For those looking to step into the world of opulent off-roading, few brands can deliver like Land Rover. And though mention of the storied British marque might call to mind the glitzy top-shelf Range Rovers, make no mistake, the entry-level Discovery Sport is in fact the brand’s best-seller. Looking to continue that trend, the littlest Land Rover enters the 2018 model year bolstered by a host of updates.
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2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport Overview
What's New for 2018
The Discovery Sport's most significant change from 2017 lies under the hood, where an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is running the show. This new engine is offered in the standard itineration making 237 horsepower/251 pounds-feet of torque and the high-output version that boasts 286 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both benefit from all-aluminum construction and increased efficiency over their predecessor. Regardless of engine choice, a nine-speed automatic runs the show.
Other changes to the Discovery are less substantial. New shades of orange and blue can be found on the color palette, auto-dimming exterior mirrors are new, and are standard on the top two trims, in-car wifi is now 4G for faster speeds, and new seat foam has been fitted for improved comfort.
Choosing Your Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Disco Sport has three trim levels – the entry-level SE, the middle-child HSE, and the top-spec HSE Luxury. The upper two trims can be had with the high-output, 286 hp engine; the SE makes do with just the standard 237-horsepower motor.
Choosing the higher-output powertrain also means a few some sporty touches inside and out. These include a unique front bumper with bigger air dams, a gloss black grille and side vents, chrome tailpipe finisher, a red ‘Sport’ badge and 20-inch wheels.
Land Rover has built its name and reputation on the backs of its vehicle’s off-road prowess, and the Discovery Sport is no different. Besides the standard four-wheel-drive, all models come equipped with Terrain Response, which offers specially calibrated driving modes that are programmed for specific conditions. Also there to lend a hand when the terrain gets rough is hill descent control, hill-start assist, and All-Terrain Progress Control – a system which allows the vehicle to crawl forward in a specified speed set by the driver.
Buyers also have a choice of up to 12 different exterior colors, as well as two available appearance packages. The Dynamic Design Package (unavailable on SE) brings to the table 20-inch black wheels, chrome exhaust, and some unique interior touches like chrome pedals and a leather steering wheel. The other appearance package is the Black Design Package, which includes a contrasting color roof, black badging, black grille, fender vents and mirrors, and a choice of black wheels ranging in size from 18-inch to 20-inch.
One of the bigger selling points for the Discovery Sport is the available third-row, a feature that is a rarity in the compact SUV segment. However, it's uncommon for a reason; with total vehicle length of just 181.1 inches long, don't expect to squeeze any full-size adults in the pair of way-back seats. If three rows of seating is a high priority, look beyond the Discovery Sport.
2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review
The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport may be the most affordable offering in the Land Rover/Range Rover lineup, but it still brings an agreeable sense of comfort and convenience to everyday driving while living up to Land Rover's reputation for rugged rough-road usability. Even if most drivers don't venture far from the pavement, the Discovery Sport's capabilities and credentials give it an appealing edge over more pedestrian competitors while still being able to capably cope with the adventures of daily urban and suburban life.
The Discovery Sport is based on the same platform as the Range Rover Evoque but adds a useful nine inches of overall length. The new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine (which replaces the previous turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine) is available in two states of tune: the standard version makes 237 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, while an available uprated variant spins out 286 hp and 295 lb-ft. The transmission is a nine-speed automatic, and, in proper Land Rover fashion, drive goes to all four wheels. If the ample cargo space – 34.6 cubic feet with the second row upright, 62.75 with it folded – is occasionally inadequate, the Discovery Sport can also tow up to 4,409 pounds of trailer and payload.
Buyers can choose from three trim levels (Land Rover calls them "themes") for the Discovery Sport. The base SE includes partial leather seat covers, rear parking sensors, and power folding side mirrors. The HSE adds xenon headlights as standard, fits full leather seat upholstery, and trades the metal roof panel for a panoramic glass roof. The HSE Luxury sits on 19-inch wheels; inside, navigation and a Meridien sound system with a SiriusXM receiver occupy the center console and a softer grade of leather dresses the seats.
The upgraded fittings may be tempting, especially for a proper and somewhat upscale British motoring vehicle, but, thankfully, the essential highlights – the Terrain Response all-wheel-drive system, the trailer-towing gear, the InControl telematics system – are standard across the board. Our value case for the Discovery Sport starts with the SE and fills in a few preferred items:
- Model: 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport SE
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 237 hp / 251 lb-ft
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 21 City / 25 Hwy
- Options: Cold Climate Package ($1,330, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, heated windscreen), Blind Spot Monitor and Reverse Traffic Detection ($510).
- Base Price: $38,790 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $40,630
The Discovery Sport makes for a quite pleasant daily driver. Around-town performance is comfortable and capable, if not stimulating, and highway travel is secure and quiet. Fuel economy won't impress hybrid drivers, but isn't bad for a rather heavy all-wheel-drive vehicle. The 286-hp powerplant (available on the HSE and HSE Luxury) adds an impressive amount of thrust but also adds a more-than-considerable $6,000 to the sticker price.
Our opinions of the Discovery Sport's capabilities grow even more positive when the pavement ends. The Discovery Sport is the rare everyday SUV with meaningful off-road capabilities with more than eight inches of ground clearance, the ability to wade almost two feet of water, and a multimode all-wheel-drive system that manages difficult terrain with the skill of an experienced guide.
The mild downsides of Discovery Sport driving tend more toward understandable trade-offs than meaningful issues. The solid construction and all-wheel-drive components contribute to a curb weight of 3,960 pounds; no one will ever describe a Discovery Sport as quick or agile. Steering feel is also well on the vague side – great for absorbing lumps on dirt roads, not so much when trying to get a sense of the surface on a wet two-lane road.
The Discovery Sport may feature traditional Land Rover ruggedness and capability underneath, but those time-honored traits are dressed in a contemporary body design. The Discovery Sport's shape, like that of its very similar larger Discovery sibling, leaps past older blocky Land Rover forms and lands square in the middle of modern trends. At the same time, it may be slightly too easy to lose that trendy shape in a parking lot full of similar crossovers.
That break from the past extends to the Discovery Sport's cabin, where its modern (if very rectilinear) styling and high materials quality also echo its Discovery and Range Rover relatives. The seats are comfortable and controls are clear and well-arranged, but even within the luxury there remains a pleasant sense of utilitarian directness and solidity. That utilitarian feel may extend a bit too far with the near-useless optional third row of seats, which – provided a passenger can even find a way to fit correctly – are notably uncomfortable.
The Best and Worst Things
The Discovery Sport politely dispels prejudices about compact SUVs being suburban buggies that can't hack it off road. It may be sleek, modern, and comfortable, but find a decent trail and it cheerfully lives up to the reputation of its near-unstoppable Land Rover ancestors.
Veterans of Royal Army armored troop carriers will feel right at home in the cramped and thinly-padded optional third-row rear seats. For others, especially passengers larger than an average third grader, the third row verges on the inhospitable despite the added air conditioning vents and USB port.
Right For? Wrong For?
Do you want a stylish upscale family-hauler with some legitimate off-road substance under the skin? Do your vacations involve the kind of overland travel or trailer towing that really justifies an SUV's rugged foundation? Do you have an instinctive urge to stop – even in the midst of that overland travel – for a cup of tea in the afternoon? The Discovery Sport may be outfitted for the modern world, but it still lives for the countryside at its core.
Do you want an SUV that legitimately seats seven? The five-plus-two seating option sounds appealing at first, but those two added seats work far better in the brochure than in real life. Do you prioritize on-road handling and fuel economy over off-road capabilities? The Discovery Sport works well in daily use, but if your intention in buying a crossover is more alternative sedan than civilized truck, products from more mainstream nameplates may be more to your liking in the long run.
The Bottom Line
The Discovery Sport pairs an attractive design and modern conveniences with the kind of rough-and-ready capabilities that made SUVs so appealing to so many buyers in the first place. If you prefer a crossover that lives up to its image instead of being a tough-looking tall car, the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport deserves serious consideration.