Tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport D240 AWD – Easing Tech into Your Life

A recent UK study suggests nearly a third of motorists don’t use or understand their car’s technology.

That study by the British Motor Show is broadly in line with several surveys over the past few years gauging how all the new technology flooding into modern cars is being received by consumers. Possibly, it because the automakers are not taking into account that today’s car buyer has, in many ways, changed but, at the same time, not changed precisely as some manufacturers believe.

It’s worth remembering how new car owners used to behave back in the day when the height of technological sophistication was electric seats and a dash-mounted CD player. Then the typical proud owner would have, as like as not, sat down with a mug of tea to read the owner’s manual from cover to cover, even before jumping behind the wheel to speed off to a favorite country pub to wax lyrical about the new motor. In this digital age with unlimited amounts of information available for the owner’s friends to read, this process is now somewhat redundant.

Yet, that potential avalanche of technical information about the car’s technology could be the reason so many consumers can’t be bothered to find out what most of their vehicle’s functions can do. A surfeit of choice is often worse than no choice at all.

Just consider the new Land Rover Discovery Sport D240 AWD for example. It’s list of standard features runs to one-and-a-half columns on an A4 page and most of them technologically related. Suffice to say, it’s enough to put most owners off exploring what they all can do.

It’s been said many times at TU-Automotive conferences that unless technology is accessible and easy to use, it just won’t be. However, here the big family SUV does score very well. Because, in keeping with its do-anything, go-anywhere reputation, it is a very easy car to live with whether splashing through the flooded roads of the UK’s Storm Dennis ravaged Cheshire or picking its way through the congested streets of Chelsea in London.

A lusty mild-hybrid assisted 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel motor sprints this near two-ton beast to 62mph in 7.7 seconds thanks to 237bhp and 369ft-lbs of torque while still being able to claim an achievable mid-30s miles per imperial gallon in mixed city and country driving.

That may not be too much of a surprise in a car nudging £47,000 ($60,800) in SE-R Dynamic specification but this ease of use is echoed in the car’s in-cabin experience, probably exemplified best in the simplicity of its cruise control. So many cars, still, have to have their systems turned on before use, yet Land Rover does away with this unnecessary ‘key stroke’ by leaving the system active all the time. It means just one stab of the ‘Set’ button and the car is cruising. A simple but effective boon to the user albeit one that does not feature adaptive capability.

And here’s the point – make a regular function like that so effortless and the user is more likely to start exploring other technology that the car can offer. Airplay, for example, is another feature that some automakers plumb in seemingly oblivious to how easy it is to engage.

Here, the big Disco shines again offering intuitive access to the system without the need to thumb through pages and pages of the owner’s manual or spend wasted evenings researching the internet. Instead, the car’s infotainment menu walks the user through for a one-time setup that remains in place for whenever it’s needed again.

The 360-degree surround camera system also entices the user to play with its abilities to provide a variety of views of what’s around the vehicle in real-time. It’s really simple to use and to modify views to suit whether you are creeping along a rock-strewn track in the deep country or inching in and out of a parking space off Kensington High Street.

One last shout out for the amount of USB power points available in the front and powerpoints in the rear – in a big family car like this, the parents’ lives are made all the easier if the kids can sate their appetite for their own portable technology. That said, it does show how we are all now enslaved to battery life!

So, Land Rover seem well on the way to making its technology accessible and that means their consumers will use it more, get used to using it more, and expect more of the same in their future vehicles.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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