The right updates for Land Rover’s most affordable model.
For a dozen seconds I’m completely bewitched by the craggily, multi-peaked mountain of Montserrat. I’m ascending toward it in a 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport, but it’s as if I’m having an out-of-body experience, as this rocky outcropping demands my attention. While the aptly named “Serrated Mountain” is doing its job transfixing my attention, so too is the handsome, abundantly capable, and newly plush Discovery Sport.
Land Rover continues to flesh out its individual sub-brands: Range Rover is sophistication and refinement; the newly-debuted, next-generation Defender for ruggedness and durability; and Discovery and its Sport sibling are about family and versatility, says Land Rover chief designer Gerry McGovern. And it’s that versatility that’s abundantly clear on our drive from Barcelona, up through the surrounding mountains and countryside.
A New Dance Floor
Sweeping up toward a scenic mountain seems a natural environment for the Disco Sport, but its chic-and-sleek aesthetic plays nicely in the city, too, the latter of which is where most Americans will likely use the compact Land Rover. Though if a 2020 model breezes past, you could be forgiven for not picking up on the updates. The new Sport receives freshly designed LED headlamps and taillamps, a new grille, and a new front bumper. The R-Dynamic models have plenty of body-colored panels, which gives the impression of the car being lower to the ground than its 8.3 inches of ground clearance suggests. While the Disco Sport I drive rides on 20-inch wheels, the crossover is also available with smaller 18- and 19-inch options, as well as larger 21 inchers.
The interior stands among the crop of compact CUVs with its third row. That element remains a highlight for customers, Land Rover’s chief interior designer Martin Buffery says. “There is a surprise with this car, that it has a third row, and from the outside, nobody really expects that.”
A third row didn’t overshadow what the interior was lacking, however, thanks to an abundance of hard plastics and a style that wasn’t competitive with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class or Audi Q5. Predictably, then, the 2020 Disco Sport trades bits previously finished in plastic for more lovely padded and cushy foam wrapped in leather. The upgrades make you want to sink your fingers and hands into the surfaces and casings – and for lack of a better explanation – get a bit handsy in the Disco.
The previous Disco Sport’s interior came off as cheap, and while this is the most accessible nameplate in the Land Rover portfolio, the company doesn’t want to remind drivers of that every time they get in the car. But designers changed more than the cabin’s surface treatments.
A gear lever replaces the rotary shifter for the nine-speed automatic, and it’s there to play up the Disco Sport’s sporty vibe. There’s still plenty of storage places for your phone, wallet or purse, and keys, too. There are now six USB ports, meaning everyone can charge their devices. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are also available. The near-field communication (NFC) wireless charging is pleasingly functional, and mercifully doesn’t cook your phone like some others I’ve tested.
Cut A Rug
Spain is a glorious place to launch a car, not only for the vistas and beautiful roads, but also because the infrastructure is excellent. So good, in fact, that I have a hard time discerning just how quiet the Discovery Sport’s cabin is. With the stereo off, there’s virtually no noise from either wind or road. It’s clear that the noise, vibration, and harshness engineers have done some great work here, much as they did on the Range Rover Evoque.
A lot of that comes down to the well-sorted chassis. The 2020 Discovery Sport shares the Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) of the Evoque, and likewise shares its powertrain options. There’s a base turbocharged, 2.0-liter Ingenium four-cylinder that’s good for 246 horsepower, while our R-Dynamic HSE gets a more potent version of that engine that features a mild-hybrid system. Acting as a bridge toward where the brand, and the industry as a whole, are moving, the 48-volt electrical system powers an electric motor that works with the 2.0-liter engine to produce 286 hp and 269 pound-feet of torque.
On the road, the mild hybrid provides an electric boost to the turbocharged engine, and helps the Discovery Sport feel surprisingly zippy. By mid-afternoon, I’ve traded in smooth asphalt for dirt and rocks. I find myself descending and ascending steep grades and crawling acrobatically over boulders with a wheel a foot or two in the air.
Get A Good View
It’s here that the Discovery Sport is a bit like a Swiss Army knife; this tool has plenty of its own tools. A ClearSight rearview mirror projects a camera feed in the rearview mirror, and gives the driver a wider perspective of what’s behind the crossover. On the road it’s a bit odd and takes some getting used to, but the added perspective is helpful when you’re dangling precariously on cliffs’ edges. There’s also ClearSight Ground View, which, as its name implies, uses cameras to project what’s beneath (and around) the car. This is especially helpful when on uneven, rock-strewn terrain. A frontal camera also helps you see what’s coming up ahead, such as when you’re climbing or angled upwards and your unobstructed view of the sky above is far from comforting.
On a stretch out of the mountain and back to civilization, the Disco Sport’s handling comes into clearer focus. Its steering is well-weighted, and I almost feel as if I’m piloting a car; so nimble and agile does this SUV seem at times. The brakes are sharp and linear, especially considering I’m in a 4,200-pound box. Regardless of environment, the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport’s versatility shines. With improvements to its interior, additional technology, and slightly freshened looks, the Disco Sport merits a test drive, and serious consideration if you’re shopping the segment.
Gallery: 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport: First Drive
2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport P300