An attainable luxury model from Britain’s iconic SUV maker.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.
2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Consider the Discovery Sport your cost-effective Land Rover, the SUV you’ll want until you can afford a Range Rover. This five-passenger, all-wheel drive utility vehicle starts at under $40,000 and delivers a handsome product in an altogether tidy package.

When you think of “Land Rover” there is a pair of sub-brands or categories that may come to mind. The standard Discovery series includes two models: Discovery Sport and Discovery. The high-end Range Rover line now includes four models: Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Velar, and Evoque.

Even some of these models offer further differentiation with the flagship Range Rover presented in short- and long-wheelbase models. The Evoque is the outlier here, offered in two- and four-door body styles as well as a convertible.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport: Charting the Changes

The Discovery Sport was new as of 2015, replacing the previous Freelander, itself originally known as the LR2. Changes for 2017 include an all-new InControl interface, featuring a larger screen, sharper graphics, and quicker response times. You’ll also find a newly available Intelligent Dynamics pack, what brings in an adaptive suspension system and an active all-wheel drive system that sends power to two wheels for improved fuel economy.

The Discovery Sport features Land Rover’s recognizable honeycomb, two-slat horizontal grille. Positioned directly above the grille are the letters forming the word Discovery — the only indication that this model is the Discovery Sport is on the liftgate. Specifically, the SPORT badging fastened to the left of the rear license plate supplies the requisite cue.

Circular-themed headlights and tail lamps mark this model. Moreover, you’ll also find a narrow lower air intake, front and rear skid plates, front fog lamps, pronounced wheel wells, side vents, a rising belt line, and a sweeping roofline. A liftgate spoiler, rear fog lights, and dual exhaust tips bring up the rear. Also included are alloy wheels, power-folding heated side mirrors, and daytime running lights.

Inside, there is room for five, although this SUV is most suitable for four. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive; the rear bench seat features a 40:20:40 design — drop that center seat to access the storage compartment or use the armrest for just the two of you back there.

Speaking of the storage compartment, it measures 32 cubic feet or 66.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Optionally, you can choose three-row seating, what brings in two extra seats for the little ones. However, this choice also greatly reduces the amount of standard cargo area space available. If you need seven seats, consider the Discovery.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Three Grades to Consider

The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport is available in three trims: SE ($37,695), HSE ($42,195), and HSE Luxury ($46,595). Add $995 for the destination charge.

Standard equipment includes eight-way partial leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a center console with a sliding armrest, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system, mood lighting, cruise control, a rear parking aid, and a rear view camera.

Upgrades and options are many and include Xenon headlights with LED signature, larger wheels, grained leather seats, a navigation system, and a 10-speaker Meridian sound system. A fixed panoramic roof and a powered gesture tailgate are also available.

The Discovery Sport’s cabin is airy and bright, and features high-quality materials and the precise fit and finish you’d expect of it. The instrument panel has a pair of oval recesses at each corner featuring the speedometer and odometer. In the middle is a digital display.

The center stack comes with a colorful rectangular display, climate vents, and the knobs and switches to control the climate system. At the base of the stack is an open area for your smartphone. You’ll find all types of connectivity ports — USB 3.0, auxiliary, and 12-volt outlets inside the console.

The transmission shifter is a dial and the top sits flush with the surface when the engine is off, emerging once the ignition is on. However, this particular dial may be the SUV’s weakest point. Not a few times did it refuse to budge at first attempt and it doesn’t have the smoothness you’d expect. I don’t mind dials, as long as they work as intended, but give me a transmission shift stick anytime.

Front and rear cup holders and in-door beverage holders assure you that you’re never without a drink when properly stocked. One of the strongest points of this SUV is the standard storage area — it rivals the size of other small SUVs in roominess. Drop the second-row seats and you have even more space to work with, although those seats don’t quite rest flush with the floor. Happily, there is a spare underneath the storage area — a donut, but at least a spare is present.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

One Powertrain Combination

You get one and only one powertrain choice with the Discovery Sport — a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine makes 240 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Step on the pedal and the Discovery Sport moves forward in a leisurely manner. But it isn’t too far up in the band curve — 1,750 RPM to be precise — when the turbocharger kicks in. Force the pedal hard and you’ll note the lag — power seems long in coming, but when it does, this SUV throws it down. Passing power is ample and when you move down your favorite curvy road, the SUV remains poised. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some body-roll present, but it is minimal and not unexpected.

Personally, I would love to see a second engine offered. Specifically, the 2.0-liter “Ingenium” turbo-diesel first presented in the Jaguar XF followed by the XE would be terrific. In addition to serving the Discovery Sport, the Jaguar F-PACE might also benefit. In the XF, the turbo-diesel makes 180 horsepower and 318 pound-feet of torque. Most impressive is the 42 mpg highway the diesel delivers. That’s far better than the 20/25 mpg city/highway you’ll get with the gas engine.

As for off-road capabilities, the Discovery Sport comes with an All-Terrain Progress Control system, what delivers automatic cruise-control for off-road driving. This means you’ll release your foot from the gas pedal and allow the SUV to move forward on its own. The system allows you to control your speed too, supplying “crawl control” as needed. Thus, when activated, the SUV can travel at speeds ranging from 1 to 19 mph.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Safety and Technology

The 2017 Discovery Sport comes equipped with a full suite of airbags, including a driver’s knee bolster airbag. Traction and stability control, hill start assist, and trailer stability assist are standard.

This model is not yet rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That said, high-profile vehicles such as SUVs typically offer superior crash protection, although an elevated risk of a rollover is common to these vehicles.

As for tech items, upgrading to a 380-watt, 11-speaker Meridian sound system with a subwoofer ($800) is one option. This package also brings in satellite radio and HD radio. Navigation is available and comes with apps. Also included with all models is a USB port up front and two in the rear. An available entertainment pack ($3,000) brings in an 825-watt, 16-speaker Meridian audio system.

2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Parting Thoughts

The Land Rover Discovery Sport provides an ideal segue to this British SUV brand. Upgrade your Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson or other small SUV and you’ll come away with a luxurious utility vehicle with strong off-road capabilities to boot. That’s something no small mainstream SUV offers outside of a Jeep Compass or a Subaru Forester.

Even as you weigh this Land Rover, the luxury competition is strong. Compare this model with the Cadillac XT5, Audi Q5, Lincoln MKC, BMW X5, Lexus NX, Infiniti QX50, and others.

All in all, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport delivers as promised. That said, if you want a larger engine or more room, then cross-shop the all-new and larger Discovery.

This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.