Bob Prew

Land Rover Discovery Sport programme manager

The start of any vehicle development programme is an exciting time. It brings together teams of engineers and designers with different ideas and concepts that will hopefully meet the targets laid out in the project, but also the demands from an ever more vocal consumer base.

But when the vehicle you're developing has to meet targets set out for on-road characteristics as well as off-road ability, the challenge becomes much greater.

Jaguar Land Rover's engineering, design and test facilities in Gaydon, UK have become a lot busier as the OEM aims to grow its range of vehicles. The latest in the line is the Land Rover Discovery Sport compact SUV.

Bob Prew, the Discovery Sport's programme manager, says: “We started the programme three-and-a-half years ago, and the car was always deemed to be what it is today – a five plus two seater off the Evoque platform. The story for us was that the car needed to be both versatile and capable in equal measure.”

But whereas a typical passenger vehicle has to be able to transport occupants from A to B in relative comfort, few also have to be capable off-road.

That meant Prew and his team had to make greater use of the Gaydon facilities, which include a large anechoic chamber for vehicle refinement testing, an extreme hot and cold climate test facility, and a test track with high-speed braking straights and a variety of on- and off-road surfaces.

Prew says: “We do pot-hole brake testing that you probably wouldn't find anyone else doing, we do torque testing, and even basic things such as rolling the front wheel up to a kerb and being able to ride a kerb of a certain height. You'll find that a lot of competitors can't do it.”

While meeting the various targets kept Prew extremely busy, and his desk piled high with tasks, it was the practicality requirements for the Discovery Sport that perhaps filled most hours in the day and provided a constant stream of meetings with engineering and design departments.

“If we look at the programme from start to finish, the packaging and hitting some of the targets that we'd set ourselves in terms of the rear tailgate aperture and volume in the trunk, for example, was a real challenge,” says Prew.

“We had some challenges between design and packaging to get the optimum solution, and on a number of occasions we had to ask engineering to go back and have another look and see if we could squeeze more volume out of the trunk, even though from an exterior styling point of view we might want to be streamlining the car even more.”

It's common for development programmes to include a number of iterations until the final design is signed off, but Prew admits that perhaps the Discovery Sport took a few more than is typical.

The project is now drawing to a close, and Prew's desk is finally starting to clear – perhaps only for a brief moment, though, before the next project begins.

“Our job one vehicle was built in October, and we've been producing cars in Halewood since then,” he says. “The Discovery Sport is manufactured on the same line as Range Rover Evoque. We've been on a ramp-up profile since the middle of October, and we're almost now at our full-scale production volume.”

That leaves little for Prew and the 250 engineers and designers who worked on the vehicle programme to do: “We have a business milestone which is closure of the programme really, but in terms of physically releasing the team it's nearly upon us,” he says.

Given Jaguar Land Rover's product plans, neither the Gaydon facilities nor Prew are going to be idle for long, though.

tags: Land Rover Body-in-white