2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

This compact Land Rover exceeds expectations.

Old meets new with the Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE, a compact SUV that can forage into the wilderness and go toe to toe with anything offered by the Discovery Channel. Believe it or not this compact SUV — its original incarnation nicknamed the Disco by its many fans — can be optioned out for seven occupants with enough space for adults in all three rows. I can’t say I’d want to spend a lot of time back there, but rear quarter windows provide outward visibility, a panoramic glass roof added an open airiness, and real air can be directed to third-row passengers via separate vents and a fan speed controller.

As is always the case with anything wearing the green oval badge the new Disco is fully capable off-road, but, full disclosure, I didn’t have time or opportunity to remove it from pavement during my test. I’m going to guess Land Rover’s larger LR4 is the one to choose for a trek across the Serengeti or deep dive into the Amazon rain forest, a previous experience at the Land Rover Experience Driving School making its capability abundantly clear, but possibly only because it’ll carry more water, fuel and bug repellent.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport rear view

While the “Sport” moniker was chosen to suggest the new model’s smaller, more agile dimensions and lighter weight, the new Discovery Sport feels more like a traditional SUV than anything it competes with, and by that I don’t mean chunky and truck-like. Even the LR4, which is one of the most traditional SUVs available, feels comfortable and even agile on pavement and off, whereas the Discovery Sport takes the sport side of the equation up a notch. Since it debuted, I’ve liked the new Sport’s styling, but it was only after the drive that I felt a true connection, Land Rover somehow managing to give this smaller utility big SUV feel without sacrificing overall drivability, while its ride quality is comfortable and compliant over bumpy surfaces.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport engine

The new Disco utilizes the same direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder sourced from Ford that’s used in the smaller Evoque, tuned to 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, mated up to a state-of-the-art nine-speed automatic controlled by an even more advanced rotating gear selector with steering wheel paddles, plus four-wheel drive with Land Rover’s very skilled Terrain Response system standard. Land Rover claims 7.8 seconds to 60 mph and a 124 mph top-speed for spirited if not particularly exhilarating straight-line performance, albeit stingy fuel economy rated at 20 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined.

The Discovery Sport’s cabin is nicely finished with a soft synthetic dash top that even includes a stitched leather dash pad on either side of the primary instrument cluster and ahead of the front passenger, plus soft-touch door uppers and yet more pliable synthetic surfaces elsewhere, while the leather used for the seat upholstery even smells rich, all helping the compact SUV live up to its premium brand status. Of course, the roof pillars are treated to high-end fabric, plenty of stylish satin-silver finished metal accents can be found throughout, and all switchgear is superbly crafted with the buttons on the leather-wrapped steering wheel especially impressive, but it’s the quality and capability of its electronic interfaces that first caught my attention.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport dashboard

A high-resolution five-inch color multi-information display sits within the primary gauges and a large eight-inch color infotainment touchscreen overtop the center stack, the latter a graphical delight similar in look and feel to a Windows Surface tablet with a quadrant layout featuring outdoor backgrounds on three of its four digital panels, climate control getting a beautiful sunset, connectivity functions highlighted by a classic red British phone booth sitting next to open pastures, navigation and mapping features depicted by an unnamed roadway curving off into the distance, and audio graphics merely getting stylized blue radio bands crossed by a red line for supposed selection.

Additionally, a beautifully detailed dual-zone HVAC interface includes three circular dials trimmed in aluminum and rimmed with rubber, their centers filled with digital readouts for temperature control, fan speed, etc, while above it all is a simple overhead console featuring LED map lights, a switch for the fixed panoramic sunroof’s powered blind, and an always welcome padded sunglasses holder.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport infotainment

Without running down the entire list of standard and optional features, suffice to say the $37,455 base SE model is well appointed with highlights including all the mechanical components noted earlier plus 18-inch alloys, auto on/off halogen headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, dual-zone auto climate control, eight-way powered front seats, partial leather upholstery, a rearview camera, rear parking sonar, 190-watt 10-speaker audio, Bluetooth with media streaming, a USB port with charging capability, trailer stability assist, all the expected active and passive safety features and much more, while the $41,955 as-tested HSE gets upgraded with HID headlamps, LED signature DRLs, LED fog lamps, proximity-sensing access, 10-way powered front seats with memory, grained leather upholstery, more charging USB ports, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, front parking sonar, panoramic sunroof, a powered liftgate, and more.

My tester also had a set of upgraded 19-inch twinned five-spoke black gloss alloys along with previously aluminized exterior highlight trim finished in the same inky black treatment for $1,200, while its roof was also painted black for an additional $200 and its gorgeous Firenze Red Metallic paint added another $950 to the bottom line. Navigation noted earlier adds $1,295 but also includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition as part of the Driver Assist Plus package, while the $1,600 Climate Comfort package added a heatable steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heatable rear outboard seats and a heatable windshield, whereas a Black Morzine headliner increased the price by $275, and its third row of seats actually came as part of a $1,750 5+2 Seating package that includes the third-row climate control and high-level vents noted earlier, along with a powered USB port.

Packages in mind, Land Rover will upgrade your Disco further with an $800 Audio Upgrade that consists of a 250-watt 11-speaker stereo, a subwoofer, plus satellite and HD radio, or you can get the audio upgrade plus nicer Windsor leather upholstery, illuminated aluminum tread plates, premium carpeted mats, configurable mood lighting, navigation and more by upgrading to $45,570 HSE Luxury trim. Back to the regular HSE, a $1,900 Vision Assist package adds adaptive cornering HID headlights with auto high beams, a 360-degree surround camera, plus blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, while full-color head-up display and self parking combine for $1,800, Wi-Fi for $300, and the list goes on.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport rear seat

The upgrade to a third row doesn’t seem to take away from cargo capacity, at least above the load floor. The 50/50-split rearmost seatbacks stow easily via pull tabs on their backsides that automatically drop the headrests before laying flat and exposing 32.7 cubic feet of available space, while the second row can ultimately allow for 66.9 cubic feet of total volume yet otherwise splits in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration to allow skis and other long items down the middle with rear passengers seated comfortably next to the windows to enjoy heatable cushions if so upgraded.

Of note, some advanced active safety features such as lane departure intervention, driver attention monitoring, and automated speed limiting are not on the Disco’s upgrade list, these on the menu for the upcoming 2017 refresh as will likely be a top safety rating from the IIHS, and while there’s a lot more available for next year’s model including upgradable widescreen infotainment that incorporates much higher end audio plus a handling upgrade with adaptive magnetic dampers along with sport-tuned steering and throttle response when the Terrain switch is set to Dynamic mode, my only other option request doesn’t appear to be coming next year, that being the same ultra-efficient 180 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-diesel with 318 lb-ft of torque that’s standard in the new Jaguar F-Pace; that would make this Disco just about perfect.

Still, the 2016 Discovery Sport’s highly utile yet nicely upscale interior, impressive digital interfaces, excellent on-road dynamics, promised capability off-road, good overall efficiency and superb styling won me over during my test, only making me wish I could spend more time behind the wheel.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press

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