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Test Drive: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury

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By Robert Nichols

I spent last week in the lap of luxury, as I drove about with a feeling of superiority in a 2015 Discovery Sport HSE Luxury model.

Finished in Fuji white the handsome SUV is both elegant and understated. From a distance the Discovery looks like just another SUV; the silhouette is remarkably similar to the every other SUV out there.

Upon closer inspection the differences become very apparent. The Land Rover Discovery is all about the details. For instance the use of LED lighting blended with Xenon headlights, the stitching in the sumptuous leather that wraps the dash and seats, the overall sense of refinement in the drive and interior quality. Nothing has been overlooked.

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When you start the vehicle the rotary gear selector raises out of the center consul and add a little pomp and ceremony to the tediousness of starting your vehicle.

The Discovery shares its drivetrain and underpinnings with the Range Rover Evoque, a vehicle that is very stylish. However, the roofline in the Evoque severely encroaches into the cabin space.  As a result the rear seat headroom is cramped and the cargo area is limited.

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In the Discovery the rear seat headroom is ample and the cargo area tall and capable. In fact there is room for up to 7 passengers when the fold-down third row seats are selected. I cannot comment on the comfort of these as my tester was not equipped with them, but some reviews refer to them as child friendly.

The rest of the seating is very comfortable. The rear seats are heated and will recline and slide back and forth. There is access to a USB charging port for charging various devices and the legroom is generous even with the front seats all the way back.

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The front seats feature heating and cooling, which I enjoyed thoroughly as last week was humid and sticky. The Tan Windsor Leather seats in front offer numerous and seemingly endless adjustability, three pre-programmed memory positions and a very comfortable perch from which to pilot this luxury ride.

My fully loaded Sport tester came with adaptive cruise control, sat nav, an 11 speaker sound system that is fantastic, an impressive panoramic roof that spans nearly the entire cabin, and a remarkable park assist system.

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This parking system will parallel and perpendicularly park (perpendicular parking is the sort of parking we do at shopping malls), the system will even pull back out for you if you like.

Land Rover has received some criticism for their touch screen systems for being too slow, but this system has been updated and functioned well.

The dash layout is minimalist and attractive; all the contact points in the cabin are soft and have a rich and luxuriant appearance, which should be expected in this end of the market. The base Sport HSE Lux model costs $49,900.

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The engine is a powerful 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder that has an output of 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. Power is distributed through a ZF 9-speed automatic transmission.

On the road I found the engine to suffer from a bit of turbo lag, and the 1st to 2nd gear change was often very harsh. This issue is well documented and Land Rover is addressing it by bringing an all-new powertrain out in the 2016 model.

That one problem aside, the Discovery delivers a very refined and quiet ride. Bumps are noticed, but rarely disturbing, corners are taken at speed with minimal body roll and the whole experience is relaxing.

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You cannot drive a Land Rover for a week and not try out the legendary off-road capabilities.

I took mine off-road in a local peach farm and never once had to worry about getting stuck. When you select any of the off-road driving modes the system displays a graphic that shows the Discovery from overhead and then alerts you to the presence of obstacles nearing the lovely paint job.

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In my particular journey those obstacles were tall grass and weeds, but the system still warned me and I was able to avoid brushing up against them. Had there been branches or stones this system would have prevented some rather nasty dings and scratches.

It should be noted that this off-road excursion was completed with the 20” low-profile performance tires and not a proper rough terrain tire.

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Even though the bulk of people who buy Land Rovers will never drive through anything more rugged than a pothole strewn road, the company has continued to build upon its off-road legacy with new technology. Here are a few of the newer additions:

Hill Descent Control that maintains a set speed while negotiating steep inclines off-road.

Gradient Release Control that progressively releases the brakes when moving away on an incline for maximum control.

Roll Stability Control designed to detect the onset of a rollover and applies the brakes to the outer wheels to bring the vehicle under control.

Dynamic Stability Control corrects oversteer and understeer by reducing engine torque and/or applying brakes to individual wheels

Electronic Traction Control reduces torque and/or applies a braking force to individual wheels to prevent wheelspin.

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What can I say about the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury; I will miss being coddled, the sense of confidence from knowing my vehicle can climb any mountain and cross many streams and envious glances of drivers in less capable German and Japanese SUVs.

If you need an SUV that has actual ability off the beaten path, will accommodate your family and is luxurious without being showy, this is the one for you.

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Base Price: $49,900

Price as tested: $56,415

Pros:

  • Refined Ride
  • Luxurious Cabin
  • Handsome Exterior, Elegant without being showy
  • Legendary Off-Road capability and a sense of security regardless of weather

Cons:

  • Harsh 1st to 2nd gear change
  • Turbo-lag can be frustrating

Immediate Competition:

  • BMW X3
  • Audi Q5
  • Porsche Macan S
  • Lexus RX

 

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