- Comfortable, quiet ride
- Roomy interior for five
- Decently off-road capable
- Land Rover style inside and out
- Too softly styled for a Land Rover?
- Third-row seat is a tease
- Active safety features are optional
- Gets expensive fast
Although it's not a working implement like the classic Land Rover Discovery, the quirky Discovery Sport has plenty of merits up against rivals in the entry-level luxury class.
Anchoring the Land Rover lineup should be a cakewalk of a job, especially given that there is routinely a waiting list to order the brand's Range Rover models. But it hasn't always been that easy, which is why Land Rover started from scratch with its Discovery Sport.
Available in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trim levels, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport largely succeeds on its mission to bring the brand's off-road hardware to the masses in the form of a three-row, entry-level luxury crossover. We rate it a 7.2 out of 10 overall based on its attractive appearance and excellent driving dynamics. It loses some points for its tight third row and middling fuel economy, however. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Discovery Sport replaced the LR2 in Land Rover's lineup a couple of years ago and, for Americans, it marked the revival of a nameplate that did well for the brand in the 1990s and early 2000s. Now, with the introduction of the Discovery (not Sport) that replaces the boxy LR4, Land Rover dealers are essentially divided into two parts: There's the Discovery division, with more family-oriented vehicles, and the Range Rover line, which aims to be as at home on a rutted trail as it is prowling the streets of Beverly Hills.
The Discovery Sport goes up against vehicles like the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, with one caveat: the Land Rover offers three rows of seats. But in our testing, it really counts as a five-seater since the third row is exceptionally tight.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport styling and performance
Some traditional Discovery cues are evident in the Sport, but only if you squint. It doesn't fully commit to either the upright-and-boxy or soft-and-carlike school of utility-vehicle design; rather, it mixes a lot of the attributes that make crossover utility vehicles so appealing, then adds just enough Land Rover ruggedness. It’s all about the stance, really. The Discovery Sport’s oversize wheels (relative to its small-midsize body) really fill out its wells, giving this crossover SUV a planted, secure look.
Inside, the Discovery Sport is unexpectedly serious and businesslike at first glance—with the horizontal dash and vertical center stack laid in with the stiffness of a T-square. But what might seem a little too stark and simple soon shows itself to be refreshingly straightforward, and an elegant contrast to the soft, contemporary exterior. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces where it matters, and the rotary shift controller, which rises from the center console on startup, is a nice centerpiece. For 2017, Land Rover's upgraded 10.2-inch infotainment system is a new addition to certain Discovery Sports.
The Discovery Sport owes some of its underpinnings to the Range Rover Evoque, which itself evolved from the LR2. But it's been stretched and pulled into a longer, wider form. It wears aluminum body panels, but not down to its core, which keeps both weight and costs lower.
Overall, the Discovery Sport performs and handles with a verve that’s characteristic of car-based crossovers, yet off-road chops are there when you need them. A 240 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 is smooth and strong here, and the paddle-shifted 9-speed automatic is a good companion for responsiveness, drivability, and gas mileage. The electric power steering loads up reassuringly, while the brakes have the subtlety required for off-road combined with the reassuring pedal feel needed for higher-speed stops. And its rear suspension design allows more wheel travel and a quieter, more absorbent (and less pitchy) ride than the LR2.
In its stock configuration, with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system that varies torque delivery between the front and rear wheels, the Discovery Sport is capable of a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds, and a top speed of 124 mph.Towing capability is 5,500 pounds, and the Discovery Sport includes Tow Hitch Assist, Tow Assist, and Trailer Stability Assist. And of course the off-road ability is there; even if many owners will seldom venture beyond snowy driveways and campsite two-tracks, the Discovery Sport offers the approach and departure angles of a more serious off-roader, and its Terrain Response system has normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand modes, along with a new dynamic mode. Each one provides the best settings for the conditions, affecting throttle sensitivity, transmission response, center-differential behavior, steering weighting, and stability systems. Through the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation at the individual wheels, the system can send torque to whichever wheel has the most traction, and up to 100 percent to either axle.
Land Rover Discovery Sport comfort, safety, and features
Land Rover actually sets expectations low for the seven seat arrangement, calling it a "5+2" configuration. For occasional child-shuttling, those optional seats are acceptable, but not for regular use or for long distance driving. Up front, the seats are supportive and comfortable, with a good driving position—although you don’t look over the hood in quite the same way as in most other Land Rover vehicles. And the second row is no compromise for adults; it slides fore and aft 6.3 inches, with reclining seat backs, although that does mean that you sacrifice a completely flat cargo floor for folding. Rest assured, there’s plenty of versatility and cargo space for gear and groceries. Land Rover also boasts that there are face-level air vents in all three rows, along with a USB charging port for every passenger—including in the third row.
In retiring the LR2 badge and stepping up to the Discovery Sport, Land Rover seizes the opportunity to quite extensively upgrade this model’s safety kit to meet today’s higher expectations. Most notably, the optional automatic emergency system uses stereo cameras to help detect objects and will brake to reduce impact or avoid an accident completely, but it's only optional on the HSE and HSE Luxury trims. The Sport offers lane-departure warning systems, parking assist with perpendicular parking, trailer-sway control, and automatic headlights.
EPA ratings land at 20 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined for the Sport—not bad numbers at all considering it offers a third-row seat good enough for kids.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery Sport clearly fits into the Land Rover lineup.
You're not alone in still picturing Land Rovers as boxy, angular, and upright, but the Discovery Sport doesn't fit any of those adjectives.
It's softer, but not quite like its rivals that could simply be station wagons with tall bodies. Instead, myriad modern Land Rover cues help make it look and feel like a proper modern Rover, and it hardly looks out of place sharing showroom space with Range Rovers costing three or four times as much.
We give it a 7 overall, based on its above-average interior and exterior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
It’s all about the stance, really. The Discovery Sport’s oversize wheels (relative to its perky body) fill out the wheel wells to give it a planted, secure look, the kind of style that resonates with buyers. But ultimately its body sculpting is smooth and not chiseled, giving it a soft detail that works in an urban environment. The thin strips of honeycombed grille, clamshell-style hood, integral skid plates, and the keyed headlights connect it with the Range Rover lineup. The way the roofline pulls over the rear pillars is an unusual link to athletic gear, ending in a stubby tailgate spoiler as it does. It looks almost like a hat worn backwards, if you will.
Viewed from the side, the Discovery Sport looks more generic and rakish, certainly nothing like the barn door-like 1990s Discovery with which it shares its nameplate.
On the other hand, there’s no indication that it’s gone all soft. You can’t ignore the short overhangs, skid plates, and rugged wheel lips. It's almost as if The North Face decided to start making suits.
For 2017, a new Dynamic Design Package includes its own front and rear bumpers, integrated rear tailpipes, glossy black 20-inch alloy wheels, and, as you may expect, black design cues inside and out.
Inside, the design looks and feels serious and businesslike at first glance—with the horizontal dash and vertical center stack laid in with the stiffness of a T-square. But what might seem a little too stark and simple soon shows itself to be refreshingly straightforward, and an elegant contrast to the soft, contemporary exterior.
All the knobs and dials have soft-touch surfaces where it matters. The dash cap is nearly flat once it passed over the binnacle of gauges. The center console intersects it in a perfect pair of chrome uprights. Climate controls are the same LCD-capped knobs that work so well in the Jaguar F-Type.
The front console has an electric parking brake as well as a single main control item—the electric-car-like rotary controller that rises to the shifting occasion from its piano-black surround.
A new 10.2-inch infotainment screen is optional on HSE and HSE Luxury trim levels, and while its graphics are especially nice, it requires adding a number of other features that really boost this crossover's list price.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Quick and fairly fuel efficient, the Discovery Sport is remarkably off-road capable.
Land Rover has managed to blend off-road ability with on-road tenacity like no other brand, and the Discovery Sport proves that just because it's the entry point to the lineup doesn't mean that its abilities have been sacrificed.
We rate the Discovery Sport an 8 out of 10 based on its competent road manners and its above average off-road capability. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like the Range Rover Evoque on which it's based, the Discovery Sport depends on turbocharging for its power. The sole powertrain combination for the Discovery Sport is a 240 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with direct injection. It's mated to a paddle-shifted 9-speed automatic, which can launch in second gear for smoothness and can skip gears if necessary. All Disco Sports are exclusively four-wheel drive in the United States, although some markets get a borderline sacrilegious front-wheel drive option.
Altogether, it’s responsive and confident, with a peak 251 pound-feet of torque reached at just 1,750 rpm, it’s a stocky engine that’s as well suited to highway passing as it is to trundling along on the trail.
Zero-to-60 sprints come in a hair under 8 seconds, which certainly isn't fast these days, but the broad torque curve helps the Discovery Sport feel peppier than it actually is. Although the 9-speed automatic can be a little busy as it sorts through gears, unless you stab hard at the throttle and coax it to skip cogs, it is mostly unobtrusive. Early Discovery Sports seemed to be more afflicted by transmission quirks than some of the newer ones we have driven, leading us to believe that some software updates by the British automaker have helped out this gearbox quite a bit.
The Discovery Sport's Haldex all-wheel-drive system varies torque delivery between the front and rear wheels at all times. Land Rover has long been analogous with off-road ability, and the Sport offers rock-crawling chops when needed. The suspension system allows for more travel and controlled rebound than in the LR2 and the Evoque, but you're really relying on the traction control system with its various modes to transfer power between wheels here. It's not traditional off-roading, but the Discovery Sport will scrabble up a rocky road with minimal fuss. Just watch out for its rubber band-like tire side walls, which can easily be pinched on a rocky road.
The Discovery Sport offers approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees, along with 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a wading depth of nearly 24 inches. The maximum tilt angle and gradient angle are 27 and 45 degrees, respectively—all of which translates to a very capable vehicle for clambering off the pavement and over terrain.
To help with that, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system has normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand modes, along with a new dynamic mode. Each one provides the best settings for the conditions, affecting throttle sensitivity, transmission response, center-differential behavior, steering weighting, and stability systems. Through the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation at the individual wheels, the system can send torque to whichever wheel has the most traction, and up to 100 percent to either axle.
In an early drive on some steep, snow-and-ice-covered trails that challenged the Discovery Sport’s angles, ground clearance, and traction systems, we found this vehicle to be not just very capable, but very easy to drive off-road. Through the Terrain Response settings and coordinated systems, the rugged-terrain ability is there, but not in the way the other 99 percent of the time.
Towing capability is 5,500 pounds, and the Discovery Sport includes tow hitch assist, trailer sway control and assist features.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Comfort & Quality
The Discovery Sport is a three-row crossover in name only.
Viewed as a five-passenger crossover, the Discovery Sport performs well—but Land Rover's 5+2 designation is awfully ambitious, serving as a distraction more than a benefit.
We're not convinced that it makes a great hauler for a big family, but for those who want a comfortable, fairly premium crossover, the Discovery Sport rates a solid 6 out of 10. We gave it a point for its comfortable rear seat and another for its front row, but subtracted one for its essentially useless third row. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Discovery Sport stretches a little under four inches longer than its LR2 predecessor, so it offers better space inside for the front two rows. Drivers and second row passengers sit up high, with a commanding view of the road ahead that pales in comparison only to the brand's positively big rig-like Range Rovers. The second row sits even higher than the front row, a stadium seating design that has long been a part of Land Rover's brand identity. That second row slides on a 6.3-inch track, allowing for lots of leg room and just enough head room.
The third-row seat, is a modestly priced stand-alone option on all Discovery Sport models, and is purposely downplayed as a "plus two" because it’s very small and not all that padded. It folds up from the cargo floor and has an even higher seating position than the second row—which would be the limiting factor for most adults, even if they were willing to fold their legs for a short trip.
A choice of a pair of different consoles, one with a storage section covered by a roller cover, the other with a sliding armrest and removable cupholders that can be ditched in favor of a 2-liter bottle or enough space for a camera or small purse, sit between driver and passenger. Land Rover also boasts that there are face-level air vents in all three rows, along with a USB charging port for every passenger—including in the third row, albeit at a small extra cost.
Standard leather trim inside brightens the mood, but it takes opting for the HSE and HSE Luxury to net Land Rover's fancier infotainment system, as well as a more premium hide covering for the seats. There's plenty of hard plastic, but it's mostly hidden away. Only at the upper end of the lineup does the Discovery Sport start to feel a little outclassed by rivals.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
There's a lot of safety tech on board, but the Discovery Sport hasn't been tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA.
We can't assign the 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport a safety score since it hasn't been tested by either agency—the IIHS or the NHTSA.
And neither the related Range Rover Evoque nor the Disco Sport’s predecessor, the LR2, were rated in the U.S., so there’s a distinct lack of safety information. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Still, the European NCAP assessment for this model was positive, and there's a lot of standard safety tech. All models have a full roster of airbags, including knee airbags, and a standard backup camera.
HSE and HSE Luxury models are available with automatic emergency braking that can bring this SUV to a complete halt at speeds under 32 mph in certain circumstances. A lane departure warning system and parking assist with perpendicular parking are optional, as is a trailer sway control system.
All models offer above average visibility thanks to the high seating position afforded to the driver and relatively thin roof pillars. That said, the third row restricts rearward visibility when it is deployed, although that's pretty normal for a three-row vehicle.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
A great warranty and lots of options make the Discovery Sport feel truly special.
Land Rover offers the Discovery Sport in three basic flavors, each of which can be customized with a host of trim packages, individual options, and even interior and exterior colors.
Add to that a 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty and a complimentary off-road lesson included with a new Land Rover purchase, and the Discovery Sport scores a 9 out of 10 for its features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The lineup begins with the SE, at around $38,500. It's fairly well-equipped from the get-go, with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather trim on its 8-way power seats, a 10-speaker audio system, an app-based infotainment system with an 8-inch screen, backup sensors, and a rearview camera.
A wide variety of options and packages are on offer, including Xenon headlamps, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a proximity key, a power tailgate that can be opened with a swipe of a foot under the rear bumper, ambient mood lighting, and a Meridian audio system. Several appearance packages are also available and each includes special alloy wheels.
The HSE builds on the SE with 10-way power seats wrapped in a higher grade of leather, a fixed glass roof, Xenon headlamps, front parking sensors, a power tailgate, and a proximity key. Like the SE, a bunch of option packages are available. The Driver Assist Plus Pack is worth noting since it includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and navigation for a reasonable $1,100. The Entertainment Pack adds to that a 16-speaker audio system, navigation, and the brand's new 10.2-inch infotainment system.
On-road enthusiasts should look to the Intelligent Dynamics Pack since it includes a mode that tightens up the suspension and steering for better handling on curvy pavement.
Finally, the HSE Luxury tops the lineup with high-grade leather seats finished with a special diamond pattern, navigation, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a few exclusive styling items. It offers many of the same packages as the HSE, but its price can quickly climb above $60,000—a hefty sum.
All models can be fitted with a variety of exterior shades, including contrasting roof paint colors, but watch pricing closely as some paints are quite expensive. Interior colors likewise range the gamut, with the SE offering just a handful of colors—but the HSE Luxury can be customized considerably. And then there's the tight third row of seats, which can be added to any model for $1,750.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Although fairly thrifty for its class, the Discovery Sport requires premium fuel.
The Discovery Sport improves substantially on its rather thirsty predecessor, but we're still waiting for the long-promised turbodiesel to make the Discovery Sport more competitive in its segment.
As it is, all Discovery Sports come in at 20 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined, figures that earn it a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Discovery Sport uses aluminum for its hood, roof, and tailgate, and 20 percent (by weight) of its body structure is made of high-strength or Boron steel. In all, it weighs about 150 pounds less than its predecessor, which helps improve those figures a bit.
Engine stop-start is also included in the Discovery Sport, and it works whether you’re in the Eco Mode or not, once you get the engine heated up and the conditions are right, so that should help boost mileage during urban and stop-and-go driving. We have found the stop-start system to be smoother than other systems from Jaguar Land Rover.