Last week I flew to hell (SLC, which between heat and allergens is totally inhospitable), picked up a car, then made my way to Yellowstone National Park for a vacation. This was the car we received when I reserved a “Prestige” collection 7-seater semi-dice-roll vehicle (Hertz Z4, described as an LR Discovery or Infiniti QX60; the LR Discovery Sport is smaller than either of these, but it being the 4th of July, I was pretty much stuck unless I was willing to downgrade to something far too small).

The car was filthy the whole time and was so trashed that I didn’t really want to take pictures, but here it was just before I returned it:

What you might not realize is that there’s a huge gash/scratch in the hood visible here. The grille is also not aligned properly, probably from some past renter hitting it into something. Yes, those mirrors are folded, in spite of giving you almost no additional room and being something else that will eventually break.
That’s a gash in the bumper and you can’t really see the dings/scratches in the doors, but they’re there.
Left side of the rear door has a dent, the left tail light assembly on the door is broken/cracked, and I accidentally wiped it the day before trying to spray the windshield while driving on I-15. Check out those sweet real dual tail pipes that are apparently real for a tiny little 2.0L 4-banger. At least the pipes are honest and the design is fairly restrained.

I think it was completely base (no fogs), but it has a lot of features for being so base. It has a 9-speed auto with a weird rising knob for gear selection (like the Evoque), paddle shifters, a 2.0L I-4, navigation, satellite radio, and 2 tiny little jump seats in the back for small children or people with no legs that makes it technically a 7-seater.

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As for the condition, it had a dent in the rear hatch that didn’t really open/close very well anymore (slammed it each time and once it didn’t want to open), damage to both bumpers in spite of proximity sensors, dings/scratches on the doors, tiny scratch marks & swirls everywhere, a big scratch on the hood, the grille was loose, one of the tail light assemblies was broken (so it leaked water), the interior was filthy in a way that no rental car cleaner would fix, and the steering wheel was coated in grime. After the drive to West Yellowstone I braved the throngs of people to get some alcohol so I could clean the steering wheel and some interior surfaces. So much grime. It felt a lot better afterward.

I chose this class (Hertz Z4) because SLC has an awful rental car situation. Everything is expensive, most is crap, and anything that can seat 6+ people will cost you at least $200 a day. When returning it, I noticed another one just like it, except in better condition, white in color, and it had Utah plates. Clearly I was not the only person that noticed it was a screaming deal compared to their usual rates. Vans and minivans (what I actually wanted) are screaming expensive in UT, big SUVs are eye-watering. This was marketed as an LR Discovery or Infiniti QX60, guaranteed 7 seats, and was a mere $80/day. When they gave me a Discovery Sport, I was quite disappointed because that third row is not really a third row, but it technically was what I reserved... Did I mention that it was black, came filthy, and had a ton of scratches everywhere? It’s only like a year old...

The good:

  • Fuel economy is much better than estimated. Supposedly it gets 21/25, but when I filled it the first evening after driving to West Yellowstone it had returned a surprising 30.3mpg. Mind you, this was basically all highway with some weird speed up/slow down regions and the vast majority was done at 80mph using cruise control. The following days it did at least 28 and returned 32 on the way back to SLC. Not bad.
  • The cruise control is easy to use and doesn’t require you to turn it on first. Why doesn’t anyone else do this? My wife’s car remembers the cruise setting and we simply leave it on, but this one didn’t require us to turn it on at all. My car you have to hit “on” first before using it every single time you start the car. It’s also on the correct side of the wheel and the radio controls are to the left, as they should be.
  • I love the off road cruise control, but I don’t know why the normal cruise doesn’t smoothly transition to this mode so you have to turn it on to go below 20mph. I used it on some low-speed loops in the park and it was brilliant aside from slamming down to some low speed when you enable it while moving. It does top out at 19mph, so I don’t know why they don’t simply merge into one.
  • It rode really well. I think some of this is down to tall sidewalls, but my wife noticed it immediately and it was one of our first observations. Very comfortable over rough patches and doesn’t wallow as badly as I would expect (it’s not nimble, but I’d gladly drive it in spite of the shortcomings).
  • It’s really quiet inside (well insulated) with no rattles or squeaks. This isn’t a new car and clearly hasn’t been babied, so that’s pretty impressive to me.
  • The interior was, aside from being dirty, very nice. Good materials, comfortable seats, and I didn’t notice any uneven gaps.
  • The transmission is very good at choosing gears and only got confused once. I couldn’t feel them except when downshifting while going uphill or otherwise accelerating hard.
  • It was quite a capable soft roader for the stuff we encountered in Montana and Yellowstone NP. I never feared I’d get stuck or high centered on anything when on any roads or pulling off a road. Other cars would have got stuck with some things we did in this car...
  • It’s kinda cute.

The bad:

  • That gear selector knob terrifies me. What happens when that thing breaks?!
  • The nav is rude and I couldn’t figure out how to use it without typing in addresses. Voice commands are hopeless, it makes my Sync 2 seem very user-friendly.
  • The transmission feels very ... digital and artificial? In fact, I’d sum up the whole driving experience like this.
  • The sport mode where you select gears does terrifying things. Downshifts mean some freewheeling and a lunge forward as it tries to rev match.
  • The gauge cluster screen menu system is difficult to use. Every control is all over. Like resetting the tripometer, which is a button on the end of the signal indicator...
  • It’s really hard to reach the far right side of the infotainment screen, so using the + to zoom the navigation map is quite difficult for the driver. The default auto zoom setting on the system is also far too close for it to be very useful, so you’ll use that zoom out button a lot.
  • The back up camera is offset even further than it is on my car and the lines are skewed slightly (they clearly tried to correct for it, but failed, while Ford didn’t seem to care to even try). As a result, it’s hard to get it backed straight with the camera.
  • Visibility is terrible. Your backup camera needs to be exceptional to compensate for such bad rear visibility.
  • The corners of the rear hatch window curve in such a way that even your rear view mirror is kind of useless. In fact, all the mirrors on this car suck. It needs integrated spot mirrors like my car has for safety.
  • Has an eco mode that made it use more fuel while simultaneously feeling more like a Kia Sportage.
  • What are these back seats for? Dual leg amputees?! (First impression of the back seats.)

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The quirky:

  • Window switches are on the tops of the doors near the windows. Because Land Rover. Still weird and awkward to use in this car.
  • This car has more physical buttons than your average Volvo. I have no clue what almost half of them do. I was playing with all of them curious about what they would do. Finding that low speed off road cruise was a treat. It also has an actual physical button to toggle the rear view camera on/off.
  • The rear window defroster lines are round to match the wiper route. I have never seen this before. It looks like a target or some kind of giant scope in your rear view.
  • It has power folding rear view mirrors that might give you an extra half an inch, but they also close when you lock the doors, so they’ll probably wear out/break at some point. It seems like unnecessary complexity like that rotary gear selector that rises out of the console.
  • Won’t start without the brake pressed, but will always be in park when you turn it on because it automatically switches to park when you turn it off.
  • Push the knob down and turn to get it into the magic sport mode that allows you to shift gears. Just twist and it won’t go anywhere.
  • The lower 8" of the doors are outside the rubber weatherstripping and ended up covered in mud spray.
  • On our first full day my parents and sister squeezed in the second row because the third looked useless. The next day we realized that the second row seats slide forward like front seats, so we slid one side of the center row forward and flipped one of the rear seats up, allowing my 5’1” sister to get in there. She said it wasn’t bad aside from getting in/out, so it did what I was hoping - accommodated everyone with reasonable comfort.

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My wife is a bit obsessed with it and has added it to her list of CUVs/SUVs that she would like to consider when we finally replace her car. When she first got in it and for the drive up she thought it was like a $60k-ish luxury car, then on the way from where my parents were camped (dropped off my sister) to our hotel she said something about it and I told her it was probably only about $40k, which she didn’t believe until she looked it up when we got cell service again.

Verdict? I didn’t hate it and probably wouldn’t mind owning one. I’m a little worried about reliability because it’s a JLR product, but this one had 30k hard rental car miles and still seemed to be doing well, so it’s possible that one would do far more without problems, provided decent care...