Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2015 Land Rover LR2 review and the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport review. 2015 was the last production year of the Land Rover LR2 for the U.S.
The Land Rover lineup is adding a new model this year. It’s called the Discovery Sport, and it joins the 2015 Land Rover LR2 and the larger LR4 in the famed luxury SUV manufacturer’s growing product array. If you’re interested in a new Land Rover, it won’t take you long to notice that the Discovery Sport is about the same size as the LR2, which has been available since the 2008 model year. Although we expect the Discovery Sport to eventually replace the LR2, the two models are being sold alongside one another for now. But what makes them distinct from each other? More importantly, which one should you buy?
On the outside, there’s no mistaking the LR2 for the Discovery Sport. Where the LR2 offers boxy styling and something of an outdated, trucklike look, the Discovery Sport is round, curvy, modern and almost futuristic if you get the right wheels and exterior accents. The two SUVs are totally different in front, back and even in profile, where the LR2’s boxy styling makes it seem more capable compared to the Discovery Sport’s rounded look, which is more traditional to modern crossovers. In essence, consider the Discovery Sport to be the new kid on the block, while the LR2 is one of the last remaining examples of the old-school Land Rover look.
Interestingly, neither the LR2 nor the Discovery Sport offers a particularly stylish interior. We’re surprised at how somber and simple these SUVs’ dashboards and cabins look, considering how much style and luxury Land Rover puts into the interiors of its high-end Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. Still, there’s no doubt that the Discovery Sport’s interior is better. It offers nicer materials, a more modern look and feel and the latest Land Rover features, such as the brand’s new steering wheel and the rising circular gear lever.
Another big interior difference between the LR2 and the Discovery Sport is that, although their cabins offer similar interior room, only the Discovery Sport boasts an available third-row seat. That alone may be enough for many family-focused drivers to end up firmly entrenched in the Discovery Sport camp.
Both the Discovery Sport and the LR2 offer the same powerplant: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Additionally, both models come standard with all-wheel drive. But while the LR2 must make do with a 6-speed automatic, the Discovery Sport boasts an impressive new 9-speed that improves acceleration and fuel economy.
The result is that the Discovery Sport touts up to 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the LR2 must settle for a mediocre 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. If you think it’s odd that the Discovery Sport, which is larger both inside and out, boasts such better gas mileage, consider it another example of the Discovery Sport showing off its more modern design.
Features & Technology
As you might expect given that 7 model years separate the arrival of the aging LR2 from the all-new Discovery Sport, the newest member of the Land Rover family boasts some major upgrades over its older stablemate.
The biggest technology gap relates to safety features. While the Discovery Sport offers many modern items, including rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and frontal-collision warning with automatic braking, the LR2 offers only the basics: side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. The Discovery Sport also holds some convenience features over the LR2, including a power lift gate, an automatic parking system and smartphone-app integration for the infotainment system. Simply put, when it comes to technology, the Discovery Sport is ahead of the curve, while the LR2 feels like a dinosaur struggling to keep up.
Although you might expect the Discovery Sport to dramatically outshine the older LR2 in terms of on-road performance, we didn’t find that to be the case. That’s not to say that the Discovery Sport feels old. On the contrary, we happen to enjoy the LR2’s driving experience; it’s smooth, comfortable and surefooted. And since both SUVs use the same engine, performance is relatively similar, though we admit that the Discovery Sport is a little more spirited, likely a result of its new 9-speed automatic transmission.
We also had a chance to sample the Discovery Sport in Iceland, where we learned that Land Rover is serious about making the SUV just as capable off the pavement as it is on the highway. After all, it includes Land Rover’s excellent Terrain Response system as standard equipment. But the LR2 also boasts Terrain Response and seems just as capable off-road as the Discovery Sport, so we’ll have to call driving experience roughly a tie. That’s not what we expected when comparing the latest and greatest to the model it’ll soon replace.
Due to its low production volume, the LR2 was not tested for crash safety by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Likewise, it wasn’t tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We’re hoping that the Discovery Sport is tested by at least one of these agencies given the likely boost in popularity that’ll accompany its new design, as well as the family-car nature of its 3-row layout.
As for safety equipment, however, there’s a clear winner here. While Land Rover has done well to update the LR2 in many key areas over the years, there’s no denying that the baby Land Rover is short on tech. And safety technology is the most obvious place where it especially lags behind the new Discovery Sport. You’ll only get the basics in the LR2, such as side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes, while the Discovery Sport touts such features as forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system. Simply put, this is the place where the LR2 most clearly shows its age.
With a starting price separated by just $1,000, the 2015 Land Rover LR2 and the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport seem like perfect competitors, especially since they’re roughly the same size and they use the same powertrain. But the Discovery Sport is simply better in just about every way. It’s more modern on the outside and more modern on the inside, it touts better gas mileage and more features, it offers more safety equipment and its 3-row seating makes it more practical for the majority of car shoppers. Simply put, the LR2 is clearly on its way out, and the Discovery Sport is its worthy successor. As a result, we think that the Discovery Sport easily justifies its price premium over the LR2.