Test Drive: 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury

As the only luxury automotive brand made up exclusively of sport-utility vehicles, Land Rover is riding high on the wave of popularity of tall, four- (or all-) wheel-drive wagons, essentially. Given that LR calls the Discovery Sport a compact SUV, perhaps a tall-riding 4WD hatchback would be the more correct comparison. Don’t let the name fool you: this Discovery Sport may sound like a faster or performance version of the mid-size Land Rover Discovery, but it’s actually smaller and “sportier” in the less practical sense.

Think Nissan Rogue Sport in the US, which translates to our (and most of the rest of the world’s) Qashqai.

Whichever way, when you’re talking luxury British rides, the base Discovery Sport is the least expensive way to enter the world of blue-blood British vehicles, going by its starting MSRP of $43,500, a figure that undercuts the official suggested starting price of the next least expensive British luxury conveyance by just a few hundred dollars for 2018: the all-wheel-drive Jaguar XE compact sedan.

This particular tester happened to be a 2017 model, but it was a healthy distance from that modest – for a British or any luxury SUV, really – starting price. No, this was the top-end Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury, which started at $50,990, and after a full suite of options, landed at just over $68,000, before taxes.

Dynamic in style and options, inside and out

The largest chunk of these options went towards a $3,880 Dynamic Design package, which added glossy black 20-inch wheels, integrated rear exhaust outlets, and tweaks to the nose and rear clip of the Disco Sport, as well as a multitude of red accents inside our tester. That included red accent stitching on the seats and doors, front and rear. The most notable of these red interior highlights are the two centre stack surrounds, which stand proudly on guard against interior boredom. Still, it’s a pricy option package for what you receive.

The overall exterior look of the Discovery Sport then is of a handsomely aggressive machine, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was just too much space between the fender arches and the relatively large 20-inch wheels. Perhaps that’s because the black fender protection visually extended the look of the gap. Or perhaps I happened to photograph it in one of the Terrain Response system’s off-road modes, which is easy to access through buttons on the dash, just ahead of JLR’s familiar rotary knob shifter.

Space up front is generous, width- and height-wise, even with the optional panoramic sunroof – it may not open, but it’s also not marred with panel lines that bisect your view outside. A power sunshade can provide a bit more privacy to the goings-on inside, but leaving it open in cold weather helps warm up the interior on those brisk but sunny days. But you’ll still appreciate the heated steering wheel to truly get warm quick, especially when you leave your gloves in your other jacket, with heated seats in the rear and cooled in the front also on the options list.

The somewhat square shape of the Disco Sport results in a sizeable 981 litres of cargo room behind the second-row seats. If you order the optional third row, which comes with two seatbelts for two tiny folk, all that generous cargo room shrinks to a measly 194 litres, or less than in a Smart two-seater. So these owners will likely keep that third row perpetually folded to help feed things into that cargo space.

Still, there aren’t many compact SUVs that offer any type of third row anymore (Nissan Rogue and Dodge Journey are other exceptions), and even fewer in the luxury space, so credit to Land Rover for offering that useful option.

There’s a super-handy no-touch powered gesture tailgate that rises if you have the key in your pocket with a foot swipe underneath the rear bumper – or once you’ve loaded up your limbs with grocery bags, can close it with a swipe too. This is not a unique feature, as it’s offered on the Ford Escape and C-Max for at least five years now, but it’s quickly becoming an indispensable one for any vehicle to earn family-friendly credentials.

On-road manners are fine, with advanced safety tech to help

Once on the road, the Discovery Sport does well to avoid the roly-poly driving dynamics of its taller and larger siblings. It comes standard with Roll Stability Control, which helps keep things on an even keel when cornering, plus standard torque vectoring, which sends power dynamically to each tire that needs it most. The optional MagneRide suspension also proved adept at helping keep a fine balance between ride and handling, though the ride was still surprisingly stiff for what traditionally have been softly sprung Land Rovers.

On the power front, this Disco Sport offered 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.0L four, although those power numbers have changed for 2018 with 237 hp now available on the base model engine, or the more powerful 286 hp version now also available. Power was plentiful but not overwhelming, the engine seeming larger than its small displacement would suggest. All engines are connected to a nine-speed automatic that offers sporty-feeling if not instant-quick shift paddles, another nicety missing from some luxury utes, though shift paddles in SUVs are no longer a rare sign of sporting intent.

To harness its power, the Disco Sport lays that output down with standard four-wheel drive, complete with various Terrain Response modes available from buttons on the dash that will adjust throttle, steering and suspension settings by choosing your weather or condition: Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, or a general driving mode. In the latter mode, an Active Driveline feature can disconnect the rear wheels for maximum fuel efficiency, in theory.

In practice, max fuel efficiency for the Land Rover’s relatively blocky designs also mean relatively poor fuel efficiency overall, with our tester officially rated at an overall average of 10.7 L/100 km in combined driving. That’s before the ’18s came out, which bettered that overall average slightly to 10.5 L/100 km, but is still near the back of the pack.

Where the Discovery Sport shines compared to most compact SUVs is in its off-road ability. A traction-maintaining All-Terrain Progress Control system works like low-speed cruise control, providing momentum in difficult conditions between 1.8 km/h and 30 km/h. There’s also a hill descent control (HDC) system, as well as a hill-start assist (HSA) to help you get going up a snowy inclined road quickly.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to like about the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Some may strike it off their list for not offering Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but with the ability to offer three rows, some real nasty-weather-fighting technologies, and some fine (if pricey) interior detailing, it has enough unique features to make it worth adding to your list of compact luxury test drives.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
Engine Displacement: 2.0L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 240 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Peak Torque: 250 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Fuel Economy: 12.0/9.2/10.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 981 L
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
Base Price $50,990
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $68,015
Optional Equipment $14,830 – Dynamic Design Package (Gloss Black 20-inch wheels, Dynamic Interior) $3,880; Driver Assist Plus Package (Autonomous Emergency Braking, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Condition Monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition, Blind Spot Monitor and Reverse Traffic Detection) $1,430; Entertainment Package (Meridian Surround Sound System, Navigation Pro, Pro Services and Wi-Fi Hotspot) $2,150; Intelligent Dynamics Package (Active Driveline 2WD mode, Adaptive MagneRide Dynamics) $1,990; Fixed Panoramic Black Contrast Roof $670; Corris Grey Paint $670; Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist $1,330; Heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats $820; Park Assist $1,020; SiriusXM Satellite Radio $460; Heated windshield $410
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.8
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value