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Discovery Sport: Real Deal Off-Road Confidence

By Arv Voss, March 21st, 2015

For Land Rover buyers who find the Range Rover too large and expensive, the Evoque too small, and the Defender series a little too utilitarian, the new Discovery Sport fits into an ideal camp as the world's most versatile compact premium SUV.

The 2015 Discovery Sport marks the beginning of a new era for Land Rover, following 25 years of Discovery production, which began its run in 1989.

The new 2015 Land Rover Discovery is available in three levels of trim: SE, HSE, and HSE LUX, with a limited-production commemorative Special Edition XXV. The HSE is expected to be the volume sales leader and average transaction pricing is expected to be between $38,000 and $40,000.

Performance comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, gasoline direct injection engine that produces 240 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 251 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,750 rpm. Power reaches the driving wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between all-wheel-drive systems by selecting either Rover's standard on-demand Gen 5 Haldex driveline coupling, or upgrading to the Active Driveline with on-demand twin couplings featuring driveline disconnect.

The Discovery Sport displays a new sporty and dynamic design language that enhances the level of refinement and represents an exemplary balance of design and functionality in an aerodynamic package.

The aggressive profile features a sharply angled windscreen and A pillars that flow gently aft to a reverse angled rear hatch, and is capped by a tapering roofline. Bumpers are bold and athletic, the functional rear spoiler and rugged skid plate flanked by split dual exhaust outlets hint at the vehicle's prowess. A full panoramic sunroof with a dark tint and a special surface treatment for solar protection enhances the cabin's spacious feeling.

Inside, the cleanly designed interior provides not only a functionally versatile space, but also a comforting ambiance. Controls are logically positioned and the three-spoke tilt and telescopic multi-function steering wheel frames the modern instrument cluster with a central 8-inch color TFT display.

Occupancy is for five, with an optional 5+2 seating arrangement available. Seating is arranged stadium style and there is an available tilt-and-slide functionality and a 60/40-split adjustment. Second-row seats both slide and recline. For passenger convenience, the interior boasts six USB charging points along with four 12-volt power points, and available dual-zone climate control with independent air-conditioning controls and vents placed in the B and C pillars. Plenty of storage is conveniently found in the doors and console, while the infotainment system features advanced smart phone functionality.

My test Land Rover Discovery Sport wore an exterior finish of Santorini Black and came with a Tan Windsor leather interior. The base sticker was set at $45,570 before destination charge and optional pricing.

The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport is the real deal for off-road travel in any extreme. It is capable of wading in a depth of nearly 2 feet, with an approach angle 25 degrees, a breakover angle of 20 degrees, and a departure angle of 31 degrees.

The standard Terrain Response System is a blessing in challenging off-road scenarios, thanks to its range of appropriate settings for a variety of surface conditions. There are really too many standard features to list here, but basically, if it's not included in the inventory, chances are that you really don't need it.

During the global launch we traversed Iceland's Golden Circle, crossing rivers and taking in geysers, geothermal sites, and fjords. Ice-covered roads were the norm in rain, snow, and very little sun (with roughly only 6 hours of daylight every 24 hours). Special studded Ice Zero tires by Pirelli enhanced the Land Rover Sport's normal capability, but it was still necessary to exercise caution, since it is impossible to override the laws of physics as a couple of colleagues learned, while still managing to escape harm.

This latest Discovery model has indeed come a very long way since its beginning. It is smoother, more powerful, and more stable than any of its predecessors. It is a joy to drive in extremely challenging situations, with complete confidence. Acceleration is readily responsive, steering is spot-on with a solid feel and centered control, and the ride comfort is impressive.

It is entirely possible to obtain and enjoy a 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport at a price point of less than $40,000 with virtually all of the capability of the Range Rover. Is it faster? No, but off-road that really doesn't enter the equation -- finesse is more important than speed.

Specifications

Base price $45,570 (as tested: $46,495)
Curb weight 3,957 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type turbocharged 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 240 at 5800 rpm
Overall length 180.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 251 at 1750 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5/7-passenger 4WD SUV
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