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2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review
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The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport builds on the automaker’s reputation in all the right ways. It’s comfortable, relatively affordable, and still capable.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport skips the refrigerator-on-wheels looks for a sleeker shape for better fuel economy, but it’s still a Land Rover underneath. None of the above is a bad thing, by the way.


The Land Rover earns a 7.0 before safety is factored in, an admirable score for the off-roader.

The Disco Sport is available in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trims and starts at $38,790, including destination.

The news this year is an engine swap that trades a 2.0-liter turbo-4 for a 2.0-liter turbo-4 in two tunes. The base engine isn’t much different than the outgoing version. It makes 237 horsepower (down slightly from 240 hp last year). HSE variants can be equipped with an uprated 286-hp version of the same engine.

Regardless of engine, the Discovery Sport gets a competent 9-speed automatic that helps it wring out every last mile from a gallon of gas, although it still registers in the low-20s in combined mpg.

The Discovery Sport’s first two rows are comfortable for adults, but the optional third row may be specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention—at least for adults. In Land Rover’s defense, they call it a “+2” rather than an actual third row, but for most uses, we’d call it “easily avoidable.”

All Discovery Sports have some sort of leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, a rearview camera, 10-speaker audio, 18-inch wheels, and a terrain management system. The Discovery Sport lacks standard heated seats at any trim level, a notable omission according to us, but at least many advanced safety features are reasonably priced.

Styling
The 2018 Discovery Sport doesn’t look like any Land Rover before it, and that’s largely a good thing.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport eschews the upright, boxy profile of Land Rovers for a smoothed-over shape that better cheats the wind. It’s heresy, but also the way of the world.

It’s a handsome shape, and one that set the table for other Land Rovers to follow. We like its sheet metal and interior style.

Its look works because of its oversize wheels, which fill out the wells, even riding on standard 18-inchers. The thin honeycomb grill, clamshell hood, and headlights connect it to the Range Rover lineup. The roofline pulls over the rear arches and ends in a stubby tailgate, somewhat like a backward hat.

In profile, the Discovery Sport has virtually nothing in common with Land Rovers before it—the raked roof and generic SUV styling is indistinguishable from historical SUVs.

The Discovery Sport is all business on the inside, with a horizontal dash and touchscreen array that must’ve been laid out with a T-square. A pair of chrome pillars fits into the dash cap well, in an upright array.

Most of the touchable materials are high-quality and soft, although it’s not hard to find hard plastics that helped the Discovery Sport reach its most affordable price. The rising gear shifter is a neat touch that helps announce that the SUV has roared to life once started.

Performance
New engines highlight the changes for the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport. We’re not as sold on one of them, however.

The news this year for the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a new turbo-4 in two states of tune. The outgoing 2.0-liter turbo-4 is replaced with an incoming corporate turbo-4 (Eds note: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.) that makes roughly the same power output as standard. A higher-performance model is available, although its value is highly questionable at more than $6,000 in top trims.

We give one point for the Disco Sport’s 9-speed automatic and another for its off-road skills.

More on that engine: It’s spread across the Jaguar Land Rover lineup, and is featured in the mechanically related Range Rover Evoque. In base spec, it makes 237 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. In HSE and HSE Luxury trims it can be uprated to 286 hp, for more than $120 per added horsepower.

In the interest of full disclosure, we haven’t yet driven the Discovery Sport with its new engine in either output. Our extensive drives of the outgoing model and its 240-hp engine (only 3 hp different from this year’s new engine) would lead us to believe that it’s not a dramatically different experience. We’ll update this space if that opinion changes.

In both configurations, the Discovery Sport uses a well-calibrated 9-speed automatic transmission that smoothly shuttles power to all four wheels, and can be calibrated for various off-road duties such as mud, sand, and snow.

Powertrain aside, the Discovery Sport manages to be fairly lightweight—as nimble as 4,000 pounds can be—thanks to some aluminum in its body. Front struts and a rear multi-link setup help damp out road imperfections and keep most of the Discovery Sport’s four wheels on terra firma when it matters. Mounting that gear to the subframe helps isolate the vibrations further.

In most situations, the Disco Sport’s variable-ratio steering has a generous on-center spot that keeps the SUV tracking straight on the interstate, but offers very little by way of feedback.
Off-road ability
The Discovery Sport stays true to its Land Rover badge through its all-wheel-drive system that varies power between front and rear axles. It’s not the same kind of off-roader as others that have worn the green badge, but we’ve found that the Discovery Sport can scramble up most trails without much fuss.

With approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees respectively, and 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a wading depth of nearly two feet, the Discovery Sport is well suited for most situations that owners are willing to throw at it.

The standard Terrain Response program can dial throttle response, transmission shift patterns, differential tolerances, and steering through mud, sand, snow, ice, fire, and brimstone (OK, two of those are made up) settings.

In our experience, it works well. The Discovery Sport is not only capable off-road, but it’s also very easy to drive well.

Comfort & Quality
Seating for five in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport is fine, but seven is two too many.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport’s comfort depends on your worldview.

If it’s a versatile five-seat crossover by your eyes, carry on. If it’s a seven-seat family-hauler in your book, hold your horses.  

It’s spacious for front-seat riders and hauls plenty of cargo. Unlike the related Range Rover Evoque, it’s spacious in the rear seats for adults thanks to a sliding second row, but the optional third row is like a fire extinguisher: for emergency use only. We land at a 7 out of 10 for comfort after points for the first- and second-row space, capacious cargo hold, but taking one back for baffling third row confines.

The first and second rows sit up high, which offer good outward vision—especially for the driver. The seats are fairly comfortable and become better in top trims with softer leather and more adjustability.

The second row slides fore and aft more than six inches to accommodate longer legs, and adults can sit in the back with reasonable comfort. The available panoramic moonroof eats into head space, so taller passengers will likely want to opt for the front seats—they’re just a smidge lower.

The third row jump seat folds into the cargo area and is optional on all models. Land Rover calls it a “+2” arrangement, but we’re not convinced. Unless your extra passengers are PlaySkool enthusiasts, the thin seats won’t be suitable for many for long. If you can, skip the jump seats, or, if duty calls, flip a coin for who goes to college and spring for a much larger Discovery.

Behind the second row, the Discovery Sport opens up to an impressive 34.6 cubic feet of cargo room. With only the front two seats in use, the Disco Sport swallows an impressive 62.75 cubic feet of gear.

All trim levels of the Discovery Sport boast leather upholstery in some form or fashion, although HSE and HSE Luxury add softer hides and better interior materials. It doesn’t take much effort to find hard plastics, or cost-cutting materials, although they’re spared from every-day surfaces.

Safety
The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport lacks complete crash-test data.

Federal and independent testers haven’t rated the Land Rover Discovery Sport in crash-testing since it was new.

As a result, we can’t rate it on our safety scale.

In the absence of official safety data, Land Rover equips each Discovery Sport with a full complement of airbags including driver and passenger front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, and rear side curtain airbags. Traction and stability control systems are standard as well.

A rearview camera is standard on all Discovery Sports, and most models can be fitted with a surround-view camera system (not available on the SE trim level).

Blind-spot monitors are a reasonable $510 upgrade on most models, and all trim levels can get upgraded xenon headlights.

HSE versions can be equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control as an extra-cost upgrade on most models. We’d prefer that it’s standard but it slides in at $1,125 on HSE trim levels, which isn’t as egregious as other automakers.

Features
No 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport is poorly equipped, but some of the options are head-scratchers to us.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport largely goes down three roads for features—or perhaps no roads at all?

Available in SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury trim levels, the Discovery Sport is well-equipped for $38,790 to start. For that money, buyers are treated to leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, a rearview camera, Land Rover’s terrain management system, a 10-speaker audio system, eight-way power adjustable front seats, and 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment.

It earns points above average for that, luxurious options you’d expect from Land Rover, and another for its generous touchscreen. 

Stepping up to the HSE trim level adds a motion-activated tailgate, a panoramic moonroof, 10-way power adjustable front seats, LED headlights, and more available options including active safety features. A 10.2-inch touchscreen is optional on this trim level and higher.

Discovery Sport HSE Luxury-trimmed SUVs are more luxurious, but we take issue with a few items. Standard on that trim level are 19-inch wheels, upgraded audio by Meridian, navigation, and satellite radio—all fine by our book. However, on Land Rover’s top trim for the Discovery Sport, heated seats are still a $1,635 option (we’re guessing many Land Rover buyers are in cold-weather climates) and every color option above black or white commands additional cash. That’s a tough swallow for more than $48,000 to start for the HSE Luxury trim level.

Beyond the heated seats, our favorite options are mostly safety-oriented. A $1,940 vision package adds xenon headlights, a surround-view camera system, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitors. That’s not bad, considering the materials, and it’s made better with a $410 optional automatic emergency braking.

An uprated turbo-4 that makes 286 hp, up from 236 hp, is a cringe-worthy $7,000 option on HSE models or $6,100 on HSE Luxury models. A sport appearance package is included in that engine upgrade, but based on our experiences with previous model years, paying that much for 50 more hp just doesn’t add up in our books.

Fuel Economy
An improved engine in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport helps, but not by much.

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport received a new turbo-4 this year with mild fuel-economy perks.

Most versions are rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined. Opting for higher trim levels with more power doesn't dent mileage much, just 1 mpg less on the city cycle. We give the range a 6 on our fuel economy scale.

The Discovery Sport has a 9-speed automatic in its corner that helps improve fuel economy with a tall overdrive gear. The Discovery Sport is nearly 500 pounds heavier than the related Range Rover Evoque, which manages 25 mpg combined.

Other luxury crossovers such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC Class are rated roughly the same at 24 mpg combined, in most iterations. To do much better would require a hybrid powertrain (Lexus NX300h achieves 31 mpg combined) or front-wheel drive (Infiniti QX30 is rated up to 27 mpg combined), and Land Rover hasn’t done either with the Discovery Sport.

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