It’s what you wait years for: to drive a brand new dream car.
Land Rover knows this and wants to see that moment happen a little sooner than you might expect: The ‘entry level’ Discovery Sport allows you to indulge in the brand’s signature luxury and get to know the brand before you’re ready to buy its high-end models.
And that’s the charm of the Discovery Sport: A rugged luxury experience that keeps you solidly, safely on the road in good weather and bad.
We spent a week driving the Land Rover Discovery and were impressed by all the smart touches and capabilities this mid-sized SUV comes with for a sticker price of $42,000 (and a starting price of $37,000).
First, the Land Rover pedigree
When I think of Land Rover I think of “Out of Africa,” rugged, handsome, people clad in all shades of camouflage, grasping the the hand rails of a Land Rover as they bump and jostle across breathtaking savannas, alongside elephants and giraffes. But the reality is more likely a family of four, bumping and jostling their way down a potholed expressway, heading to a weekend softball tournament or day at the beach, alongside Jaguars and Impalas. Whichever your situation might be, Discovery has it covered.
The Discovery maintains the Land Rover pedigree of off-road capability, if in a more modern manner. First, the Discovery is a more sedate design, not as large and distinct as other Land Rover models or as sleek and modern as the Range Rover Evoque, with which it shares the basic structure. Rather, the Discovery has a familiar and elegant size and shape that makes a bit stealth on the road on in the parking garage–it fits right in with its mid-sized SUV sisterhood.
Inside the car, many things have been reimagined, however. Starting with the gear shift, the Discovery’s designers used a dial on the center console for selecting gears, and very cleverly, it pops up when you turn the car on and retracts when the car is off. Then, there is a drive mode selector that lets you choose two wheel drive or four wheel drive, with a choice of wet/snow, uneven terrain and hill modes with downhill braking assistance. You can turn off traction control and you can choose normal, sport or eco mode, depending on the drive experience you want. And, if you live in a place that floods often or have to regularly traverse deep puddles, this is a great choice: it is capable in water up to 27 inches deep.
Who Should Consider the Land Rover Discovery
- Luxury is important
- Price matters, too
- Off-road driving is a possibility (or reality)
- Accommodating sports equipment is a necessity
- Fuel economy matters
- You appreciate smart technology
- You like lots of ‘stuff’ spaces, including a clever little spot to put your key
- The comfort of back seat passengers is important
What You Should Consider
- Hauling golf clubs and other large sports equipment will require the middle part of the center seat to be folded down
- Comfortable seating for 5, though most comfortable for 4
- Splurging on more luxuries is probably worth it—including a sun roof and adaptive cruise control (these were not on the model we test drove)
We didn’t get the chance to drive the Discovery off road or through streams; we had the more typical experience of taking it to Woodstock, NY for the weekend and running errands around town. The car was fun to drive, got pretty good gas mileage for an SUV (24PMG) and had some really great interior features that made me think I could really settle into this car for the long haul.
Lots of power and MPG from a smallish engine
The Discovery has a 4-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower. Back in the day, there was no way a 4 cylinder engine could accommodate the weight and size of a car like this, much less give you the pep to merge onto the highway or avoid getting honked at when the light turns green. But a turbo charged engine changes all that and adds to the fuel economy. Adding further to the good gas mileage is the stop/start technology: the engine shuts off when the car is idle, at traffic lights, in the driveway, at the bus stop, the car is silent and not burning gas. When it restarts it’s noticeable but not jolting. In Eco mode, the car is a little more jolting and sluggish—if only by degrees— and this is something I had to get used to. But in sport mode the Discovery delivers a lot more power and fun behind the wheel. And while I thought I’d see this reflected in the MPG, I’m not sure I did, but maybe that’s because I stayed in Eco most of the time.
Smart spaces for stuff —and TONS of charge capability
I started to wonder if Land Rover’s corporate buying department hit a 2-for-1 sale on power ports; they seemed to be everywhere in this car. A covered USB port is in the center console next to the cup holders (I LOVED that it’s covered so coffee spills and other flotsam doesn’t clog it up), and there are a USB and cigarette style power port inside the arm rest. Then, on the back of the console there are two USB ports and one cigarette power port; there is an additional cigarette style power port in the rear cargo space—7 in all (unless I missed one).
The center console has a storage space underneath—a space that is created by the Discovery’s novel dial gear selector. This space is a great place for your phone or other small items. Just on the other side of the gear dial is a small space next to the electric parking brake; the remote key fob fits in perfectly and it’s where we chose to keep the key during our test drive. Even though the Discovery’s key is a smart key, so it can stay in my purse or pocket, I always prefer to have it at hand for locking and unlocking and of course, not losing it. I love that the Discovery’s designers gave me a place to put it!
Between the front seats are cup holders (and the USB port) that are covered by a shiny retractable roll top, and the center arm rest opens to reveal a small storage compartment and technology and power ports. On the dash over the glove box is ‘stuff shelf’ that is perfect for sunglasses, phones or other small items, and it has a lip so things don’t slide off while you’re driving.
Ample passenger space and surprising leg room
The back seat in many mid-sized crossovers or SUVs can be less than comfortable; to make tall passengers feel uncramped, often front seat passengers have to give up leg room. But we found rear leg room to be ample. Even with the driver’s seat set to my comfort setting, the seat right behind the drivers seat gave me more than enough leg room.
I also liked that the back seats can move forward if needed, which is great if you have more cargo and still need to seat four passengers. And, conveniently, the center of the rear seat back folds forward so you can fit skis, golf clubs or hockey sticks. The Discovery also comes with a third row option; there was not a third row in the model we test drove, but my guess is that, based on the Discovery’s size, the third row would be a convenience row—good for small passengers on short trips.
Land Rover Discovery’s ‘got your back’ features
Last spring’s severe weather and flash floods around the country were devastating. They left thousands of residents stranded and their cars totaled by the flooding. But those who have cars that can traverse a few feet of water were spared. Discovery is one of those. With a fully outfitted AWD drive system, it is capable in shallow water and can withstand many of the challenges the road may offer, from climbing curbs to park at crowded high school football games to the steep gravel driveway at Aunt Helen’s mountain house to suddenly icy roads on blustery January nights.
And, it has a feature designed to prevent you from getting a speeding ticket. Called ASL or Automatic Speed Limiter, the “LIM” setting is noted on the steering wheel and by a green icon on the dashboard. You can set the speed limiter to the top speed you want to drive and when you hit that speed, the system keeps you at or below the speed (you can override this by pressing the gas pedal to the floor or clicking the LIM button twice to turn it off). The LIM button doubles as the cruise control button too; hit it once for LIM, hit it twice for cruise, and three times to turn it off.
Though I can’t see why you’d be worried about getting a ticket; the Discovery was more fun to drive on curvy, hilly roads, so we stuck to the by-ways rather than expressways during our test drive. It’s smaller size, agility and comfort added up to a fun ride for everyone, especially the driver.
What We Loved
- Dial gear shift (it took some getting used to, though)
- Comfy leather seats
- All wheel drive options and shallow water driving ability
- Elegant design that evokes the Range Rover Evoque
- Plenty of cargo space
- Clever places to put stuff in the cabin
- 7 charge ports—7!
- Optional third row
- Very accessible starting price of about $37,000; price of the model we drove: about $42,000
What You Need to Know
- Price tops out at about $50,000 fully loaded
- Fuel economy is estimated at 20 city/26 highway (we averaged 24MPG)
- Premium fuel recommended
- 4 year/50,000 mile warranty
- 6 year/unlimited mileage corrosion warranty
- 4 year/50,000 mile roadside assistance
- Lots of drive options including normal, sport and manual shift mode, eco mode, paddle shifters and all wheel drive settings
Disclosure: Land Rover provided the Discovery Sport SE for my test drive; opinions expressed here are my own.