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Land Rover Discovery Sport thrilling buyers in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada

How has downsizing affected Land Rover? Well, the company hasn’t actually downsized anything, but rather it has added a couple of smaller models with runway-model good looks, all reasonably affordable, too.

Land Rover finds itself in the position — enviable or otherwise — of having three of its models (the LR2, Evoque and all-new for 2015 Discovery Sport) bunched together within starting-price range of $40,000. Seems odd, but it’s a relatively affordable trio when you consider that the price spread between the LR4, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover is $51,000 to $85,000.

The new kid of the bunch is as rugged as the rest and is capable of fording streams, crawling over chunky boulders and generally going where drivers of typical car-based tall wagons dare not stray. The Discovery Sport is assembled off the Land Evoque platform but is lengthened to accommodate a two-place third row of seats that fold into the floor when not needed.

Rick Nelson, marketing manager for Land Rover Las Vegas, said customer anticipation of the Discovery Sport was virtually unprecedented.

“We had orders for a year before it was released,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t lie! This car replaced the LR2, and basically all the cars were gone as soon as they came out. We just caught up with the orders.”

And Nelson was especially effusive about the Discovery Sport’s interior space, which features rear headroom of 38.7 inches. That compares with the full-size Ranger Rover’s 39.2 inches.

“It was so efficiently designed for room,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger than it looks. It’s 10 inches longer than the Range Rover Evoke.”

Nelson said the 2016s are coming out now and that the only change is that the InControl Apps, security and remote are standard.

To say the Sport’s exterior is attractive is an understatement and could give the Evoque a fight for attention (and sales) on that aspect alone. Aluminum body panels for the roof, hood, liftgate and front fenders help keep the Sport’s weight in Evoque territory, despite its larger dimensions.

“It’s bringing in a lot of ‘conquest customers’ from other brands,” Nelson said. “Seventy-five percent of these customers are from other brands. It’s so affordable. It looks young and hip and appeals to more customers of all ages than ever.”

Motivation is supplied by a Ford-designed turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine that’s used in the Evoque and more recently the LR2. Land Rover claims a modest 7.8-second zero-60 mph acceleration time for the 3,800-pound Sport.

All models starting with the base SE arrive with Hill Descent, Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway controls that keep the Sport and/or whatever it’s towing from breaking loose when heading up or down hill or on the correct trajectory on the highway. Standard stuff on the inside includes dual-zone climate control, eight-way power front seats, a rearview camera with parking sensors and an 8-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system.

Nelson said car shoppers are being twice smitten when they first experience the Discovery Sport.

“The reaction is they love the way it looks and they love the way it feels driving,” he said. “When I drive the LRS, it feels very similar to my Range Rover. Customers feel that, too. It’s the fit and finish and drivability.”

From that point, selecting the upper-level HSE or HSE Luxury trims will add considerably to the Discovery Sport’s content and the final price. Note that the Discovery Sport is scheduled to replace the aging LR4 for 2016 as the midpriced Land Rover.

While there’s certainly a bit of “Sport” in the Discovery Sport, the real deal can be found in the 2015 Range Rover Sport. This larger vehicle is celebrating its second birthday after a major update with an interesting new model. The SVR is aimed at the stupid-quick luxury SUV models from the in-house tuning shops at BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, and has turned up the wick on its British beast.

The supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 produces 40 more horsepower for a total of 550. That gives the SVR a zero-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds, and a limited top speed of 162 mph.

And, don’t think that the engineers left the rest untouched. No, the suspension bits, wheels, tires, brakes and more were all beefed up and sharpened, meaning it’ll do a lap of the mighty Nurburgring racetrack in Germany in a respectable eight minutes and 14 seconds. And despite its asking price of well over $110,000, the SVR shares the rest of the RR Sport’s fantastic package, including the athletic fastback body, wide stance and rubber-band tires, all of which give the impression of a vehicle designed to never explore the rough stuff.

— Senior writer John Kelly contributed to this story. Contact him at jkelly@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0206.


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