Maintaining the ride quality has also been a large area of development, and chassis technologies have changed compared to the previous-generation vehicle. Where it used to be underpinned by double-wishbone suspension front and rear, the latest vehicle now only uses a double-wishbone set-up at the front, while at the rear is an integral link system. And, while the engineers are confident this should provide the required dynamic performance, it has also helped with the interior design.
“We worked very hard on creating the right leg room, headroom, occupancy space,” says Atkin. “That involved making a few changes to the rear floor from the existing architecture, so we had to move suspension pick-up points around a little bit.”
And it’s the interior that brings new functions that haven’t been used in other JLR vehicles yet. The Discovery integrates a seat folding system. This allows drivers to reconfigure the seating remotely using a smartphone, the dashboard infotainment screen or buttons inside the vehicle.
“So if your passenger has nipped out to pick something up, you can open the tailgate and fold the seats from the comfort of your own chair. I think this is really going to resonate with the sorts of people who use this car,” says Atkin.
And, to help people get in and out of the Discovery, it can be lowered by 50mm as you come to a stop and open the doors.
Whether the technologies prove a gimmick or a practical tool for consumers remains to be seen, but it shows how the engineers are beginning to think outside the box to make vehicles more accessible, and even interactive.
But it’s practicality in terms of offroad ability that consumers will expect no matter what convenience features are on offer, and this has always been a core value for Land Rover no matter how the market changes.
Judging offroad ability is sometimes brought down to simple numbers: wading depth, approach and departure angles. For the previous vehicles they were 700mm, 36.2º and 29.6º respectively, and Atkin says that the new generation will remain competitive and even better some of those values. Perhaps most importantly it will be better than competitor vehicles including the Toyota Land Cruiser and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“The offroad departure angles are all superior to any products that we’ve mentioned and, in terms of the outgoing car, this has just as much capability,” he says. “And it wades to 900mm – that’s bordering on flotation for a car of this size. It’s really deep. Our closest competitors get to about 500mm, so it really is an extremely capable car.”
To achieve that level of ability JLR engineers mixed a huge amount of virtual testing with real-world testing in various parts of the world.
The new model is the first Land Rover to undergo a full programme of virtual testing before the physical testing process, according to the firm. But once the physical testing began it included more than 35,000 tests which were completed across all components and systems, with a fleet of 294 development vehicles covering in excess of 1.6 million kilometres.
The engineering team subjected the vehicle to extreme climates and terrains in more than 20 countries. Sand driving in 40ºC heat in the dunes of Dubai, altitude testing in the Colorado Mountains, and ice driving in the sub-zero temperatures of Arjeplog in northern Sweden formed part of a 28-month testing schedule.
The SUV market has grown a lot since the Discovery was first introduced but, more significantly, consumer demands have changed over the period. So the technologies and approaches introduced on the latest vehicle should help it carve out a bigger part of the market. But it’ll have to continue to evolve to remain relevant.