2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
Disco makes a comeback.
It’s a universally accepted truth among automotive marketing types that it is best not to associate anything so profoundly negative with your product, especially if you plan on reviving a nameplate from the past whose mere mention causes people to wrinkle their noses in disgust. So it’s probably a safe assumption that Chevrolet won’t be reviving the Vega nameplate anytime soon, and Ford will probably elect not to breathe new life into the Pinto brand. With that in mind, Land Rover is defying convention and bringing back the Discovery name for another go around. A decade has elapsed since the Discovery was sold here, and Land Rover is betting that is enough time to erase memories of deplorable reliability; so much so that a few owners were choosing horses instead for their transportation needs- not as glamorous or comfortable, but certainly more reliable.
Gross hyperbole notwithstanding, the old Discovery was such a fragile vehicle that it ushered in a new naming era for Land Rovers- think LR2 (nee Freelander) and LR3/LR4 (Discovery.)
How does this experiment in marketing counter-thinking fare? Like any sequel, it improves on the original in many ways but falls short in others.
PROS: Attractive styling, cosseting ride, Land Rover capability.
CONS: Coarse engine, hapless transmission, infotainment still needs work.
THE VERDICT: Looks like Disco will be making a comeback.
First, the good news. The new Discovery Sport looks fantastic. Drawing on similar styling cues from the uber-chic Evoque, it also channels the larger Range Rover styling vibe effectively enough that it causes people walking by to do a double take. The reason for the visual impact lies in the concept car aping looks of the Evoque versus the more upright and less squashed silhouette of the Disco. Our HSE Luxury tester was finished in a wonderfully understated Scotia Grey hue, complimented by sharp 20” wheels and a panoramic glass roof. Inside, the interior oozes a modern minimalist vibe contrasting soft leather and aluminum trim. No one will say they didn’t nail the esthetics on this one.
Like all of its stablemates, the Discovery Sport has been groomed at the off-road version of the School of Hard Knocks. This may be an SUV that will spend most of its time slowly cruising down luxury boulevards, but it refuses to be intimidated by gnarly terrain. It has generous ground clearance, favourable approach and departure angels and Terrain Response four wheel drive which will give it the kind of impressive capabilities that it will pretty much never need to utilize.
What really stands out is the Discovery Sport’s level of refinement. Luxury SUV’s already meet or exceed the hushed tones required of a full-on luxury sedan, but the Disco feels particularly quiet. The liberal use of high tensile steel in the structure won’t help keep bloat at bay, but it does imbue the Sport with a reassuring feeling of solidity.
On the flipside, there are a few areas where the Discovery Sport could use some addressing. The first area (and the most glaring fault) where the SUV puts a tire wrong is the drivetrain. Tracing its lineage to the Ford Escape and shared with the Evoque, the 2.0 litre mill doesn’t have the same level of polish and discipline as its rivals. It’s hooked up to a 9-speed gearbox that’s equally as hapless here as it is in the Evoque, and doesn’t do the engine any favors with its already elasticky power delivery. In fact, it almost seems as though the two components were developed in isolation of one another, so out of sync do they feel at times. The downsized turbo four and multi-speed tranny are meant to deliver miserly fuel economy, but we were only able to manage a disappointing 13.7L/100km. It’s been said that the new Jaguar engine family currently in development will eventually find their way into Discovery engine bays; hopefully for Land Rover, this will happen sooner than later.
The dreary infotainment system that you find in every Jaguar/Land Rover product is finally being replaced, and the Discovery Sport is the first vehicle to embrace the new interface. The experience starts off positively- you’re greeted by a vastly more organized Home screen and the sharp graphics really pop. When you actually go to use it, you realize that those welcome changes appear to be no more than window dressing. It’s still clunky in its operation, and you find yourself constantly looking away from the road to make adjustments- something we suspect wasn’t what Land Rover engineers intended with the redesign.
One thing the folks at Land Rover very much intend is to sell as many Discovery Sports as they can. We see no reason why premium SUV buyers wouldn’t consider it amongst the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 examples they are no doubt comparison shopping-the Discovery’s demerits shouldn’t resonate too loudly with brand conscious shoppers anyhow. With the new engines waiting in the wings and subtle updates over the coming model years should shape the Discovery Sport into one of the more desirable entries in this competitive sector. We’re already looking forward to Discovery 3.0.
2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury– Specifications
Price as tested: $55,640
Body Type: 5-door, 5-passenger crossover
Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft.): 250 @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Curb weight: 1,744 kg (3,845 lbs)
Observed fuel economy: 13.7L/100 km (17 mpg)