Initially bailed out by India’s Tata Motors for their poor sales and financial performance, Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) are now the company’s crown jewels and are delivering quarter after quarter of profitable results. Both brands have plenty of product in the pipeline as well, promising continued strong performance. The 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport is the latest addition to the Land Rover family and the first of the newly-expanded Discovery line. We’ve seen multiple spy shots and have received deliberate teases from Land Rover preparing us for the latest addition to the brand portfolio, and finally, here it is.

Practical Premium
There’s no denying the new Discovery Sport shares some DNA with the Evoque compact crossover, but unlike its uptown sibling, the Sport puts a greater emphasis on practicality. This is evidenced in its key dimensions, with a three-inch longer wheelbase, nearly two inches in additional width, and nine inches more overall length. Thanks to strategic use of high-strength steel and aluminum for the hood, front fenders, roof and tailgate, the claimed curb weight for the Discovery Sport is only 55 pounds heavier than the Evoque. Also shared with the Evoque is its 2.0L turbocharged I-4 engine and nine-speed ZF automatic. JLR’s internally-engineered “Ingeinum” family of I-4 engines will likely be offered within the next two model years. We’ve long complained about manufacturers’ inflated claims about seven-passenger capability, but Land Rover frankly describes the optional third row of the Discovery Sport as for “occasional use.” Contributing to the feeling of spaciousness is a second row that sits two inches higher than the front seats for improved visibility. Gadget-crazed passengers will be pleased to learn that the Discovery Sport comes with four standard 12-volt outlets, with up to six USB power ports available on three-row models.

Perhaps the most innovative comfort and convenience feature on the Discovery Sport is its climate control system, which can automatically detect windshield condensation and will automatically activate the defogger, as well as an air-quality sensor that will automatically switch to recirculation mode if outdoor pollution levels surpass a certain threshold. A driver-selectable Eco mode optimizes fuel economy while the air conditioning is being used. To maximize second-row legroom, vents for the second and optional third row are mounted on the B and C-pillars, instead of the rear of the center console.

Uniquely Yours
As is usually the case with Land Rovers, there are a multitude of personalization options to help your Discovery Sport stand out from the crowd. A total of nine exterior paint options will be offered. An available Black Pack features a gloss-black grille, door mirror caps, front fender vents, and hood and tailgate lettering. A contrast-color roof is available in Santorini Black or Corris Grey that extends to the base of the A-pillars, and a total of seven alloy wheel styles are available up to 20 inches. Finally, as has become the style now for many SUVs and crossovers, a fully tinted glass panoramic roof is available. Available dealer-installed accessories include front headrest-mounted iPad holders and a center armrest heater/cooler for food and beverages. As has lately become expected for everything from entry-level subcompacts to luxury cars, the Discovery Sport features Land Rover’s InControl app suite and interface, including iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Glympse, Parkopedia, Hotelseeker, Eventseeker and MobileDay. The InControl App downloadable from the Apple App Store or Google Play store allows for limited mirroring of mobile functions on the 8-inch touchscreen display. The Bluetooth system allows simultaneous pairing of two phones for both music streaming and calling.

Terrain-Tackling Tech
On U.S.-bound Discovery Sport models, a full-time Haldex all-wheel-drive system will be standard. Like the Evoque, and unlike the Jeep Cherokee, there is no dedicated low-range ratio available, with the system instead relying on the wide ratio spread of the nine-speed transmission to offer sufficient gearing to scale most inclines ( a claimed maximum gradient of up to 45 degrees). Approach, departure, and breakover angles for the Discovery Sport are 25, 31 and 21 degrees, respectively, giving the Cherokee Trailhawk a slight advantage at 29.8, 32.1 and 23.3 degrees, respectively. Ground clearance of 8.3 inches is also slightly less than the Trailhawk, which has 8.7 inches. Total wheel travel is a respectable 13.4 inches.

But lest you think the Discovery Sport is just some suburban softie incapable of any real adventures, Land Rover points out part of its testing procedure is a water-logging test in which the vehicle is driven into standing water above the bottom of the door sills, the interior is deliberately flooded, and left to sit for 30 minutes, before attempting to re-start the engine.

Further emphasizing the Discovery Sport’s adventuresome pedigree is a standard navigation system with off-road specific features such as “breadcrumbs,” allowing drivers to re-trace their off-road path and latitude and longitude coordinate readouts to locate the vehicle and navigate to off-road destinations.

A whole suite of functions comes with the Land Rover Terrain Response system, including four terrain settings, Hill Descent, Gradient Release, Roll Stability, and Dynamic Stability control. Available on-road safety and convenience aids include park assist, lane departure, traffic sign recognition, and a standard Tow Hitch Assist, which utilizes the rearview camera to help the driver hitch a trailer with a predictive trajectory function.

The pricing of the Discovery Sport straddles the territory between premium and truly luxury with a starting price of $38,920, including $925 destination. In our experience, it doesn’t take much to inflate the bottom line quickly on European SUVs, and we expect a fully equipped Discovery Sport to easily top $50,000 with all the goodies. Considering the Evoque starts at $42,025 without the addition of a single option, not to mention considerably less practicality, that sum suddenly starts looking a little more reasonable. If you think the Discovery Sport might be your style, wait until early calendar 2015, when it’s scheduled to roll into U.S. showrooms.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport
BASE PRICE $38,920
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/240-hp/251-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (Mfr. Claim) 3957 lbs
WHEELBASE 107.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH (Incl. Mirrors) x HEIGHT 180.7 x 85.6 x 67.9 in
0-60 MPH (Mfr. Claim) 7.8 sec
ON SALE First Quarter 2015