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.