2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport Spec

It may not look the part in its street view, but the new Land Rover Discovery Sport is a credentialed trekker.

It can ford a creek of up to 23.6 inches, if the driver knows how to create a bow wave. With its sophisticated (and standard) all-wheel-drive system and long-travel suspension, it can then climb out over the creek bank and continue onward and upward at up to a 45-degree incline.

This compact SUV has ground clearance of 8.3 inches and, if needed, the lower trim on the front bumper can be pulled off to make a steeper trail entry. Not that the targeted buyer of this compact, seven-passenger crossover would subject his or her “Disco” to this treatment. But it’s good to know it has earned the Land Rover badge of courage.

Land Rover will sell a lot of these — even with prices ranging from about $40,000 to more than $50,000. The tester was the top-line HSE Luxury, which was almost $53,000 with extras.

The Disco Sport, with seats for five or seven, is the right size for the urban landscape, bringing polished refinement and features. There are multiple USB and 12-volt ports, a useful center console and my iPhone connected easily. Entry and exit are accommodating and both front seats have 10-way power adjustment.

Safety options include the optional autonomous emergency braking system, which uses stereo cameras mounted next to the rear-view mirror to detect objects or slowing traffic. The system will “help avoid collisions” below 32 mph and will reduce the severity of an impact at speeds below 50 mph. For those in the tortuous daily commute, this is a valuable extra.

There also are such safety options as traffic sign recognition, which is handy because it monitors road signs and displays the speed limit in the navigation screen. And there is park assist, which works for parallel or perpendicular parking spaces and autonomously parks the Disco.

While it may look small on the outside, the interior is spacious. Headroom is tall, even with the fixed panorama roof. The driver has command seating with good sightlines over the shoulder and over the hood. The controls are easily viewed and the controls for fan-vents-AC are separate dials. Navigation and audio are accessed via a touchscreen that is not particularly intuitive at first use. Once you figure it out, you’ll know what not to do.

The back seat area is roomy with 37.3 inches of legroom and 6.3 inches of fore-aft slide to the bench with several inches of recline. The raised bench has good thigh support and there’s a wide fold-down armrest with cup holders. The doors open wide and there is a low transmission tunnel for improved access and footroom.

The cargo is equally large and square, with 28.7 cubic feet behind the second row. The opening is 38 inches wide by 36 inches deep by 32 inches tall. And there are second row seatback releases to easily fold the 60/40 seat.

The Disco Sport has a solid, rigid chassis. It is well soundproofed at highway speeds and rides comfortably (soft), with slight body roll, due in part to the long-travel suspension. Steering weight is comfortable at all speeds and braking is firm from vented 12.8-inch discs front and 11.8-inch discs rear. Also standard is corner brake control to trim the tendency of a spin in those crazy exit-ramp loops.

But the weak link in my weeklong test drive was the powertrain, which just seemed underpowered, despite its advanced technologies.

The 240-horsepower, turbocharged and direction-injection, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine routes power to all wheels via a new nine-speed automatic transmission. But because of some heavy-duty componentry, the curb weight is 3,957 pounds. And two tons is a lot to get rolling for two-liters of displacement. The engine’s 251 foot-pounds of torque peaks at a fairly low 1,750 rpm, but there is noticeable lag until the engine hits its mark. And at cruising speed there is “rubberbanding” to keep the power consistent. Sport mode doesn’t make much difference to close the gap.

Fuel economy is about as low as it gets for a compact, AWD crossover: 20 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined, though I was consistently averaging 23.6 to 24.1 mpg. Premium is recommended.

There is a long and growing list of these luxury compact crossovers, including the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti QX50, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLK.

The Discovery Sport is swank jewelry with a capable off-road side. How much dual-sport do you want in your crossover?

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage

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