Land Rover Discovery

A shift to aluminium and downsized four-cylinder engines help to improve performance and efficiency in the large SUV

When the first-generation Land Rover Discovery was introduced in the late 1980s, the aim was to better mix the luxury found in the Range Rover with the agricultural abilities of the Defender. It proved a sure bet to increase market share and improve company profits.

Now, more than 25 years later, the SUV segment has grown larger and become far more competitive, which means that vehicles need to meet even more closely the needs of consumers.

Which is why for the next generation of the Discovery engineers have borrowed more heavily from the Range Rover, while maintaining offroad ability and adding features not yet found in other vehicles in the firm’s line-up.

Perhaps the biggest move, but the most obvious, for the Discovery is a change to what underpins the vehicle.

The previous generation, which used a steel body on a steel frame, at its lightest weighed 2,500kg, and, in today’s efficiency-driven climate, that figure had to be reduced.

Rob Atkin, chief product engineer for the Land Rover Discovery, says: “It comes off our all-aluminium architecture, so we are moving from what was a steel body on a steel frame to an all-aluminium monocoque. We’ve done that for several reasons, but the major payback this gives us is weight. Between the prior car and this we’ve saved 480kg.”

That’s a huge saving, and similar to what was achieved when the Range Rover shifted to Jaguar Land Rover’s all-aluminium architecture. The benefit is that carbon emissions in the vehicle will drop to as low as 159g/km because engineers have been able to introduce four-cylinder combustion engines again, something not seen since the first-generation Discovery. The best-performing engine previously was a 188kW/443Nm 3-litre V6 diesel, emitting 203g/km.

“We’ve brought our range of Ingenium engines, so for the first time in this architecture we get four-cylinders,” says Atkin. “We have four engines at launch, starting at 132kW up to 250kW, with torque at 430Nm up to 600Nm. The 132kW unit is good for 159g/km which, given the scale of the car, is a really good number.”

The weight reduction has also helped to improve performance. The Discovery’s top speed is now higher – 250km/h compared to 195km/h – which will make it more saleable in some markets.

But the improvements to efficiency and performance aren’t simply because of the reduction in weight. A great deal of time was spent on the Discovery’s aerodynamics too.

The previous-generation vehicle’s shape might have been noticeable, but its box-like appearance meant that it couldn’t cut through the air very well, and its drag co-efficient of 0.40 highlighted this. That has now been addressed.

Atkin says: “We worked hard on honing the exterior surfaces for aerodynamics. The outgoing car had a beautifully iconic shape, but it had a Cd of 0.40. This car has a score of 0.33, and we’ve added technology to make it that much more efficient. At cruising speed, it lowers by 15mm to reduce air resistance. We’ve also got blanking devices on the front grille to shut off the air flow when it’s not required because you don’t need maximum cooling all the time.”

tags: Land Rover