Hill Start Assist, Roll Stability Control, Dynamic Stability Control, McPherson front strut suspension, and Integral coil spring rear suspension. An Anti-Lock Braking System complements the Electric Parking Brake, Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Trailer Stability Assist. Interior features include anchor points in cargo area with 12 volt power point, switch operated interior lighting, push-button start, and partial leather seats with power 8-way front seats. For your convenience, cruise control is standard, as are rear parking sensors, a rear view camera, two-zone climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated rear screen, overhead console with sunglasses storage, rear loadspace light, overhead grab handles, Eco Data, Eco Mode, five inch color TFT driver information center, eight-inch Land Rover InControl infotainment system with Remote and Protect, USB charging only, Media USB port, Auxiliary port, 2 2nd row USB charging ports, and 10 speaker Land Rover audio system with Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity.
On the outside, automatic headlamps are included, along with daytime running lamps, rear fog lamps, power folding heated door mirrors with approach lights, 18 inch 9 spoke ‘Style 109’ wheels in Sparkle Silver, and rain sensing wipers. Under heavy braking, hazard lights will automatically come on. Xenon headlights can be equipped along with fog lights by purchasing the $800 Vision Assist Pack. A black or grey contrasting roof costs $400. 2 rear seats can be added as part of the Row 3 Pack that runs $1,750. The $1,300 Cold Climate Pack equips a heated front windshield, heated steering wheel, and heated front and rear seats. The Convenience Pack installs Passive Entry, a Powered Gesture Tailgate, auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, and HomeLink transceiver for $1,100. The Black Design Pack costs $1,400 and provides Black Exterior accents, Black contrast roof, and 19 inch 5 split-spoke ‘Style 521’ wheels with Gloss Black finish. A $700 Black design Pack adds Black exterior accents and 18 inch 5 split-spoke ‘Style 511’ wheels with Gloss Black finish. A $900 dollar version of this same package adds a black roof. The Audio Upgrade Pack adds the 380W Meridian sound system, SiriusXM, and HD Radio for $800. A Head-Up Display can be installed for $1,000.
The $42,195 HSE trim equips Xenon headlights with LED signature, front and rear fog lights, Fixed Panoramic roof, grained leather seating, front and rear parking sensors, different wheels, passive entry, and a powered tailgate. The Complete Dynamic Design Pack adds a Dynamic Exterior, Dynamic Interior, Black exterior accents, and 20 inch 5 split-spoke ‘Style 511’ wheels with Gloss Black finish. The Vision Assist Pack costs $1,900 and provides Adaptive Xenon headlights with LED signature, Surround Camera System, Automatic High Beam Assist, and Blind Spot Monitor with Reverse Traffic Detection. The Cold Climate Pack provides heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and heated front windshield for $1,600. 2 rear seats can be installed with the $1,750 Row 3 Pack. An $1,100 dollar Driver Assist Plus Pack equips Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, and an InControl Touch Navigation System. The Entertainment Pack provides an 825 Watt Meridian Digital Surround System with 16 speakers and subwoofer, and InControl Touch Pro Navigation and Services for $3,000. The same Black Design Packs are available, with the addition of a 20 inch wheel package with contrast roof for $2,000 and without contrast roof for $1,700. An Intelligent Dynamics Pack equips an Active Driveline that seamlessly switches between 2WD and 4WD and Adaptive Dynamics that equips MagneRide electronically controlled suspension dampers. The 380 Watt Meridian system costs $800 with the Audio Upgrade Pack. A HUD & Park Assist Pack adds its namesake for $1,800. A Lane Keep Assist and Driver Fatigue Package costs $375 but can’t be added if the Driver Assist Plus Pack.
The HSE Luxury adds a Meridian Audio system with 10 speakers and subwoofer, Windsor Leather seating, configurable mood lighting, front and rear premium carpet mats, 19 inch nine-spoke ‘Style 902’ wheels with Diamond Turned finish, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, and InControl Touch Navigation System with InControl Apps. Other features include auto-dimming interior mirror, air quality sensing climate control, HomeLink, and a powered gesture tailgate. The $3,800 Complete Dynamic Design Pack installs the Dynamic Exterior bodywork, the HSE Lux Dynamic Interior Design, Gloss Black exterior accents, and 20 inch 5 split-spoke ‘Style 511’ wheels finished in Gloss Black. The Vision Assist Pack runs $1,900 for Adaptive Xenon headlights with LED signature, Surround Camera System, Automatic High Beam Assist, and Blind Spot Monitor with Reverse Traffic Detection. The Cold Climate Pack equips heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and heated front windshield at a price of $1,600. The $1,750 Row 3 Pack adds two additional rear seats. The Driver Assist Plus Pack equips Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, and Traffic Sign Recognition for $400. The Entertainment Pack installs 825 Watt Meridian Digital Surround System with 16 speakers and subwoofer, and InControl Touch Pro Navigation and Services for $3,000. Only the 19 inch and 20 inch wheel-based Black Design Packages are available on this trim. The Lane Keep Assist and Driver Fatigue package are still available with the same caveat. Lastly, the HUD and Park Assist are available for $1,800.