First Glimpse of the Next Discovery

From the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, Land Rover unveiled the Discovery Vision Concept ahead of its debut at the New York International Auto Show this week, offering an early glimpse of what may replace the current LR4 next year. Beyond merely replacing the current model, however, the Vision Concept also signals the birth of a new multi-model family of Discovery vehicles that will include the replacement for the current LR2/Freelander.

The full-size, seven-passenger family adventure concept represents the core of the lineup, merging signature design elements from previous Discovery/LR3/LR4 models with the modern surfacing and details first seen on the current Range Rover lineup. Traditional Discovery cues include the stepped roofline and asymmetrical elements on the tailgate, as well as an open-space feeling created by large side windows and extensive use of glass in the roof panel. The current model’s split tailgate, however, gives way to a single hatch on the concept.

Versatility has always been one of the Discovery’s main appeals, and the Vision Concept contains numerous features that, while perhaps unlikely to see production, offer a look into how the Land Rover design team envisions the Discovery being used in the real world. The tailgate, for instance, features a tailgating bench that extends from under the rear floor. The rear bumper, likewise, has a fold-down platform that could be used as a footrest for tailgating, or as a bike or ski rack platform. The seven individual seats are multi-configurable to accommodate a variety of uses and include drop-down picnic trays with built-in iPad docks. The most fantastic element, aside from its suicide doors, is the set of detachable carrying cases that double as door panel armrests.

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The Vision Concept is purely a design buck, with no mechanical hardware, and Land Rover didn’t so much as mention technical specifications for a production version. At this point we expect a full aluminum body and a range of turbocharged engines, as well as the addition of a diesel for the first time in America. The current Range Rover line should offer good clues as to other technical and mechanical hardware that it might likely contain, with the video Land Rover released last week of its “invisible hood” off-road camera system making a handy addition to the package.

The Discovery Vision Concept also marks the return of the Discovery nameplate to North America, the only market where Land Rover rebranded its most popular model (as LR3 and LR4) to dodge the sketchy reputation of earlier versions. By abandoning the alpha-numeric coding, Land Rover not only has the chance to unify this new “family” of vehicles, it also gets to capitalize on the spirit of adventure and, well, discovery that the name implies. Which is why the concept was revealed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. In conjunction with the reveal of the concept vehicle, Land Rover announced its global partnership with Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s private space travel company.

While Land Rover is still being tight-lipped about the production-readiness of the next Discovery, the Vision Concept signals a pretty clear direction forward for the company’s most family-friendly offering. The next evolution of the concept, likely including the LR2/Freelander replacement, will probably show up at the Paris Auto Show in October in near production-ready form.

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