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2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

The 2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport delivers a more affordable, more carlike interpretation of the Land Rover mystique, but it’s still capable where and when it needs to be.

The 2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport packs a lot into its mid-size crossover SUV frame—and not just in the name badge. It’s outfitted with traction systems and turbocharged engines that allow it to straddle the divide between cars and utility vehicles. It does it all with a price below $40,000 and with a “+2” third-row seat that pumps-fakes for the real seven-seaters in the Land Rover lineup.

We think it’s a 6.4 out of 10, though we’d probably boost that rating if we had crash-test  data at our disposal.


Sold in SE, HSE, Landmark, Dynamic, and Luxury trims, the 2019 Discovery Sport  telegraphs a pretty conventional shape, but dresses it with some Land Rover-specific details. The silhouette’s modern, almost generic crossover SUV; the headlights, honeycomb grille, and fender vents are on-trend Land Rover hallmarks. The cabin’s not quite the luxury showcase you’ll see inside a Range Rover, but the low-key bits of metallic trim amid black plastic and leather complement its wide-screen infotainment systems and its pricey optional leather well.

Power surges from a turbo-4 with either 237 hp or 286 hp; the latter’s an expensive upgrade for not much of a change in outright acceleration, but both couple to a smart 9-speed automatic that rarely gets lost in its own thoughts. The Discovery Sport’s front-strut and rear multi-link suspension endow it with carlike responses, from a firm-ish ride to good highway tracking. It’s in traction management that the Disco Sport rises up: its standard all-wheel drive lacks a low-range transfer case, but comes with terrain and traction management that sorts out wheel slip in mud, snow, sand, and gravel. Think Subaru plus swank.

We’d take a seat in the 2019 Discovery Sport’s front two rows on any occasion; we’d have to be sentenced to it to get in the optional “+2” third-row seat. It’s thin on everything: head room, leg room, and padding. It’s better used as cargo space, in which the Discovery Sport excels.

The 2019 Discovery Sport has standard touchscreen infotainment, but you’ll have to spend more for a wide screen and then spend another $300 for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Automatic emergency braking costs more, too, and it’s only available in the HSE trim level and above. Heated seats cost more where they’re available, too, all a consequence of keeping the base price of the Discovery Sport below $40,000; a well-equipped HSE for about $50,000 strikes us as the common-sense version.

Styling
The Land Rover Discovery Sport pushes modern SUV style to its organic limits.

The 2019 Discovery Sport looks like heresy, for those raised on the resolutely boxy shapes of Land Rovers of the past. It slips through the air more easily, and fits in more readily with the rest of the lineup, with its spare details and striking carlike profile.

We think it’s worth a point above average both for the interior and the exterior, which brings it to a styling score of 7.

There’s very little of Land Rover’s past in the Discovery Sport’s silhouette. The outline’s becoming SUV-generic, but works well thanks to a steeply raked  roofline, spear-like fender vents trailed by a character line down the length of the body, and wheel wells filled with at least 18-inchers for a trendy oversize look.

It stays connected with the other Range Rovers with its clamshell hood, its honeycomb grille, and its thin headlights. The roofline pulls over the rear arches and ends in a stubby tailgate, somewhat like a backward hat.

Inside, the Discovery Sport gets down to business. Its array of touchscreens and controls sprays over a horizon that may as well have been laid out on a drafting table with a T-square. Brushed or chrome metallic pillars  hold up the dash cap like structural supports, while the center console’s swallowed up by a ring of metallic trim that frames the rotary shift control and traction-management switches. Land Rover decorates the cabin with some soft-touch, high-quality trim, but hard plastics aren’t tough to find in the Disco Sport’s cabin.

Performance
The Discovery Sport deserves kudos for its powertrains and for its off-road talent.

Last year, Land Rover fitted a new engine to the Discovery Sport and tuned it to standard and high-output trim. It’s very close in output to the prior engines, and coupled to a  well-tuned 9-speed automatic.

The Disco Sport also gets more than its necessary share of off-road skills, compared to most of its rivals. We give it a point for each of these, and end up at a 7 for performance.

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 that powers all Discovery Sport crossovers replaced a Ford-built unit. The Land Rover engine’s almost exactly the same in displacement, and in base 237-horsepower, 251 pound-feet trim, nearly identical in output (the former engine had 240 hp). The engine’s also found in the Evoque—and it’s also offered in a high-output  286-hp trim, where it commands more than $6,000 extra.

We haven’t been able to drive a Disco Sport with this engine,  but given its power output and our test drives in other Jaguar Land Rover products with the same engine, we’ll conclude for now that it’s a powertrain in need of a bit more refinement, but it’s one with ample acceleration, reaching 60 mph in about 6.9 seconds, and a top speed of at least 124 mph. High-output models spurt to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and top out at 142 mph.

The same holds true for the Disco Sport’s 9-speed automatic. We haven’t sampled this installation, but in the Evoque and other Land Rover products, it shifts more smoothly than some 9-speeds from the same source (due to programming and calibration) and can be switched through drive modes than alter shift patterns for snow, sand, and mud.

With a curb weight of about 4,000 pounds, the Discovery Sport doesn’t feel like a heavyweight. It’s as nimble as a long, tall crossover SUV can be, thanks to aluminum body panels and a powertrain mounted to subframes. The suspension’s composed of front struts and multiple links at the rear, and it’s a good combination that keeps the Discovery Sport well-planted without too coarse a ride. Variable-ratio electric power steering has a sizable on-center spot and dials down on the assist, so it tracks well on interstates, but feedback is off the menu.

Off-road ability
The Discovery Sport’s standard all-wheel drive lets it scramble over most small obstacles and through trails without too much fuss, but the off-roading isn’t of the industrial strength you’ll find in a Discovery or a Range Rover.

The Disco Sport has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, and approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees respectively; a Subaru Outback isn’t far off those numbers, but the Disco Sport will wade through nearly two feet of water. It’s more than moderately capable, certainly more than any driver will challenge on the maintained path up to a weekend cabin.

For other situations, the Discovery Sport’s traction-management system changes differential lockup, steering weight, throttle and transmission tuning to accommodate mechanical needs for different traction circumstances—snow needs low-speed takeoffs, sand needs high-speed wheelspin at times. The Discovery Sport can handle all those with its Terrain Response program; it’s easy to drive, thanks to its clever engineering, even though it lacks a low-range transfer case.

Comfort & Quality
Five adults can find happiness inside the 2019 Discovery Sport; the “+2” is a fig leaf.

As a five-seat crossover SUV, the 2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport comports itself well, with comfortable seats and ample cargo space. Stretch it to seven-seat duty and it’s a disappointment.

We give it a 7 here, with points above average for its front seats and its storage solutions.

In front, the Discovery Sport fits all versions with seats with at least eight-way adjustment. The seats get leather upholstery on all versions, but the more expensive Sports wear softer hides and gain more adjustments. Outward vision is good for the driver, and the first and second rows of seats sit high for a commanding view of the road.

Even better, the second-row seat slides more than six inches fore and aft. That means rear-seat rides can have all the leg room they need without affecting those in the front seats—provided there’s not much stuff in the rear cargo hold or in the third-row seat. The second-row seats have reasonable comfort, but tall passengers will notice that the available panoramic roof slices some head room and makes it more suitable for medium-size passengers.

The third-row seat in the Discovery Sport is for emergency use only. An option on all Disco Sports, it’s dubbed a “+2” seating arrangement, and rather unconvincingly at that. Playskool devotees might be able to excuse its slim head and knee room and the low, low seat cushion, but the thinly padded seats won’t fit anyone eligible for military service. The space is better used for cargo anyway; behind the second row, the Sport has 34.6 cubic feet of storage space, which jumps to 62.8 when the second-row seats are folded.

The Discovery Sport doesn’t quite offer the swank luxury suite you’ll find on the Range Rover side of the showroom. Leather and metallic trim look suave enough, but you’re never far from a piece of hard plastic trim, and the turbo-4 can sound coarse.

Safety
The Discovery Sport hasn't been subjected to crash tests yet.

Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested the latest Land Rover Discovery Sport, so we leave off the safety rating. 

Every Disco Sport comes with rear curtain side airbags, and most versions can be fitted with surround-view cameras to complement the mandatory rearview camera. Blind-spot monitors are available, as are LED headlights, and Sport HSE SUVs and more expensive versions can be fitted with automatic emergency braking; it’s a relatively inexpensive option, but it’s a feature that will become mandatory soon, and luxury brands should be ahead of the curve in safety—especially brands with SUVs that are sold on the implication of better safety.

Features
Infotainment and options nudge the Land Rover Discovery Sport above average in features.

The Land Rover Discovery costs less than $40,000 in base trim, but misses out on a couple of key features. To get those luxury and tech items we demand, it’s closer to $50,000, where it gains touches such as automatic emergency braking and an infotainment system that allows smartphone takeovers.

Sold in SE, HSE, Landmark (new for 2019), HSE Luxury, HSE Dynamic, and HSE Luxury Dynamic trim levels, we give the 2019 Disco Sport a 7 for features.

Base Discovery Sport SE SUVs have 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a terrain management system, 8-way power adjustable front seats, 10-speaker audio system, and 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. Automatic emergency braking isn’t offered, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility aren’t standard, either. They’re an option, but not on this trim level.

On the HSE, our choice, Land Rover adds 10-way power front seats, a panoramic moonroof, a hands-free tailgate, and LED headlights. Automatic emergency braking can be fitted as an option, as can a 10.2-inch touchscreen; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility costs $300 with the so-dubbed InControl Touch Pro infotainment system.

Above the HSE version, there’s the Discovery Sport Landmark edition, which adds three colors to the palette, 19-inch wheels, a distinct front end treatment, ebony leather and aluminum interior trim.

The HSE Luxury gains upgraded audio by Meridian, 19-inch wheels, satellite radio and navigation—but heated seats are an expensive option, and any paint color other than white or black costs extra. That’s on a vehicle with a base price of nearly $50,000. Options range from a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams.

Both the HSE and HSE Luxury can be upgraded to Dynamic versions, with 286 hp net. At just under $54,000, the most expensive Land Rover Discovery Sport treads on more expensive Land Rover SUVs, not to mention the lovely Jaguar F-Pace.

Fuel Economy
Turbo-4 power drives the 2019 Discovery Sport to mid-grade gas mileage.

Fuel economy isn’t the saving grace of the 2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport, but it’s no sin, either.

We think it’s worth a 4 on our revamped green scale, which heavily favors hybrids and electrified vehicles.

The EPA scores heavily optioned Discovery Sport SUVs at 20 mpg city, 25 highway, 22 combined. On more lightly equipped versions, city mileage rises by 1 mpg.

With a 9-speed automatic and a turbo-4 engine, the Discovery Sport fares somewhat worse in gas mileage than the related Evoque, which checks in with combined ratings in the 25-mpg range. The Disco Sport carries around about 500 extra pounds. It’s also lower-rated than the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, at 24 mpg combined.



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