REVIEW: 2016 Land Rover Discovery HSE – Luxury Without Pretense

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For once, the Land Rover HSE initials don’t stand for “Holy #### Expensive!”

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The new Land Rover Discovery Sport lands smack dab in the middle of a Donnybrook.  The premium compact crossover market where the BMW X3, Lexus NX200t, Audi Q5, and the all-new Mercedes GLC-Class temp affluent buyers is now one of the largest segments of the luxury market.  Only the very slightly larger Lexus RX350 and Cadillac SRX-sized vehicles have bigger sales numbers.  The great news for Land Rover buyers is that the new Discovery Sport has its own distinct personality, despite a very similar specifications sheet to the established industry leaders, the Audi Q5, and Lexus NX.

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One can’t even put a foot into the Discovery Sport before finding a unique twist.  Rather than carpeted floor mats (which automakers annoyingly still charge extra for) Land Rover uses thick, deep rubber mats.  Hurray!  As the owner of a vehicle this size and style the first thing I did was ditch the carpeted mats and get rubber ones. Land Rover saves you the trouble.  The practicality continues in back, where the cargo area has its own thick rubber mat.  One glance at the interior of this high-quality crossover also reveals a personality unlike any we have seen in the segment.  Land Rover took a very Spartan and minimalist approach.  The all-grayish interior of our tester was neat and free of any pretense.  That is our flowery way of saying “Plain, but in a good way.”  Though well executed, the interior doesn’t use Lexus’ busy multi-tiered dash and console or cover everything in leather as Mercedes will do.  Rather it is very simple and clean.

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The infotainment system continues this distinct theme.  For once, a premium automaker has chosen sanity and skipped the ridiculous remote mouse.  Land Rover’s system is simple and easy, just a touch screen divided in to four sensible segments when one is at the home screen, just like Ford and Chrysler do.  My phone paired instantly, and I was able to use the system intuitively with zero learning curve.  The exact opposite of the Mercedes GLE crossover I recently tested.  This is a well-built, but simple and practical crossover and there is a reason for this.  Jaguar’s F-Pace crossover this same size is coming to market soon, and both will be sold on the same dealer lots since Jaguar and Land Rover are mostly dual-dealership setups.  The F-Pace is going way upmarket, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport needed to be different.  Smart marketing if you ask me.

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The ride of our test vehicle was good and handling sharp.  It was a stiffer than necessary ride, but not overly so.  The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 240 hp felt just like the same type of engine we have driven in the Lexus NX and BMW X3.  If there is any single equalizer in the segment it’s this engine.  Everyone has the same thing now.  Like all the others in its class, it has a bit of hesitation, but when you want real power, it is more than enough.  Still, vehicles that offer a V6 like the Nissan Murano and the Infiniti QX50 are better at putting power where a driver really wants it and needs it.  There is zero fuel economy benefit to the small turbo too.  Our tester last week was a much bigger, more powerful Infiniti QX60 with a V6.  The Land Rover Discovery Sport had exactly the same EPA combined fuel economy rating at 22 MPG.

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Inside, the seats are very comfortable and the interior space the same as the premium vehicles in its class.  Like the Lexus NX, the Land Rover has a narrow footwell, and my right knee was in constant contact with the hard plastic of the center console.  The center console is perfectly laid out, though.  There is room for two cupholders and a center bin that did a good job of holding stuff.  There is a perfect phone cradle in the front of the console.  The heated steering wheel was a joy to hold.  Second-row space is generous enough to hold teens or adults without any seat adjustments by front passengers.  My test vehicle did not have the optional third-row jump seats.  However, a round of applause please to Land Rover for adding them back to this size vehicle.  As a dad who has a 2007 Highlander this size, I can attest to their usefulness when one has small kids.  Any auto-writer that says anything about them not being large enough for adults should be disbarred.

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There were only two minor things about the Land Rover Discovery we’d change.  The first is the odd anti-glare glass that the company uses.  We’ve experienced it before on other Jaguar/Land Rovers.  It has a sort of screen or mesh in the glass, and it is distracting at night or in bright sunlight.  The second was the heated seats.  Here in New England I turn mine on in September and don’t shut them off until May.  In the Discovery Sport you have to hit a minimum of two menus to turn the seat heat on and then it shuts itself off when you exit the vehicle.  It is like a person who never used heated seating before designed it.  Maybe a person from someplace where it is always hot, like India.

JD power 2015_APEAL_NameplateRank_Ownership experience is very important to luxury buyers.  As we allude to in our review, the vehicles in this segment are all good and seem to be aligning their specifications.   Land Rover scores on its name.  It has a great legacy and people think of it as a premium, European brand.  Land Rover also scores very high on the J.D. Power and Associates APEAL study which measures how people feel about their new car after three months.  Concerning customer service visit satisfaction scores, Land Rover is dead last.  Oddly, Jaguar is number one in this regard.  That makes us think that Land Rover will move up soon.  The dealerships have common ownership in most cases, and they will get it together.  This being an all-new vehicle for Land Rover, there are no quality scores to compare.  Again, Land Rover’s new ownership (Tata Motors) seems to have things pointed in the right direction here.  Regarding safety, the Discover Sport has yet to be tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  However, our tester did have forward collision mitigation with autonomous braking and lane departure warning.  Our guess is that this vehicle will do well when tested and may earn the Top Safety Pick Plus rating, which it is eligible for.

Our conclusion is that the 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE is a hit for the company and one of many steps in a logical direction.  Both Jaguar and Land Rover are moving into premium segments where the best in the business play hardball.  This is great news for those that want to own a Land Rover at a price point that is much lower than anything the company has offered in the past.  At $47K this Land Rover Discovery Sport is a great deal.

Base Price: $42,990

Price As Tested: $47,243 (Including destination charge)


  • Practicality and Quality Rolled Into One
  • Price Point


  • Anti-Glare Glass
  • Hard to Live With Heated Seats
  • MPG