2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

The smallest Discovery gets a lot more Sport

With a base price of just $37,795 plus freight and fees the 2018 Discovery Sport is Land Rover’s entry-level SUV, not to mention one of the most affordable luxury sport utilities available in America.

On the flip side it’s the compact luxury SUV segment’s most accommodating offering, thanks to a spacious interior with up to three rows of seats for a maximum of seven occupants, while all of its rivals seat just five. What’s more, with 34.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind its rear seatbacks the Discovery Sport is best in class (by a long shot) for hauling gear. That second row is divided in the usual 60/40 configuration, but unlike many in this class a large center pass-through creates a 40/20/40-split that’s ideal for loading longer items like skis down the middle while those in back enjoy greater comfort from the outboard seats.

With 37.3 inches of second-row legroom the Discovery Sport is also one of the more comfortable for rear passengers, although I must admit to spending very little time back there. I always take a moment to slide into the rearmost seats of any vehicle I’m testing to make sure it’s up to snuff, and the Disco Sport certainly punches above its price point.

For instance, the same level of soft touch pampering gets applied to the rear door panels as those up front, while the seats featured identical red-stitched, perforated leather detailing in the Dynamic HSE model tested. A large, comfortable armrest folds down at center, integrating dual cupholders and a nice lidded bin on top, while a row of device chargers occupies the backside of the front console, two being five-volt USBs and one a 12-volt socket. Standard in HSE trim, a panoramic sunroof provides plenty of light and an airy ambience for that extra bit of premium presence, while the seatbacks offer plenty of lower back support that should make for hours of complaint-free traveling, at least as far as comfort goes.

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While all of this is carryover for 2018, the latest Discovery Sport isn’t without its upgrades. Speaking of back support, revised front seats get new four-way powered lumbar adjustment, while an available 12-way powered driver’s seat is even more comfortable. Additional upgrades for 2018 include standard auto-dimming side mirrors with HSE trims, while adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring with reverse traffic detection now join lane departure warning (which was new last year) with lane keeping assist as standalone options, or can be had in one of the more comprehensive advanced driver assistance offerings in the segment, the $1,125 Driver Assist Plus package that also includes autonomous emergency braking, road sign recognition and driver condition monitoring, the latter which monitors your eyes and sounds a warning if you get drowsy.

This said it’s going to be much more difficult to fall asleep at the wheel of the 2018 Discovery Sport thanks to two new engines. To be specific, there’s really only one new engine albeit two states of tune, both in-house Ingenium gasoline-powered four-cylinders measuring 2.0 liters and featuring direct injection plus turbocharging. The new base engine makes a hair less horsepower than the outgoing Ford-sourced turbo-four at 237 compared to 240, but torque is up a point to 251 lb-ft from 250. In other words it’s more or less a wash, while the new engine once again comes mated to an adaptive shift program-enhanced nine-speed automatic for the most forward gears in the segment. Despite all this looking much the same the new powertrain results in a 0.6-second quicker sprint from standstill to 60 mph, now at 7.1 seconds compared to 7.7 seconds in the outgoing base model (or 7.4 seconds with the seven-passenger version), while its top speed remains limited to 127 mph.

Being that I was quite satisfied with last year’s Discovery Sport I probably would’ve been more than happy with this performance improvement, but the model I tested was fitted with a high-output version of the new engine that’s good for 286 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and believe me it’s a lot more energetic off the line. Land Rover says it takes just 6.3 seconds to arrive at 60 mph, and I don’t doubt them, while it now tops out at 137 mph, a number I wasn’t willing to verify on public roads.

Aiding driver engagement is a welcome set of steering wheel-mounted paddles, the nine-speed reacting to input well with clean, crisp, quick shifts when set to Sport mode, found by twisting the rotating gear selector all the way to its rightmost position. This helps to extract the most from the engine’s new higher-pressure fuel injection system that features upgraded injectors, while it becomes easier to feel the quicker turbo response caused by a new exhaust manifold that’s now integrated within the cylinder head, a move that improves warm-up times as well. These latter features benefit both new Ingenium engines, whereas the high-output version gets an upgraded turbocharger with better bearings to improve power, response, and efficiency.

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Considering its sizable performance advantage over most rivals the high-output Discovery Sport’s 20 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 combined fuel economy rating is impressive, while the base Disco Sport gets an EPA-claimed 21 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 combined fuel economy rating that might not be best in class but is right in the compact luxury SUV sweet spot as well, especially when considering it’s a larger than average compact that comes standard with off-road capable four-wheel drive. An Eco mode can help you achieve such numbers, as will its standard auto start/stop system that shuts down the engine when it would otherwise be idling.

Four-by-four prowess is Land Rover’s promise no matter the SUV purchased, and one that rings true to my adventure loving heart. Thanks to a nature addicted dad I grew up enjoying most summers on the trail, not to mention plenty of autumn, winter and spring weekends heading to our family cabin, which required a worthy off-road vehicle at the best of times, so 4x4 capability is a must-have, whether touring the backcountry during summer vacation or hitting the slopes mid-winter.

To achieve such feats the Discovery Sport comes standard with Land Rover’s very competent Terrain Response system, but it’s not the brand’s classic center transfer case with locking differential setup. Instead it features a first gear ratio 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. Terrain Response 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, thanks in part to 8.3 inches of ground clearance. All of its 4x4 capability is selectable via a row of switches on the center stack, making this an easier than average off-roader to master.

While capable off-road, the Discovery Sport is hardly a bruiser when it comes to ride quality and is no slouch through the corners either. I took plenty of opportunities to push my tester to the limit, the result being rock-solid confidence-inspiring stability even when the roadway below its 245/45R20 Continental Cross Contact winters was less than ideal. Likewise, it delivered a comfortable, compliant ride, this partially due to its long 107.9-inch wheelbase that helps to smooth out uneven pavement.

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If you want the more energetic engine you’ll first need to step up to $42,395 HSE or $46,795 HSE Luxury trim and then add $7,000, the new prices being $49,395 for the Dynamic HSE and $52,895 for the Dynamic HSE Luxury, which means that along with Dynamic exterior styling upgrades including a sportier front fascia design with deeper air intakes and some interior styling enhancements, the HSE gets HID headlights with LED signatures, proximity keyless access, auto-dimming side mirrors with memory, driver’s seat memory, perforated leather upholstery, front parking sensors, a Homelink garage door opener, a fixed panoramic sunroof, a powered liftgate, a powered gesture liftgate, and more.

On top of this my tester’s cabin was fitted with an Ebony and Pimento color scheme, a truly unique no-cost upgrade that even goes so far as to wrap each side of the center stack with pimento metallic trim, while the Ebony headliner added $285 to the bottom line. More useful, a $3,060 Entertainment package upgraded the center touchscreen to 10.2 inches and enhanced its capability with 4G Wi-Fi and more, plus improved audio quality from the base 10-speaker stereo via an awesome sounding 825-watt 17-speaker Meridian surround sound system that includes proprietary Meridian Trifield technology.

Alternatively you could choose HSE Luxury trim, which adds some unique exterior trim bits, illuminated aluminum treadplates, upgraded interior trim, navigation, a 380-watt 11-speaker Meridian audio system (or the same Entertainment package option as the HSE), and higher grade perforated Windsor leather upholstery with contrast stitching and piping, which is a nice move up from the base model’s partial leather upholstery, although take note that the more supple leather is standard with the regular HSE when opting for the more potent engine.

All of my tester’s upgraded bodywork was finished in Santorini Black metallic paint for another $610, while additional upgrades included larger 20-inch gloss black alloys, the aforementioned Driver Assist Plus package, a $1,635 Cold Climate package with a heated windscreen, a heatable steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and heated rear seats, plus satellite and HD radio for $765, a load space cover for $155, and $835 worth of rubber winter mats and wheel locks resulting in a final total of $61,725 before freight and fees.

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Over and above everything already mentioned, my tester included much from the base Discovery Sport that comes impressively equipped with trailer stability assist, auto on/off headlamps, power-folding heatable side mirrors with approach lamps, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, a color multi-information display, dual-zone auto climate control, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, powered front seats, three USB ports with charging, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, ambient interior lighting, all the expected active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, plus more, making that previously noted entry-level price all the more enticing.

It would’ve been possible to dress up my Disco Sport HSE tester even further with myriad 19- and 20-inch alloy wheels, more $610 metallic colors, an even pricier $1,325 palette of paints, the roof pillars and rooftop finished in gray, and a different no-charge interior motif, while the $1,940 Vision Assist package adds adaptive cornering headlights with auto high beams, plus blindspot monitoring with reverse traffic detection and a surround parking camera.

It could have also included the $1,735 Intelligent Dynamics package that features Land Rover’s Active Driveline and Adaptive and Configurable Dynamics, the former automatically disengaging rear-wheel drive when not needed in order to save fuel or alternatively engaging four-wheel drive within 300 milliseconds when required, and the latter incorporating BWI's MagneRide system to monitor the SUV’s movements at least 1,000 times per second and then adjusting the dampers to minimize body roll and improve ride quality, performance and safety whether on- or off-road.

Plenty of extras can be added individually too, such as a head-up display, configurable ambient lighting, semi-autonomous self-parking, and more.

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The ability to personalize the Discovery Sport really helps it stand out in an ever-growing crowd of compact luxury SUVs, but its attractive styling, sporty performance on and off the road, thrifty fuel economy, accommodating interior, impressive quality, and excellent value do even more to grow its market share year after year.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press In

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