2015 Discovery Sport New Car Test Drive
The all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport is a premium compact SUV that delivers a unique blend of civility, utility and capability. When we drove one in Iceland, it felt like a shrunken Range Rover.
Land Rover's U.S. lineup includes both full-luxury Range Rovers and mid-luxury Land Rovers. The former are the aluminum-bodied Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and the sport compact (mostly steel-bodied) Range Rover Evoque. The latter are the old Land Rover LR2 and LR4 and this new 2015 Discovery Sport. Based on a version of the Evoque's platform, Discovery Sport will replace the LR2 after the 2015 model year, while the LR4 (Discovery elsewhere in the world) will soon be redesigned and renamed Discovery for North America as the second member of this new Discovery family.
It was a bold (and smart) strategic move for Land Rover to stage the global media launch of this very aptly named Discovery Sport in mid-January on the snow- and lava-crusted volcanic island of Iceland. With a population that could almost be contained in three sports arenas, Iceland sits just below the Arctic Circle northeast of Great Britain between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans.
Reykjavik, Iceland's capital and only major city, has a climate moderated by the Atlantic Gulf Stream, so it's not as bitter cold even in winter as its name implies (low-30s F while we were there in January). But its weather is notoriously unpredictable, and it can be brutal. Our arrival was delayed a full day by high winds that shut down its airport.
Despite such weather risk (and occasional volcanic eruptions), Iceland provided an ideal opportunity to fully comprehend this new 2015 Discovery Sport's high levels of capability and likeability. In a long, full day of piloting a well-equipped example through the city, on paved highways and over countless miles of narrow, lumpy, snowy, often icy, lava-stone trails over the frozen tundra (on studded winter tires), we grew quite fond of it. It looks exactly right for its mission, performed consistently well in such challenging conditions and kept us warm, safe and comfy even while plunging down a snow bank to ford a fast-moving stream, then clawing effortlessly up the opposite side.
Here are some key things to know about this 2015 Discovery Sport: It seats five in standard form or up to seven with an optional (child-only) fold-down third row. Its cabin is surprisingly roomy (at least for four or five occupants) for its compact exterior size, and its second-row seats slide fore-aft to maximize either leg- or cargo room. Also, its new eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system offers intuitive controls and expansive connectivity.
Its interior strikes a just-right balance between Range Rover plushness and Land Rover ruggedness, its features rival those of its more expensive Range Rover relatives, and the seats proved excellent for an all-day haul both on and off paved roads. Our only complaints: its surprisingly leg-roomy second seat seems achieved at the expense of some front-seat travel (long-legged front occupants will wish for more), and its sun visors when swung to the side don't slide rearward to cover more of the upper side windows.
Its 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder drives through a 9-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) and Haldex all-wheel drive. Its outstanding all-terrain capability is enhanced by off-road-optimized suspension geometry and Land Rover's Terrain Response system with General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, Sand and Dynamic modes. Its new multi-link rear suspension and electric power steering provide good on-road ride, response and agility. An available Autonomous Emergency Braking system can help avoid collisions.
In our long day of driving Discovery Sport HSE Lux model in conditions ranging from dry pavement to deep snow to sheet ice and even fast-flowing water, we found it well up to typical Land Rover capability, yet quieter (even on studded tires) and much more refined than the LR2 it will replace. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive were strong in mid-range response but a bit slow in launching from a stop and responding to kick-downs, probably due to a combination of turbo lag and transmission indecision.
The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport is offered in three trim levels: Discovery Sport SE ($37,070), Discovery Sport HSE ($41,570), and Discovery Sport HSE Lux ($45,470).