By Keith Buglewicz
The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport competes in the thick of the compact-luxury SUV market. However, against the likes of the slightly larger BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes-Benz GLK, this 5-passenger SUV has a significant ace up its sleeve: It's a true off-road vehicle. While it has the luxury chops to keep up with its mostly German competition, unlike those, it can actually tackle off-road terrain that would leave them at the side of the road. Best of all, it starts reasonably enough at about $38,500, including all-wheel drive and partial leather upholstery in the base SE model, making it about $2,000 to $3,000 less than its primary rivals, and a value leader, relatively speaking.
If you're looking for off-road ability with a Downton Abbey pedigree, but don't have finances backed by the crown jewels, then the 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport deserves a look thanks to its off-road ability, and low price.
While a luxury brand, the Discovery Sport makes use of the "sport" part of its name with a ride that's firmer than you're probably expecting. Additionally, the 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic transmission aren't the most elegant combination.
All-new last year, the 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport mostly gets changes to the InControl system. InControl Protect offers roadside and emergency assistance at the touch of a button, and the upgraded InControl Remote app allows drivers to unlock the doors and remotely start the engine from a smartphone.
The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport starts with serious luxury credentials. For example, wind noise and well-controlled road noise make it easy to have a conversation with 2nd-row passengers at...
... highway speeds. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and the steering is nicely weighted and responsive. It's easy to see out, at least to the front, and the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic transmission offer plenty of forward thrust, although it's not as smooth as most of its competition. However, it's when the road turns to dirt – or disappears altogether – that the Discovery Sport shines. Driving the Discovery Sport on icy rutted "roads" in the Icelandic winter, the Land Rover never put a foot wrong. Credit the Land Rover Terrain Response System; the driver selects one of four road "conditions" (General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts; Sand), and the vehicle customizes drivetrain, chassis and steering to handle it.
ON-ROAD ELEGANCE, OFF-ROAD GRIT
If date night means valet parking at the symphony, or exploring the back country, the 2016 Discovery Sport and its dual personality ensures you'll never feel out of place, on road or off.
FIXED PANORAMIC ROOF
The higher-end Discovery Sport models come standard with a fixed glass roof spanning nearly the entire length and width of this luxury SUV, opening up the view – especially in the second row – to the biggest piece of sky possible.
With an interior bristling with pragmatic style, the Discovery Sport's inside offers the same blend of off-road utility and luxury-brand plushness the rest of the SUV delivers. The efficient, blocky theme feels right in line with off-road adventuring, but the deep-dish seating, 8-way-power front seats, and leather upholstery (leather and cloth on SE versions) remind you this is a luxury SUV. The raised 2nd-row seats – ah, stadium seating! – slide and recline, and will easily accommodate 6-foot-4 occupants, and the smart interior packaging gives it more usable cargo space than its larger BMW X3 and Audi Q5 rivals.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is shorter than competitors, but it's also wider, giving it an edge when it comes to stability. The steeply sloped windshield helps keep wind noise to nearly nonexistent levels, depending on speed. The short overhangs in the front and rear give it generous approach and departure angles – that means it can tackle steep slopes without scraping – and it can even ford streams up to 23.6 inches deep. And, as an aesthetic bonus, the body-color C-pillar looks like a bladed weapon.
For a luxury SUV starting under $40,000, the 2016 Discovery Sport SE comes nicely equipped. All-wheel drive is standard, as is the Terrain Response System, Hill Descent Control, push-button start, partial leather seating, power-adjustable front seats, USB media and charging ports in the first row, plus two 2nd-row USB charging ports. A 10-speaker audio/infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen and Bluetooth connectivity is also standard. If you want full leather seating and the panoramic sunroof, you'll have to move up one trim level to the Discovery Sport HSE.
Stand-alone options are few and far between on the Discovery Sport, and are limited to things like keyless entry and heated front and rear seats on the SE model, plus some smart safety features like automatic traffic detection and emergency braking on the HSE and HSE Lux versions. For the most part, your choices are limited to paint and wheel packages. We say skip the audio upgrade or navigation system, as your smartphone's voice commands coming through the standard Bluetooth setup will always get you home. Also skip the tiny 3rd-row seat, which leaves virtually no cargo room when in use.
While we were hoping to see a revised 2.0-liter 4-cylinder this year – the new Ingenium engine is a gem – instead the 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport gets the same engine it had last year, regardless of model. The 240 horsepower of a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine sends power through a 9-speed automatic transmission to a Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which seamlessly varies the power between the front wheels and the rears, depending on where the system senses that the tires have the best grip. This setup works ruggedly well in the new Discovery Sport, but suffers from turbo lag, and the 9-speed automatic lags when it shifts, and doesn't respond very quickly to your right foot.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
251 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 mpg
The 2016 Land Rover Discover Sport is the least expensive Land Rover model available, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $38,500 including the $995 destination charge. We suggest the more lavishly equipped Discovery Sport HSE, which starts at a still reasonable $43,000. If you want all the bells and whistles, and bragging rights to spending the most, head for the $47,000 Discovery Sport HSE Lux; once you've added in all the various options, you're looking at a price tag well north of $60,000. We still recommend the HSE first for the longest-lasting satisfaction, though the SE model will also earn your pride. For a closer look at what folks in your area paid for the new Discovery Sport, check out the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price. At resale time, the Audi Q5 is a little better, while the BMW X3 slots well below.