Land Rover is putting the finishing touches to its fifth-generation Discovery model ahead of its global unveil next year.
The new Discovery will feature a lower, sleeker design inspired by last year’s Discovery Vision concept and a plusher, more upmarket cabin that will be no less practical or versatile than that of the current model. The new model will also be significantly lighter and come packed with new technology when it goes on sale late next year.
The new seven-seat model will crown a family of “a minimum of three” Discovery models, Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern revealed at the recent Los Angeles motor show.
The smaller Discovery Sport is also part of this said family, and McGovern left the door open for another Discovery model below that car in size, as Land Rover looks to explore new classes and body styles in order to cash in on a growing global SUV market that will soon top 20 million sales worldwide.
The new Discovery is set to be underpinned by the same bonded and riveted aluminium monocoque structure used in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models, two cars alongside which the new Discovery will be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull plant.
This should contribute to a significant weight saving over the 2,622kg kerb weight of the current car, which is underpinned by the strong but heavy T5 ladder chassis.
For most of the global market, the core engine is set to be an updated version of the 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel found in the current Discovery, as well as the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover models. Hybrid technology would appear ripe for the Discovery, but recent hybrid and electric research projects revealed by Jaguar Land Rover are expected to enter production until the next decade.
In the future, engines from the Ingenium family could find their way into the Discovery – either in current four-cylinder form with mild hybrid systems, or in a V6 guise – if JLR further develops the new modular engine technology, as is widely expected.
Land Rover previewed the next-generation Discovery at the New York motor show in April last year with the Discovery Vision, a concept that McGovern said was “very important in terms of being a benchmark for new-generation Discovery models: the versatility of the car, the seats, the reconfigurability, how you use it inside”. The overall intention is to create a car that’s sportier and more modern-looking than today’s car, but no less practical or versatile.
The production model, prototype versions of which are now regularly spied around JLR’s Midlands base, stays true to the concept on the exterior at least, with only detail changes at the front and rear ends. However, the concept’s radical, pared-back interior is unlikely to be carried over as extensively as the exterior.
Despite the departure from the exterior styling, McGovern said there were still “certain guidelines” in designing any Discovery. He said there would always be a stepped roof to accommodate the “stadium seating” for seven people, a visible pillar in the side to break up the mass and optimum proportions to maximise the volume inside the car.
He said the Discovery was being made more premium and would be brought deliberately closer to the Range Rover. He added: “There will be a premium execution in Discovery, more Range Rover-like. But we need to not confuse and get the balance right.”
About the design McGovern said that, as much as he loved the current car, it was always seen as specialised in its design and ethos, so the new model would be “more universally appealing, without compromises”. He added that he had “no desire to upset traditionalists; the trick is to bring them with you”.
McGovern also spoke of the ever-closer ties between design and engineering and making sure the needs of both were met. He hinted that the Discovery would continue to have class-leading off-road ability but in an altogether more stylish package.
“We won’t back off from that capability, but it has to be appropriate and relevant,” he said. “We need to be about more than that. It’s a killer combination: core engineering technology and truly desirable and bespoke design with our own twist. Design is playing a more fundamental role with engineering.”
On the subject of a model smaller than the Discovery Sport, McGovern said: “We’re not going to make cars any bigger.” The cars need to be lighter and more sustainable, with the use of lightweight composites and materials. These are “all things we’re developing”, he said.
In addition to its class-leading off-road ability, the Discovery could also become home to new technology in development at JLR. This includes a laser scanning system that can automatically adjust the suspension and transmission based on the road ahead, a ‘transparent bonnet’ that projects an image of what’s underneath the car onto the bonnet and the ability to control the car remotely to park it in tight spaces.