2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
The best the LR2 ever did in the U.S. was 9,206 units in calendar year 2007, but after nearly matching that number over its first eight months of availability in 2015 the Discovery Sport reached 14,243 American buyers in 2016, making it the second most popular nameplate in Land Rover’s five-model strong lineup. I’m not by any means knocking the LR2, which was a big step up over the original Freelander, but the Discovery Sport is so much improved it deserves all of its success and more.
For the sake of transparency, it should be noted the original Freelander achieved 15,021 sales in 2002, surpassing last year’s Discovery Sport total, but initial excitement quickly faded to 9,529 units the following year, 5,430 the year after, and just 2,141 for its final full year before the LR2 arrived. Of interest, the LR2 had a similarly rocky ride, that aforementioned high followed up by 5,618 units in 2008, 4,433 in 2009, 3,649 in 2010, and 2,777 in 2011, a track record that wouldn’t bode well for the new Discovery Sport if it weren’t for the following three years that saw interest rise to 3,113 unit sales in 2012, 3,315 in 2013, and 3,619 in 2014, this partially due to a refresh as well as the growth of the SUV sector. As noted, Land Rover is currently riding an unprecedented SUV wave and therefore it’s likely smoother sailing from here on out, depending on the economy of course.
For 2017, Land Rover has kept updates to a minimum, but that said they’re not of minor importance. Infotainment is critical to many buyers’ purchasing decisions, so availability of the British brand’s new InControl Touch Pro touchscreen system is important. Its larger 10.2-inch display is a welcome upgrade from the already sizable 8.0-inch base system, while its quicker processing speed and larger 60-gig solid-state hard drive means that features such as navigation and the integrated 3G Wi-Fi hotspot work faster. The upgrade also includes an 825-watt, 17-speaker Meridian sound system, making its $3,000 asking price seem very reasonable.
Speaking of useful tech, the Discovery Sport is the first Land Rover that syncs with Tile, a location resource that uses Bluetooth to monitor personal items such as keys, phones, wallets, or bags.
The rest of the 2017 Discovery Sport’s improvements include a Complete Dynamic Styling pack reserved for as-tested HSE ($5,000) and top-tier HSE Luxury ($3,800) trims, boasting unique exterior styling details plus red piping and stitching inside, while four new premium colors are also available at $1,295 apiece, including Carpathian Grey, Farallon Black, Silicon Silver, and Aruba.
One of many brand traits I appreciate about Land Rover is its nod to personalization. No matter whether you’re buying a base $37,695 SE or completely loaded HSE Luxury, a full spectrum of colors is available including two standard tones, Fuji White and Narvik Black, an impressive nine metallics at $595 each, which include the usual whites, silvers, grays, beiges, greens, a blue, and Santorini Black, my tester’s chosen shade, as well as stunning Firenze Red, which was the color of last year’s loaner. On top of this are the pricier paints just noted, the list also including a wild Phoenix Orange and more calming Waitomo Grey. Then comes the ability to swap out body-color mirror caps, A-pillars and the entire rooftop for Corris Grey or Narvik Black, to change the HSE’s Atlas Silver aluminized grille, undertrays, side vents and wheels for yet more glossy black, the latter in multiple styles and sizes, while the list of customizable options goes on and on.
My HSE tester was actually fairly stock this time around, keeping its upgraded aluminum-look exterior detailing in place, which I think works better when wearing black body panels. As part of its HSE upgrade it also included signature LEDs for the HID headlights as well as fog lamps, while the fixed panoramic sunroof would be more noticeable in a lighter color. Standard HSE features that are a little more difficult to initially notice include proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, 10-way powered front seats, memory for the driver’s seat and side mirrors, grained leather upholstery, and a powered gesture liftgate.
I should mention the HSE includes much of what comes standard in the base SE, such as 18-inch alloys, auto on/off headlights, heated power-folding mirrors with puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, dual-zone auto climate control, eight-way powered front seats, partial leather upholstery, a 5.0-inch color TFT multi-information display, 8.0-inch InControl Touch infotainment, a rearview camera with active guidelines, great sounding 190-watt 10-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with media streaming, multiple USB ports with charging capability, trailer stability assist, a perimeter alarm, all the expected active and passive safety features, and much more.
Additionally, my tester increased its already improved HSE trim to include a $1,750 Row 3 pack that added a segment-exclusive third row that truly suits smaller folks best (and by that I mean I was able to fit my five-foot-eight medium-build frame into the rearmost seats when the first two rows were positioned comfortably, and didn’t feel cramped partially due to good outward visibility), plus third-row climate control venting in the ceiling, and an extra USB port back there too; the $1,100 Driver Assist Plus pack that includes InControl Touch navigation, autonomous emergency braking, new for 2017 lane departure warning, and traffic sign recognition with a new Intelligent Speed Limiter that digitally nags at you if you pass the posted limit; a $1,600 Cold Climate pack with a heatable steering wheel, a heated windshield, heated and cooled front seats, and heatable rear outboard seats; while standalone options included another $275 for an Ebony Morzine (black) headliner, and the aforementioned metallic paint for an as-tested asking price of $47,515 before freight and fees.
The Discovery Sport HSE starts at $42,195, by the way, which most will agree represents good value in the compact luxury SUV segment. Its rise in sales should attest this, but more importantly than a summary of its features and options are takeaways from time spent with multiple versions of the relatively new SUV. First off, like the exterior styling the SUV’s interior is intelligently laid out in what is becoming a trademark Land Rover interior design. I call it premium industrial, in that everything appears ruggedly built with oversized dials, door pulls and center stack buttresses, but it’s all finished to a very high level. The features just mentioned and more are trimmed in satin aluminum, most surrounding surfaces are either soft synthetic or stitched leather, and switchgear quality and damping is very good.
I especially like those dials just mentioned, three of which come filled with a colorful array of HVAC info, while the final fourth is the rotating gear selector that powers up out of the lower console upon startup. HSE trim and above uses a button for the latter process, which fires up the same Ford-sourced direct injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine no matter the trim, tuned to provide 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. It comes attached to a class-leading nine-speed automatic transmission with standard steering wheel paddle shifters, which sends the engine’s thrust and twist to a sophisticated four-wheel drive system featuring Land Rover’s very competent Terrain Response off-road system.
To be clear, the Disco Sport doesn’t include the usual Land Rover transfer case or locking differentials, but it smartly includes a bull-low capable first gear system that’s designed to limit launch speed so as to slowly crawl out of slippery situations or over obstacles, and even sports an available low-speed off-road cruise control system dubbed All-Terrain Progress Control. Its relatively lofty 8.3 inches of ground clearance joins standard Terrain Response just mentioned, which modulates the engine, transmission, differentials, and chassis systems after selecting General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts and Sand modes to overcome just about any challenge.
Land Rover claims a 7.8-second zero to 60 mph sprint time and a 125-mph top track speed, which probably won’t elicit much enthusiasm from the brand’s many asphalt-burning performance fans, and will have those seeking mother nature wishing the new 2.0-liter turbo-diesel found in Jaguar’s F-Pace was on the options list. Still, I certainly never felt held back while tooling around town, the Disco Sport getting up to speed quickly and feeling faster than the conservative performance numbers imply. Even more important, the drivetrain is a miser on fuel with a claimed rating of 20 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 combined.
If you’ve driven the Range Rover Evoque you’ll appreciate how fun a modern-day crossover SUV can be, although while the Discovery Sport shares its engine and core underpinnings it feels a bit more like a traditional sport utility than its smaller cousin, and most anything else it competes with. Don’t get me wrong, as it’s nothing close to the truck-like SUVs of yore, but instead it sits higher than the Evoque, offers better visibility all-round, and seems like it can more effectively tackle the wild unknown, let alone inner-city traffic mayhem. It’s plenty capable through corners when pushed as well, while its ride is generally compliant and comfortable, just the way I’m told most SUV buyers like.
If you want more exciting driving dynamics, Land Rover will include an Adaptive Dynamics suspension and an Active Driveline when opting for the $1,700 Intelligent Dynamics package, which is essentially torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with magnetic damping, and/or you can opt for the 19- and 20-inch wheel and tires packages on offer.
Options in mind, I’ve only touched on all that’s available with the HSE, the $1,100 Vision Assist pack that adds adaptive cornering headlamps with auto high beams, a 360-degree surround camera, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert also on the options list; as is the $3,000 Entertainment pack that adds the larger InControl Touch Pro infotainment interface along with enhanced navigation, the top-line 825-watt Meridian Digital Surround audio upgrade, and the InControl Pro Services telematics bundle; or alternatively you can get a 10-speaker 380-watt Meridian sound system with satellite and HD radio, lane keep assist and a driver fatigue monitor that (hopefully) wakes you via visual and audible alerts if you’re falling asleep, a head-up display, Wi-Fi, configurable mood lighting, a perimetric and volumetric alarm, a cargo cover, cargo area stowage rails, and more.
On the subject of storage, there’s a narrow gap between the 50/50-split rearmost seatbacks and the liftgate, so don’t offer rides home from the hockey rink that require third row usage. I’m guessing most will leave them lowered and only use them if needed, the process to lay them flat requiring a quick and easy tug on each seat’s pull tab to automatically drop the headrests before pushing them forward, which opens up 32.7 cubic feet of available space. The second row is even more conveniently split into the optimal 40/20/40 configuration, which lets you stow long cargo like skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more accommodating window seats along with those aforementioned heaters if upgraded, plus when all seatbacks are completely laid to rest the Disco Sport can manage up to 66.9 cubic feet of active lifestyle gear.
Is the Discovery Sport perfect? No, it would require the previously noted diesel and its 318 lb-ft of torque for that proclamation, and even then it doesn’t surpass all of its rivals in every respect. For instance, the F-Pace mentioned earlier is sportier, as are a few others, while some competitors offer more refined interiors with more advanced digital interfaces, etc. Still, the same could be said about any of its rivals. As it is, the Disco Sport is high on my list of compact luxury class favorites, and one that I’d personally consider if in the market. I like the way it drives, the way it looks, its standard feature set, and the ability to option it out the way I’d want, all of which are reasons for it selling so well. I think it’s onward and upward for Land Rover in the compact luxury SUV class.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press