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2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader October 2015

Although it debuts on an all-new unit-body platform, the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport carries a familiar and somewhat controversial name. A decade ago, Discovery owners would tell you that they loved their vehicle's upscale pedigree and incredible off-road ability, but its spotty reliability record was a sore spot for many. Years later, Land Rover and its designs have evolved significantly, enough so that the company feels confident that the Discovery name is the right choice to replace the aging (and unloved) LR2. From our short time behind the Discovery Sport's wheel, we'd have to agree.

Though it's smaller than the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, the Discovery Sport is still a capable compact luxury crossover, offering impressive levels of sophistication wrapped in a ruggedly handsome shell steeped in Land Rover DNA. Land Rover's Terrain Response system ensures the Discovery Sport can keep up with its better-known siblings, granting it access to places many luxury competitors dare not tread. Then again, Land Rover knows the majority of Discovery Sport owners will rarely venture far from the paved path, which is why the British automaker has endowed the Discovery Sport with a smooth ride, a powerful yet fuel-efficient engine, and impressive cornering and handling abilities.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 Discovery Sport is all new.

What We Like

Rugged styling; reasonable base price; excellent off-roading ability; more passenger-friendly interior than the Evoque

What We Don't

Interior lacks the elegance of some competitors; tiny third-row seat option; no diesel, hybrid or V6 engine option

How Much?

$37,995-$55,000

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Discovery Sport employs a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that's good for 240 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a 9-speed automatic transmission. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates for the Discovery Sport are a respectable 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

In keeping with the rest of the Land Rover line, the 2015 Discovery Sport is offered in three distinct trims: SE, HSE and HSE LUX.

The SE ($37,995) includes the Terrain Response all-wheel-drive system, partial leather seating, 8-way power driver and passenger seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, rear parking aid, keyless entry with push-button starting, Hill Descent Control, a 10-speaker audio system with an 8-in touchscreen and four USB charging ports (two in front and two in the rear).

Optional packages for the SE include the Climate Comfort package (heated front and rear seats, heated washer nozzles and a heated steering wheel), the Vision Assist package (front fog lights and HID headlights), the Convenience package (passive keyless access, a power tailgate and an auto-dimming rearview mirror) and the Third-Row Seating package (5+2 seating with rear-seat passthrough). Navigation, satellite radio and Land Rover's InControl app suite are stand-alone options.

The HSE ($42,495) adds a fixed panoramic glass moonroof, front and rear fog lights, HID headlights with LED surrounds, passive entry, front and rear parking sensors, a power rear lift gate, full leather seating, 10-way power front seats and 19-in wheels.

An optional Audio Upgrade package adds an 11-speaker audio system and HD Radio.

The HSE LUX ($46,495) brings premium Windsor leather seating, adjustable cabin mood lighting, an 11-speaker upgraded audio system and voice-activated navigation.

HSE trims offer upgraded versions of the Vision Assist package and Climate Comfort package that add climate-controlled front and rear seats, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view camera, automatic high beams and adaptive headlights. The Driver Assist Plus package adds autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning. Stand-alone options include park assist for both parallel and perpendicular parking, upgraded wheel packages, an ebony Morzine headliner, contrasting roof paint, InControl apps and InControl Remote and Protect.

Safety

The 2015 Discovery Sport is loaded with many advanced safety technologies, including front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, a driver's-knee airbag, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake lights and emergency brake assist, corner brake control, dynamic stability control, roll-stability control, trailer-stability assist, hill-start assist and hill-descent control.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Behind the Wheel

We sent Editor in Chief Brian Moody to test the Discovery Sport in Iceland's most rugged and isolated terrain, and we summarized his thoughts after his first encounter with the 2015 Discovery Sport: Driving through the Icelandic countryside impressed upon us that the off-road ability of the new baby Discovery is something that the company also got right. The Sport conquered deep snow, frozen roads and icy rivers with ease.

This newest Land Rover also includes the company's Terrain Response system, a driver-selectable program that monitors and adjusts such things as wheel speed and vehicle position. Basically, you select the terrain setting and the onboard systems do the rest, keeping you moving forward, straight and right-side-up. We've sampled this system before on a variety of vehicles in the California desert, the deep mud of the North Carolina woods and the snowdrifts of eastern Canada. In each instance, the Terrain Response system did its job perfectly.

In fairness, we should add that we had studded tires during the whole trip, as do most cars on the road during Iceland's winter. Studded tires won't keep you from getting stuck, but they do provide an extra bit of traction that a Discovery Sport wouldn't be able to manage with traditional street tires.

The Discovery Sport's power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. While that may not sound too impressive, the engine makes 240 hp and has more than enough spunk to get you through an Icelandic winter and provide a little fun when the weather and roads dry out.

Our only complaint is that the engine can be noisy at times. However, the cabin remains fairly quiet and the ride very smooth, which is surprising considering that we were running on those metal-spiked tires the whole time. If this is how good the vehicle sounds on studded tires on ice, the average American driver will be very pleased.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Audi Q5 -- The Q5 offers a more luxurious interior and more powerful engine options, but it also costs a few thousand dollars more than a comparably equipped Discovery Sport and doesn't offer a third-row seat option.

2015 Lexus NX -- The NX has a more distinctive exterior, better handling and more advanced audio and infotainment systems. We like its interior better, too. However, the NX cannot venture to off-road destinations attainable in the Discovery Sport.

2015 Lincoln MKC -- The MKC offers a sleek exterior and a more elegant interior than the Discovery Sport, plus its standard engine matches the Discovery Sport's hp and fuel economy (with optional all-wheel drive). Like the Lexus NX, the MKC doesn't offer a third-row seat, but its front-drive layout permits a lower base price.

Used BMW X5 -- A 2012-2014 BMW X5 offers more room, more power and better handling, plus better resale figures. You can find more upscale options on the X5, as well as a number of performance upgrades.

Autotrader's Advice

For the money, the SE with a few option packages will give you all the luxury you need in an off-road-capable luxury SUV. The HSE's fixed moonroof isn't a must-have, but the available driver-assist upgrades may be worth spending the extra cash for the upper-end trims.

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2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport: New Car Review - Autotrader