2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review

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2016
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 28, 2016

The 2016 Discovery Sport takes most of Land Rover’s rugged, go-anywhere ability set and makes it part of an attractive, well-designed crossover wagon that suburban families are going to be happy with every single day of the year.

At long last, Land Rover has gotten it right with the 2016 Discovery Sport, a vehicle built on a different platform entirely than its predecessor. It shares underpinnings with the Range Rover Evoque but with about 50 percent new parts and some other important upgrades that affect ride comfort and safety. At about 181 inches long, it’s sized right in the middle of what the compact crossover market has sized up to—which means it now goes up against not only the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60, but also top-trim versions of the Jeep Cherokee and GMC Terrain.

The Discovery Sport is a new nameplate, replacing the LR2 in the Land Rover lineup and heading in a direction that's going to be far more appealing than its predecessor. In many respects it borrows some of the essence of the Range Rover, yet this family-friendly companion keeps the size manageable and the cost affordable—at least by luxury-brand standards.

In theory, the original Freelander was supposed to be that; but it was a bit too small. Then the LR2 made inroads, but it was lacking in ride comfort and in the latest technology features; and perhaps it was still just a little too small inside for American families.

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The Discovery Sport doesn’t fully commit to either the upright-and-boxy or soft-and-carlike school of utility-vehicle design; rather, it mixes a lot of the attributes that make crossover utility vehicles so appealing, then adds just enough Land Rover ruggedness. It’s all about the stance, really. The Discovery Sport’s oversize wheels (relative to its small-midsize body) really fill out the wheel wells and give this model a planted, secure look from all angles. It’s almost like a sized-up hot hatch in proportion, from some angles. Yet the smooth body sculpting complements the look, giving it a soft detail that would fit right into urban spaces. On the other hand, there’s no indication that it’s gone all soft. You can’t ignore the short overhangs, skid plates, and rugged wheel lips. It’s clearly a vehicle that was built to get dirty as well.

Inside, the Discovery Sport is unexpectedly serious and businesslike at first glance—with the horizontal dash and vertical center stack laid in with the stiffness of a T-square. But what might seem a little too stark and simple soon shows itself to be refreshingly straightforward, and an elegant contrast to the soft, contemporary exterior. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces where it matters, and the rotary shift controller, which rises from the center console on startup, is a nice centerpiece.

By the way, look for the larger LR4, within a couple of years, to shed its current very upright look in favor of a larger riff on this theme. It’ll take back the Discovery name, while a new take on the legendary Defender is still somewhere up in the pipeline.

The Discovery Sport owes some of its underpinnings to the steel-bodied Evoque, which itself evolved from the LR2. But it's been stretched and pulled into a longer, wider form. It wears some aluminum body panels, but not down to its core. It's still a compact SUV, but now it's one good for seating seven passengers when its rearmost fold-away seats are counted.

Compared to the previous LR2, the Discovery Sport is about 3.5 inches longer, with a wheelbase stretched by about the same amount. That allows enough extra space to fit a third-row seat—a small one, for sure yet one that should meet what some parents need. Meanwhile it’s slightly wider than the LR2, translating to a little more cabin spaciousness, and while the roof is about 1.5 inches lower overall it preserves its 8.3 inches of ground clearance.

Land Rover actually sets expectations low for the seven-seat arrangement, calling it a "5+2" configuration, and it should be just fine for the occasional extra seat needed for child-shuttling. Ahead of those, front seats are supportive and super-comfortable, with a good driving position—although you don’t look over the hood in quite the same way as in most other Land Rover vehicles. And the second row is no compromise for adults; it slides fore and aft 6.3 inches in all, with reclining seatbacks, and is nicely proportioned, although that does mean that you sacrifice a completely flat cargo floor for folding. Rest assured, there’s plenty of versatility and cargo space for gear and groceries. Land Rover also boasts that there are face-level air vents in all three rows, along with a USB charging port for every passenger—including in the third row.

Overall, the new Discovery Sport performs and handles with a verve that’s characteristic of car-based crossovers, yet those off-road chops are there when you need them. A 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 is smooth and strong here, and the paddle-shifted 9-speed automatic is a good companion for responsiveness, drivability, and gas mileage. The electric power steering loads up reassuringly here, while the brakes have the subtlety required for off-road combined with the reassuring pedal feel needed for higher-speed stops. And a new rear suspension design allows more wheel travel and a quieter, more absorbent (and less pitchy) ride than the LR2.

In its stock configuration, with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system that varies torque delivery between the front and rear wheels, the Discovery Sport is capable of a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds, and a top speed of 124 mph.Towing capability is 5,500 pounds, and the Discovery Sport includes Tow Hitch Assist, Tow Assist, and Trailer Stability Assist. And of course the off-road ability is there; even if many owners will seldom venture beyond snowy driveways and campsite two-tracks, the Discovery Sport offers the approach and departure angles of a more serious off-roader, and its Terrain Response system has normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand modes, along with a new dynamic mode. Each one provides the best settings for the conditions, affecting throttle sensitivity, transmission response, center-differential behavior, steering weighting, and stability systems. Through the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation at the individual wheels, the system can send torque to whichever wheel has the most traction, and up to 100 percent to either axle.

In retiring the LR2 badge and stepping up to the Discovery Sport, Land Rover seizes the opportunity to quite extensively upgrade this model’s safety kit to meet today’s higher expectations. Most notably, the so-called Autonomous Emergency Braking system uses stereo cameras to help detect objects and will brake to reduce impact or avoid an accident completely. The Sport offers lane-departure warning systems, parking assist with perpendicular parking, trailer-sway control, and automatic headlamps.

The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport will be offered in three different guises: SE, HSE, and HSE Lux. The SE starts at $37,995, while prices will range up to the upper-$40,000s for a fully equipped HSE Lux. Partial leather seating is standard, along with dual-zone climate control and power features. Major options include navigation, a contrast-color roof, a panoramic roof, alloy wheels, underbody protection, side steps, a towing package, and a black-trim package.

Other new technology includes Land Rover's new InControl connectivity kit, which adapts some Apple and Android mobile apps to the Discovery Sport's operating system—a eight-inch touchscreen interface. Those apps include favorites like iHeartRadio and Parkopedia.

EPA ratings land at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined for the Sport—not bad numbers at all considering it offers a third-row seat good enough for kids.

8

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Styling

The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport is a little softer and more crossover-like on the outside, while its interior is refreshingly straightforward.

There are utility vehicles that go the sharp, angular, upright direction, and those that aim for a far softer, more car-like look. The Discovery Sport doesn’t stack its cards in either of these hands; instead it mixes a lot of the attributes that make crossover utility vehicles so appealing, then adds just enough Land Rover ruggedness. Take a step back and by design it shows those dual personalities well from the outside.

It’s all about the stance, really. The Discovery Sport’s oversize wheels (relative to its small-midsize body) really fill out the wheel wells and give this model a planted, secure look from all angles. It’s almost like a sized-up hot hatch in proportion, from some angles. Yet the smooth body sculpting complements the look, giving it a soft detail that would fit right into urban spaces.

The thin strips of honeycombed grille, clamshell hood, integral skid plates, and the keyed headlights connect it with the Range Rover lineup. The way the roofline pulls over the rear pillars is an interesting link to athletic gear, ending in a stubby tailgate spoiler as it does. It looks almost like a hat worn backwards.

The sideview is kept very clean save for the intersection of a deep shoulder line and the rear door cutline, and the slim rear glass sits over round-lit taillights. The emphasis isn't on being so upright anymore; it now looks rakish compared to a number of comparably sized vehicles in this class—including the Volvo XC60.

On the other hand, there’s no indication that it’s gone all soft. You can’t ignore the short overhangs, skid plates, and rugged wheel lips. It’s clearly a vehicle that was built to get dirty as well.

Land Rover offers a Black Pack trim package that adds gloss-black surfaces for the grille, door mirror caps, fender vents, and badging, as well as a black contrast roof and different 19- or 20-inch wheels.

Inside, the design looks and feels serious and businesslike at first glance—with the horizontal dash and vertical center stack laid in with the stiffness of a T-square. But what might seem a little too stark and simple soon shows itself to be refreshingly straightforward, and an elegant contrast to the soft, contemporary exterior.

All the knobs and dials have soft-touch surfaces where it matters. The dash cap is nearly flat once it passed over the binnacle of gauges. The center console intersects it in a perfect pair of chrome uprights. Climate controls are the same LCD-capped knobs that work so well in the Jaguar F-Type.

The front console has an electric parking brake as well as a single main control item—the electric-car-like rotary controller that rises to the shifting occasion from its piano-black surround.

Review continues below
8

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Performance

The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport has far more off-road prowess than most owners are ever going to need; yet that’s OK because it comes seemingly at no detriment to on-the-road ride and handling.

You might think that the Land Rover badge mainly applies to rugged off-roading ability, at the expense of on-the-road handling; but with the 2016 Discovery Sport that’s no longer the case. The new Disco Sport performs and handles with a verve that’s characteristic of car-based crossovers, yet those off-road chops are there when you need them.

Like the Range Rover Evoque, the Discovery Sport depends on turbocharging for its power. The initial powertrain combination for the Discovery Sport is a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with direct injection for efficiency, balance shafts for smoothness, and a paddle-shifted 9-speed automatic companion for gas mileage. The 9-speed can launch in second gear for smoothness, or first gear when acceleration demands it. It's capable of skipping gears for more efficient shifting.

Altogether, it’s responsive and confident, with a peak 251 lb-ft of torque reached at just 1,750 rpm, it’s a stocky engine that’s as well suited to highway passing as it is to trundling along on the trail.

The Discovery Sport's body checks in at just below 4,000 pounds, with a steel unibody and aluminum hood, roof, tailgate, and front fenders. It's suspended by a strut setup in front (with hydraulic rebound stops for noise damping), and a multi-link setup in the rear. Both systems are mounted to subframes for better isolation.

Altogether, the new rear suspension design allows more wheel travel with more controlled rebound behavior—adding up to a ride that’s both more absorbent than in the old LR2 as well as less pitchy.

The Sport's electric power steering has a variable ratio that's set up for more deliberate response on center. You won’t find any true feedback from the road surface, but it is a very nicely weighted system that feels confident and unwinds naturally. The brakes are discs all around, with 12.8-inch rotors in front and 11.8-inchers in back. Land Rover claims to have worked on pedal feel, and it shows, as you can finesse the brakes if needed, or get a very confident, firm pedal feel for higher-speed use.

In its stock configuration, with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system that varies torque delivery between the front and rear wheels, the Discovery Sport is capable of a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds, and a top speed of 124 mph.

Towing capability is 5,500 pounds, and the Discovery Sport includes tow hitch assist, trailer sway control and assist features.

Off-road ability is something that you might assume will be present in a Land Rover and there’s no reason to be disappointed here; there’s far more capability built into the Discovery Sport, even if many owners will rarely take on anything greater than a gravel road or snowy driveway, The Discovery Sport offers approach and departure angles of 25 and 31 degrees, along with 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a wading depth of nearly 24 inches. The maximum tilt angle and gradient angle are 27 and 45 degrees, respectively—all of which translates to a very capable vehicle for clambering off the pavement and over terrain.

To help with that, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system has normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand modes, along with a new dynamic mode. Each one provides the best settings for the conditions, affecting throttle sensitivity, transmission response, center-differential behavior, steering weighting, and stability systems. Through the Haldex 5 center-differential clutch pack and brake actuation at the individual wheels, the system can send torque to whichever wheel has the most traction, and up to 100 percent to either axle.

In an early drive on some steep, snow-and-ice-covered trails that challenged the Discovery Sport’s angles, ground clearance, and traction systems, we found this vehicle to be not just very capable, but very easy to drive off-road. Through the Terrain Response settings and coordinated systems, the rugged-terrain ability is there, but not in the way the other 99 percent of the time.

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9

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Comfort & Quality

"Smart" is the word that best applies to the way that the Discovery Sport is laid out inside; it’s a comfortable, versatile, and functional cabin through and through.

Compared to the previous LR2, the Discovery Sport is about 3.5 inches longer, with a wheelbase stretched by about the same amount. That allows enough extra space to fit a third-row seat—a small one, for sure yet one that should meet what some parents need. Meanwhile it’s slightly wider than the LR2, translating to a little more cabin spaciousness, and while the roof is about 1.5 inches lower overall it preserves its 8.3 inches of ground clearance.

Land Rover says put a lot of effort with families and aims to fit a lot more usable space and versatility in the Discovery Sport. And it definitely shows. Land Rover sets the bar low, as it actually calls the seven-seat arrangement a "5+2" configuration, and from those modest expectations, it should be just fine for the occasional extra seat needed for child-shuttling.

It's designed two different consoles, one with a storage section covered by a roller cover, the other with a sliding armrest and removable cupholders that can be ditched in favor of a 2-liter bottle or enough space for a camera or small purse. Land Rover also boasts that there are face-level air vents in all three rows, along with a USB charging port for every passenger—including in the third row.

The Discovery Sport’s so-called "stadium" seating elevates the second and third rows above the level of the front seats (and versus in other vehicles), allowing a less claustrophobic position than in rival models. The Sport's second row now slides on a 6.3-inch track—allowing lots of leg room for longer-legged passengers, along with just enough head room. It still splits and folds, and the seatbacks also recline for longer trips.

Those second-row seats are quite comfortable for adults, and we’re happy to see here that Land Rover chose some nice contouring and comfort over a perfectly flat-folding cargo surface. Both the second and third rows can fold down, of course, allowing a nearly flat, continuous cargo space.

The third-row seat, is a modestly priced stand-alone option on all U.S. Discovery Sport models, and is purposely downplayed as a "plus two" because it’s very small and not all that padded. It folds up from the cargo floor and has an even higher seating position than the second row—which would be the limiting factor for most adults, even if they were willing to fold their legs for a short trip.

Up in front, the accommodations feel royal. Seats are nicely contoured, with just the right amount of side support and thigh support for most sizes. Overall, the driving position isn’t as scooped-upward as in most Land Rover models of the past, but that amounts to a vehicle that you sit "into," and feel a bit more comfortable and secure in. The only downside to that is that you don’t see the front corners as easily if you’re off-roading.

Our first-drive experience with the Discovery Sport was on studded tires, and mostly on wet and/or icy roads, so we can’t comment authoritatively on road noise here; but anecdotally it seems on par or better than other vehicles in this class—with wind noise especially well muted. An acoustic windshield, the rear suspension redesign, and special hydraulic bump stops in the front suspension all add to that quiet, refined ride.

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8

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Safety

There are no concrete crash-test results yet for the 2016 Discovery Sport, but Land Rover has clearly made safety features more of a priority.

In retiring the LR2 badge and stepping up to the Discovery Sport, Land Rover seizes the opportunity to quite extensively upgrade this model’s safety kit to meet today’s higher expectations. And from what we can see, with a slew of new tech features and a modern, updated body structure, the Discovery Sport some impressive occupant protection and security.

There’s no crash-test information on the Discovery Sport from either of the U.S. agencies. And with neither the related Range Rover Evoque nor the Disco Sport’s predecessor, the LR2, were rated in the U.S., so there’s a distinct lack of safety information.

That said, there are already some positive indications of the Discovery Sport’s safety. It has been run through EuroNCAP crash testing, and Land Rover points to the Discovery Sport’s excellent five-star results.

Standard safety features on the Discovery Sport include trailer sway assist, tow and hitch assist, as well as automatic headlamps and rain-sensitive wipers. That’s in addition to a full roster of airbags, including knee airbags, side curtain bags, and thorax bags.

It also offers some active-safety technologies that allow it the ability to potentially help keep you out of trouble, or at the least, to lessen the severity of an accident.

In the Discovery Sport, the automatic emergency braking system uses stereo cameras to help detect objects. It will allow complete stops—following a warning chime and visual warning—when obstacles are detected at speeds below 32 mph; and it can mitigate impacts at speeds below 50 mph.

The Sport also will offer lane-departure warning systems, parking assist with perpendicular parking, trailer-sway control, and automatic headlamps.

Review continues below
8

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Features

The Land Rover Discovery Sport comes equipped as a luxury vehicle, even at the base level; and there’s a lot more technology and personalization to step up to.

The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport will be offered in three different guises: SE, HSE, and HSE Lux. The SE starts at $37,995, while prices will range up to the upper-$40,000 for a fully equipped HSE Lux.

In equipment, presentation, and pricing, the Discovery Sport offers a lot more technology than its predecessor, the LR2, and it’s definitely more accessible and value-oriented than the Range Rover Evoque, with which it shares quite a bit underneath.

Partial leather seats are standard, along with dual-zone climate control and power features. Major options include navigation, a contrast-color roof, a panoramic roof, alloy wheels, underbody protection, side steps, a towing package, and a black-trim package.

On U.S. models, the third-row seat is a $1,750 option.

There’s an all-new infotainment system in the Discovery Sport, and it takes advantage of new capacitive hardware as well as a new InControl apps—in a system that allows some popular smartphone-driven apps like Stitcher to be operated through the vehicle’s touch screen.

The Discovery Sport also includes Remote and Protect, features that access roadside assistance and emergency services—automatically, in an accident. They include smartphone apps as well, offering a vehicle finder and remote checks for things like fuel level.

We didn’t get the chance to use this system, as it doesn’t include map data for Iceland, where we got our first drive; but it is now an enhanced version with improved traffic-dodging features like live and historic traffic data, customer-updatable maps, and two features that will be of use for off-roaders: both geographical coordinates and breadcrumbs.

All Discovery Sport models will come with that touchscreen interface, plus a 5.0-inch configurable display in the gauge cluster, and with a 10-speaker audio system with terrestrial and satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and USB and auxiliary ports. The system can pair with two devices—one to talk, one to stream entertainment. And Land Rover boasts that there are as many as seven USB ports—one for every single passenger if it’s loaded to the max.

Land Rover teases a long list of personalization options for the Discovery Sport, including seven different alloy wheel designs, additional underbody shields, a contrast roof, luggage-compartment rails, and a huge panoramic roof with power-retracting sunshade. The latter is quite awe-inspiring at first glance from inside.

And separately, as dealer accessories you can op for a center armrest warmer/cooler box, headrest-mounted iPad holsters for those in back, and various weather and interior protection items such as rubberized mats.

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7

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport is remarkably fuel-efficient, considering its off-road capability and available third row.

The Discovery Sport has some of the same underpinnings as the Range Rover Evoque, but it does better with respect to fuel efficiency. EPA ratings land at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined for the Sport—not bad numbers at all considering it offers a third-row seat good enough for kids.

The Discovery Sport’s predecessor, the LR2, was rated just 17/24/20 mpg with the same engine, which was subbed in for the last couple of model years, and just 15/22/17 mpg with the V-6 it originally had.

However, those who are especially mileage-focused should be aware that a diesel model will be available next year—for which Land Rover is targeting a figure of 30 mpg combined—which would likely require an EPA highway figure in the upper 30s.

It uses aluminum for the hood, roof, and tailgate, and 20 percent (by weight) of the body structure is made of high-strength or Boron steel. In all, it weighs about 150 pounds less than its predecessor.

Engine stop-start is also included in the Discovery Sport, and it works whether you’re in the Eco Mode or not, once you get the engine heated up and the conditions are right, so that should help boost mileage during urban and stop-and-go driving. We found the stop-start system to be smoother than other systems from Jaguar Land Rover.

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January 8, 2016
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport AWD 4-Door SE

I've owned this car 4 months & I wish I did not purchase it.

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I either purchased a lemon or the check engine light is a rediculous feature. Tomorrow will be my 6th attempt to have the dealer trouble shoot why this comes light comes on. They have replaced s ma gasket & a... + More »
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November 25, 2015
For 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

disappointed

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We bought 2016 Discovery SPORT 3 weeks ago and it broke down 3 times already. WE ARE so unsatisfied with the car. Also the gas paddle is so sensitive little push makes it jump..
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November 18, 2015
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport AWD 4-Door HSE

It is way better than I expected.

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I looked at the Volvo, BMWx3, Audi Q5, Lincoln MKC, Jeep, Subaru and more. When I got in the Discovery Sport, I knew this was it for me. Mine is white with a black roof and black wheels. The Styling is sweet... + More »
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June 14, 2015
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport AWD 4-Door SE

no thanks. Looks like every other SUV

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as a previous owner of two range rovers, I would never consider this Disco. What happened to the big windows and the excellent visibility you get with that. I hope its a flop so LR goes back. Might as well... + More »
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May 16, 2015
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport AWD 4-Door SE

Wow! Disco Sport HSE with Black Pack

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I have had the disco sport just a few days. The thing is amazing: commanding seat position with great visibility, peppy engine, cool tech and comfortable....oh, and it's quite quick off the line. The Q5 and X3... + More »
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