Michael SimariCar and Driver
Blending in is no fun, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport may initially appear to be an appealingly different choice among the vast, monotonous crowd of small luxury SUVs. Thanks to its ruggedly handsome lines, it offers a welcome stylistic relief from the cookie-cutter blobs seen elsewhere in the segment. Actually driving and living with the Discovery Sport, however, is a lesson in appreciating the status quo.
The Discovery Sport in its current form has been around since 2015. Updates over the years have brought fresher styling details and Jaguar Land Rover's in-house-developed turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. But this 246-hp engine that powers all Discovery Sports except the uplevel R-Dynamic HSE model (that one gets a 286-hp version of the turbo four) doesn't bring any measurable improvements over the previous Ford-sourced 2.0-liter turbo-four. Paired with ZF's nine-speed automatic transmission, our portly, 4658-pound test vehicle went from zero to 60 mph in a disappointing 7.5 seconds, or 0.4 second slower than the old model. Through the quarter-mile, its 15.8-second pass at 86 mph is 0.1 second and 3 mph slower than before.
The acceleration of the mid-level P250 model we tested also significantly trails that of the Mercedes GLC300 and BMW X3 30i, both of which employ similarly powerful 2.0-liter turbo-fours yet weigh hundreds of pounds less than the Land Rover. The Discovery Sport's mass also is largely to blame for its dismal fuel economy, which we measured at 19 mpg overall and only 21 mpg on our 75-mph highway test. The X3, meanwhile, hit 22 mpg and 31 mpg, respectively, in the same metrics. Land Rover claims that the more powerful Discovery Sport in the P290 trim level—equipped with a more powerful 286-hp version of the 2.0-liter—improves the zero-to-60-mph time by 0.5 second, but that's still quite a ways off of the competition. We haven't driven that model yet.
The Discovery Sport's driving character should appeal to those who look back fondly on the early days of the SUV. It feels larger than it is and has the lazy throttle response and slow steering that was commonplace back when most sport-utility vehicles were lumbering body-on-frame beasts. Its ride is comfortable when cruising on the highway, but we wish it felt more responsive and controlled when cornering.
Land Rover is a name that conjures images of luxury even when traversing rough terrain. But the Discovery Sport's cabin is starting to feel dated. The dashboard is devoid of any interesting design flair, and the materials look and feel as if they came from the discount rack. Our test car strangely lacked heated seats, driver-assist features, and SiriusXM satellite radio, yet it still cost $53,775. That amount is within a few thousand dollars of a far more luxurious X3 or GLC. Land Rover's touchscreen infotainment software doesn't do the Disco Sport any favors. Not only does it respond rather slowly to inputs, its graphics appear a generation behind the newest systems.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport's optional third-row seat for $1200 is a somewhat rare proposition in this class, as Mercedes-Benz's new GLB-class is the only other seven-seat SUV in this size bracket, for now. But while both that feature and the Discovery's handsome design may set it apart, they are not enough to make it a worthy contender in its highly competitive segment. Compared to the established players from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, the baby Disco simply doesn't feel worth its luxury price tag, even if it is aesthetically appealing.