• 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

    2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

    Even small Land Rovers stand regally above rocks and rivers like English aristocrats on a sunny Sunday outing.

    Rovers such as the 2020 Discovery Sport can traverse or grind through just about any obstacle while cosseting passengers in leather and wood – sort of.

    The compact Disco Sport flashes all the traditional Land Rover looks and cachet guaranteed to improve your image in the pick-up lane at Junior’s school – when Junior actually goes back to school.

    And it should be plenty capable if you get a sudden urge to visit Moab, Utah.

    But if you’re accustomed to larger full-size SUVS propelled by big, silky V-8s, you may need to dial back your expectations a notch or two with the four-cylinder Discovery Sport.

    Just don’t tell your neighbors.

    The bluish-gray Disco Sport I had recently, for example, had one of Rover’s traditional nice-sized grilles angled back slightly and flanked by big headlamps.

    A broad hood with a slightly raised center suggested that something powerful might be lurking beneath it – which isn’t exactly true, but, hey, it’s effective imaging.

    Meanwhile, a deep character line cut through the Disco Sport’s basically flat sides up high, contrasting nicely with subtle flares over its wheel-wells.

    Taut and slightly square overall, the all-wheel-drive Rover rolled on good-looking 20-inch wheels wrapped with 235/50 tires, and was capped by a thoroughly English-looking black top.

    But I struggled to find much heat beneath that attractive skin.

    Powered by a 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 246 horsepower – a competitive amount of power – the Disco Sport felt sluggish and soft, characteristics I don’t typically associate with Land Rover or its Range Rover models.

    Although supported reasonably well by a nine-speed automatic, the engine suffered from turbo lag and a laggardly accelerator pedal.

    At slow or moderate speeds, any prod of the throttle was typically met with a brief pause followed by a gradual increase in revs and power.

    Once the engine got spooled up, it did fine, revving lustily to 6,000 rpm. But its modest 0-to-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, underscores its less-than-lusty performance.

    In addition, the compact Disco Sport manages only 21 miles per gallon in overall fuel economy.

    I think the main culprit in both cases is weight. With 4,700 pounds to lug, the Land Rover is significantly slower than the lighter BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 crossovers, which sport roughly the same amount of power.

    It’s disappointing because the rest of the Disco’s mechanical pieces perform pretty well.

    A well-conceived Rover suspension, for example, gives the Disco commendable handling and a sophisticated ride, particularly at speed.

    In town, the Land Rover could get fidgety over bad urban concrete, but it stretched and smoothed out at speed.

    Moreover, its well-weighted steering and decent stability in corners made it feel almost agile.

    Of course, the body of the tallish Disco Sport leaned a little in corners and curves, but remained composed and stable – other Rover characteristics.

    Likewise, the black interior in my $54,000 Disco Sport generally resembled those in larger, more expensive Land and Range Rover models, only with more plastic.

    A flat upper dashboard in fine-grain plastic, for instance, dropped onto a thick, protruding mid-dash like other Rovers.

    It was anchored by a 10-inch touchscreen that offered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a panel beneath it provided knobs for controlling the climate system.

    The vehicle’s safety features included blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist, active cruise control and traffic-sign recognition.

    As with some other luxury vehicles, the Disco Sport had an electric shifter sprouting from its broad console that could be finicky, refusing to engage “drive” unless a button on the shifter was depressed -- and I often forgot that irritating requirement.

    Blame it on age, I guess.

    It gave me a little extra time to admire the stylized, square door-tops on the Rover that featured recessed centers with sleek silver bands for door-pulls.

    The vehicle’s leather seats also were fairly impressive with relatively smooth bolsters and perforated centers, and offered good leg- and head-room in the second row of seats.

    That’s right – second row. Oddly, the compact Disco Sport was equipped with a tiny third-row seat good for only a couple of kids or a jowly English basset hound.

    Why a third-row seat in a compact SUV? Beats me, especially when it cuts into cargo space. But it’s there if you ever need it.

    A dozen or so options pushed the price on my Disco Sport well into near-luxury territory and included the Technology Pack, $1,110; the Hot Climate Pack with two-zone climate control, $1,280; the third-row seats, $1,200; and the stylish 20-inch wheels, $800.

    The high cost of cachet, I suppose.

    If your SUV needs include occasional off-roading, the Disco Sport probably makes some sense. If not, you will at least look darn good in it.

    2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport

    • What I liked most: The Discovery Sport’s lean good looks and typical Land Rover/Range Rover mix of off-road capability and civilized on-road manners.
    • What I would change: The engine, which lacks the power and refinement that the rest of the Disco Sport demands.
    • MSRP: Base price for Sport SE model, $44,600; as equipped, $53,905.
    • Official color: Byron Blue.
    • Fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon in the city, 24 on the highway and 21 mpg combined with filler on the right.
    • Odometer reading when tested: 3,054 miles.
    • Spare tire: Full-size.
    • Weight: 4,658 pounds.
    • Length-width-height: 181 inches long/75 inches wide/68 inches tall.
    • Fuel-tank capacity: 17.7 gallons.
    • Towing capacity: 1,653 pounds.
    • 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport in a few words: A handsome high-end compact SUV that falls short in the engine compartment.
    • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty.
    • Final assembly location: Halewood, England
    • Manufacturer’s website: Land Rover
    • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com
    • Up next: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250
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