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Clear visual cues link the new Discovery to other Land Rover models.

Aero-slick Land Rover Discovery sheds 1,058 lb, gains features

JaguarLandRover engineers continue to achieve significant vehicle mass reductions, this time with the new generation Land Rover Discovery. Shifting to aluminum construction for the bodyshell instead of steel and complemented by an intensive light weighting program for the whole car, has yielded a remarkable 480 kg (1,058 lb) saved compared with the previous model. This exceeds even the 420kg (925 lb) reduction of the Range Rover in 2012 when it was switched to an aluminum-intensive architecture.

The new Discovery, revealed at the 2016 Paris Motor Show closely echoes the Discovery Vision Concept which debuted at the 2014 New York Auto Show. For the production car, Land Rover has abandoned a steel body on a steel frame for an aluminum monocoque.

“The figure of 480 kg may sound almost incredible but we have checked it out many times!” said Alex Heslop, Chief Program Engineer. “And the Cd for the new car is 0.33 compared to 0.40 for the previous Discovery.” The combination of weight shedding and efficient aerodynamics help deliver improved performance and reduced emissions.

Single-piece bodysides

The new monocoque also allowed what he described as “a versatile, spacious seating solution (for seven 95th-percentile adults) like no other.” Seats are configurable from a smartphone as part of what Land Rover claims as a “world first” remote Intelligent Seat Fold solution.

Those seats are also part of the weight saving achievement, using light weight high strength steel (HSS). Extensive use of high strength aluminum alloy has been incorporated within the crash structure. The whole bodyside of the car is stamped as a single panel to reduce joint count and improve rigidity, and the underside of the Discovery is also stamped from a single aluminum blank to enhance structural integrity.

Of the total monocoque, 85% is aluminum, with 43% of that recycled. Simplified exhaust and driveline systems also save weight and magnesium is used for the instrument panel crossbeam, a now common application for the material. Across the Discovery range, best unladen weight is 2115 kg (4662 lb), the company claims. Luggage space is a maximum 2406 L (85 ft3).\

Connect capability includes 9 USB ports, four 12-V charging points and an in-car 3G WiFi hotspot for 8 devices.

Tough test regime

Heslop emphasized that the car is as good or better off-road as the previous Discovery and has a wading depth capability of 500 mm (20 in, increased by 200mm/8 in), which he said is close to flotation point!

Combining both tough terrain ability and fine ride quality is a salient aspect of all Land Rover products. The new car has “optimized” steel front and rear subframes to meet stiffness and steering response requirements and overall chassis refinement.

Suspension is fully independent with wide-space double wishbones at the front, and the multi-link configuration at the rear also has an integral link, to deliver stiffer damping without decaying comfort or impact absorption performance.

Air suspension is an option, lowering the car 60 mm (2.4 in) for easier loading or raising it 75mm (3 in) for very rough terrain driving. Regular ground clearance is 283mm (11 in, an increase of 43mm/1.7 in), approach angle 34º, break-over angle 27.5º, departure angle 30º.

The new Discovery was developed using an exceptionally tough test regime, Heslop told Automotive Engineering. Land Rover refers to “a full program” of virtual testing before a physical prototype was built that included sand dune impacts. It used Exa Corp.’s PowerFLOW to support aerodynamic, engine and brake cooling design, running more than 1000 simulations (equating to approximately 12 million CPU hours).

The physical prototypes underwent some 35,000 individual tests of all components and systems. “Every new system has been developed for a reason, to enhance ownership experience, delivering greater convenience and versatility,” said Nick Collins, Discovery Vehicle Line Director.

Engine line-up includes a 177-kW (237 hp) version of JLR’s Ingenium 4-cylinder diesel delivering a claimed 500 N·m (369 lb·ft). It gets the Discovery to 100 km/h in 8.3 s, the engineers claim. Common rail injection pressure is 2200 bar. The range also includes a 3.0-L V6 gasoline with 250 kW (348 hp) output and 450 N·m (332 lb·ft). All engines get 8-speed ZF auto transmission. A 2-speed transfer box is standard.

New 'Nose Load Measurement'

Chassis systems are extensive and include All-Terrain Progress system (allowing the driver to set crawl speeds from 2 km/h to 30 km/h), controlling engine and braking. It also gets Terrain Response 2, automatically monitoring driving conditions that span regular driving to rock crawl via gravel, sand and mud modes.

Maximum towing capacity is 3500 kg (7716 lb) and Advanced Tow assist is available. A semi-autonomous system for reversing, the driver uses a rotary switch on the central console after configuring requirements on the car’s central screen. Responsive trajectory lines help the driver, with information fed from cameras fitted to the car’s door mirrors.

A claimed “industry-first” is Nose Load Measurement that facilitates a quick check on weight being applied to the towbar by the trailer to ensure it is within a 129-kg (284 lb) limit. It can be operated via the Discovery’s touchscreen or a smartphone.

The new Discovery has clear aesthetic links to other Land and Range Rover models but it has its own identity and carries over some cues from the previous four generations including a stepped roofline, and stadium seating, with each row higher than that in front.

Interior packaging improvements

Vehicle length is 4970 mm (196 in) on a wheelbase of 2922 mm (115 in). Height is 1846 mm (72.6 in) and width including mirrors 2220 mm (87.4 in).

Packaging has been a major aspect of all Discovery iterations. Its new Seat Fold system facilitates reconfiguration of the second and third seat rows using controls at the rear of the car, the central touchscreen, or a smartphone app. So a vehicle occupant could change the seat layout while in a store buying a bulky item.

The Discovery has a one-piece upward opening tailgate but there is also a powered, fold-down panel that doubles as a load restraint and also as a 285-mm-long (11.2-in) bench for event seating such as horse shows. It is designed to support a weight of 300 kg (661 lb), to cope with the Discovery’s occupants consuming an exceptionally good picnic lunch.

The interior is premium-led and the Discovery comes in a variety of trimsets.

A quirky design detail is the use of an asymmetric license plate recess that continues a link to the rear of Discovery generations past. Some skeptics may regard it as a slip, decades ago, of the designer’s pencil—but Land Rover insists that it really is meant to be like that. 

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