A Freelander no more, the Discovery Sport takes it up a notch.
With the mid-size SUV market hotter than ever before, Land Rover’s Freelander was getting a little long in the tooth. By the time it bowed out, it had an outdated interior, borderline-unacceptable handling characteristics, and engines that didn’t cut the mustard. Reinvention is what saved the Land Rover brand before, so they took that approach to the Freelander, and killed the name entirely.
Rather than abandon the segment, the Discovery Sport was born. Sitting on the same platform as the Evoque, the Discovery Sport offered up to 7-seats, the latest cabin design from the brand, and a driving experience that addressed the shortcomings of the Freelander entirely. The DiscoSport felt like a Freelander that had grown up, and we reckon that’s the best way to describe it. It’s still practical and capable, and can handle the rough stuff better than its competitors. It’s still a Land Rover, just one for the 21st-century.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is available in our market in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trim levels, with prices starting at $56,355 and rising to $72,740.
“You only have to glance at the Discovery Sport to confirm it’s a Land Rover…” - AutoExpress
Possibly by accident, the Range Rover Evoque brought about massive design changes for the brand. So successful was the baby Range Rover that the parent company thought it best to apply the same recipe they used with the Evoque to the rest of the range, and boy did they apply it. Despite its obvious inspiration, the DiscoSport will never be mistaken for anything else. It takes modern Land Rover design signatures and toys with it just enough to make it unique, without losing its heritage.
While the Evoque prioritises style, the DiscoSport has its eyes sit firmly on utility, and its design reflects that focus. The rear suspension has been revised to make room for the 7-seater option, while the short overhangs give the baby Disco impressive approach and departure angles. The ‘crosshair’ light signatures are present on the front and rear, differentiating it from the rest of the range. There are ‘floating’ C-pillars replete with ‘Land Rover’ badging, and in a concession to utility, the front and rear plastic skid plates can be removed for improved approach/departure angles.
Overall though, the DiscoSport looks sharp and polished, and slots in nicely into the rest of the Land Rover range. And now that the bigger Discovery has been redesigned, the Discovery Sport looks even more coherent in the lineup.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Ideally, the higher-output SD4 engine with the auto’ transmission is the pick of the bunch with 140kW and 420Nm of torque and uses 6.1-6.3L of diesel per 100km…” - CarAdvice
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is offered with only two engines: The fan-favourite 2.0-litre turbodiesel (in either 110kW or 132kW guide), and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, good for 177kW of power. All engines are paired with a 9-speed automatic gearbox, commended for its smooth shifts and economy-focused character.
As for the engines themselves, while the 2.0-litre petrol provides decent guts, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel is definitely the star here. It’s powerful and efficient, and provides all of its 430Nm of shove from just 1750rpm. That excellent gearbox also keeps the revs in the torque band for as much as possible, ensuring smooth progress out on the motorway as well as in the urban snarl.
“It doesn’t feel quite as solidly built or as well finished as some of its fellow upmarket SUVs, though…” - WhatCar
Like the exterior, the cabin of the Discovery Sport is very predictably Land Rover. There’s a high-mounted touchscreen infotainment unit that comes standard with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a strong sound system. A Meridian audio setup is available higher up in the range, though we reckon standard fare here is plenty good enough. Tech aside, the aesthetics here are more than pleasing, with a dashboard that looks and feels like a slightly watered down Evoque, likely a concession made to ensure that the junior Range Rover isn’t challenged too much.
You sit high in a Discovery Sport, commanding a driving position that will remind you immediately that this is a Land Rover after all. The seats are comfortable all the way round the cabin, sans the two extra seats in the rear (a cost-option) which are only really suitable for children. Practicality here is good too, with smart underfloor storage and second-row seats that slide backwards and forwards. You’ll be hard pressed to find something better, though admittedly rivals like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC have plusher cabins with a little more pizzaz to them.
Behind the Wheel
“The Discovery Sport can be threaded along with the kind of linear delicacy rarely accorded to hatches, let alone SUVs.” - Autocar
Climbing behind the wheel of something with a Land Rover badge tempers expectations somewhat, likely due to decades of building cars that go well off-road, but only just about cut the mustard on road. The Discovery Sport couldn’t be further than that, though. The ride and handling here is a great example of just what Land Rover is capable of now. The steering is direct (though not communicative), and body roll is kept in check. As a result, the Discovery Sport no longer feels like the agricultural tractor that old Land Rovers used to be likened to. It lives up to the ‘Sport’ suffix on its rump.
The Discovery Sport can handle a spirited drive down a back road, and it can also hold its own off road. This Land Rover hasn’t forgotten its roots, and with a little help from the ‘Terrain Response’ system, it does the badge proud. You’re not likely to get bogged down in one of these, though its capabilities (naturally) don’t match those of the bigger Discovery. And on the motorway, the Discovery Sport is composed and refined, the way any luxury SUV ought to be.
Safety & Technology
“A five-star crash-test rating and solid build quality means the Land Rover Discovery Sport should be easy to live with.” - CarBuyer
If you thought that design and aesthetic were the only places where Land Rover upped their game, think again. The Discovery Sport is no old Landy no matter where you look. There’s the standard 8.0-inch central infotainment display right in the middle of the dash, with shortcut buttons to aid navigating the system. There’s autonomous emergency braking (at speeds of up to 80km/h), and the usual host of airbags includes one in the bonnet for pedestrian safety. Top-spec cars get a Meridian audio system too, and is worth the premium if high-fidelity audio is your thing.
A unique feature in the Discovery Sport is the ‘Terrain Response’ system that comes as standard across the board. Terrain Response alters the steering, throttle, traction control, and suspension responses based on the surface that the car is travelling over. This allows the DiscoSport to traverse the sort of terrain that would leave other ‘soft-roaders’ for dead, though the outright capabilities are outdone by bigger Land Rover stablemates.
Must-have options include blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and for the ultimate breadth of ability, the adaptive dynamic suspension which will polish the drive further while remaining comfortable and composed through the urban crawl.
Where the Freelander was conceived as a way to get more people to join the Land Rover family, the Discovery Sport of today makes a compelling argument for itself, and will likely steal sales from its competitors without too much fuss. Sure, the Ingenium diesel engines may be somewhat off the pace, but you rarely buy family wagons like the DiscoSport for outright performance. And in terms of everyday usability, it’s a tough proposition to beat. Add that to the prestige that comes with a Land Rover badge, and suddenly you’re left wondering why more people aren’t buying in.
Our pick of the range is the HSE diesel, with either five or seven seats depending on your needs. The higher-powered diesel engine in this trim level will provide all the performance, refinement, and outright ability that would ever really be needed from an SUV of this nature, and the fuel economy will likely offset the initial outlay very quickly.
CarAdvice - 8.6/10 - “The Land Rover Discovery Sport takes everything we’ve come to expect of the British brand’s big luxury SUV and shrinks it into a more city-friendly package.”
CarsGuide - 4/5 - “The latest Land Rover is a discovery process for the brand and for its buyers. The versatile Discovery Sport typifies the brand’s resurgence and, off-road, leaves the German rivals behind.”
AutoExpress - 5/5 - “We crowned the Land Rover Discovery Sport the Best Compact SUV in our 2015 New Car Awards. And with cool looks, a smart interior, seven-seat versatility and fine driving dynamics, the Brit has it all.”
WhatCar - 4/5 - “The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a cleverly packaged SUV with the option of seven seats that's good to drive, comfortable and surprisingly affordable.”
TopGear - 9/10 - “Close to perfection, and the new TD4 'Ingenium' engine may just have delivered it.”
Autocar - 4/5 - “The rich seam of desirability that Land Rover tapped with the Evoque is readily apparent – not just in how it looks but also how it drives. It's another convincing Land Rover with lots of handling finesse, style and capability.”
Car Magazine - 4/5 - "This is a typically polished modern Land Rover, blending the sophistication of the Range Rover Evoque with some family friendliness of the full-fat Discovery namesake. Which sounds like a good mix to us. It’s a very versatile interior… It drives well, too.”
Carbuyer - 4/5 - "The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a family-friendly SUV that’s hugely capable and surprisingly good value for money."