Land Rover Discovery Concept Debuts In New York

Land Rover is ready to bring its LR4, known elsewhere as the Discovery, into the 21st century, and this Discovery concept shows some of the ideas that may make it to the company's next SUV. The sleek new model will most likely follow the lead of the Range Rover, moving to Land Rover's lightweight and aluminum-intensive PLA architecture, when it finally reaches production in about two years' time.

The Land Rover Discovery concept is a thoroughly sleek, modern vehicle that manages to retain the current model's basic design language. Its rounded nose features a prominent skidplate and a skinny grille opening with narrow laser-powered headlights, its flat doors have a rising character crease, and its liftgate has an asymmetrical license plate holder in reference to the similarly shaped rear windows on current Land Rovers.

Clever details abound, many of which are likely reserved only for the concept car. The Land Rover rides on 23-inch wheels; it lacks door handles, so the doors use gesture recognition to pop open when an occupant waves; the wipers hide under a movable flap at the base of the windshield; cameras are fitted to the sideview mirrors; and when the liftgate is open, an electrically operated “event platform” can emerge from the rear of the car to provide a bench for tailgating.

Fanciful, Functional Interior

The Land Rover Discovery concept seats up to seven, but the arrangement of the second-row bench and third-row chairs can be altered at any time. A touchscreen allows for folding any of those seats flat into the floor, so they serve as tables, or flush with the seat ahead for more cargo space. In fact, touchscreens adorn nearly all sides of the car. Up front, a giant color screen serves as the instrument cluster, while two touchscreens on the steering wheel give the driver more information and control over car functions. The center stack, too, is composed of two touchscreens; the lower one pivots open to reveal a special compartment in which phones and other electronics can charge inductively, without being plugged in.

Practical innovations include special Foglizzo H20w leather that is washable and, according to Land Rover, spill-resistant. A panoramic sunroof allows plenty of light into the cabin, and the back of each seat features a dock for a tablet computer, a coat hook, and a fold-out table.

All of the windows are what Land Rover calls Smart Glass, and can display almost any information desired, and their tint level can be varied from fully transparent to fully opaque at the touch of a button. In the case of the roof, the Smart Glass can also be used to show scenes like a starry night sky, a winter's day, or beautiful sunshine, no matter the actual weather. The windows, linked to eye-tracking cameras, can tell what a passenger is looking at and provide pop-up information on nearby attractions or monuments. For the driver, Smart Glass provides driving information on the windshield and can relay the view from rear-facing cameras onto the front windows.

One feature that can be projected on the windshield is the so-called Transparent Hood function that Land Rover previously announced. It uses cameras beneath the SUV to provide a virtual look at terrain when off-roading. Other tech features use a combination of lasers and cameras to help make life easier for Land Rover Discovery concept drivers. Laser Terrain Scanning uses sensors in the foglights to create a virtual map of the car's surroundings, which are then relayed to the instrument cluster screen. The Laser Referencing system can then “paint” laser marks around it to warn the driver or other motorists. Land Rover says the system could display a warning triangle on the road surface to warn other cars the Discovery is stationary, and it could project red warning marks if a parking space is too narrow to fit the SUV.

Land Rover's signature Terrain Response system, which manages the four-wheel-drive and traction-control systems for use on varying surfaces, benefits from a new function called Wade Aid. Using lasers, the system evaluates the depth of water ahead of the concept car and warns the driver if it's too deep to drive through. Terrain Response will also be able to plot a route for the driver, giving him or her recommends for the best way to traverse tricky off-road situations.

Perhaps the most interesting technical toy on this Land Rover concept is Remote Control Drive. The driver exits the vehicle and uses a smartphone or tablet computer, linked to the Land Rover's built-in wireless network, to drive it slowly over short distances. The point, Land Rover says, is that sometimes it's easier to maneuver a car when you can see it from outside: over “extreme off-roading” situations, when hitching a trailer, or potentially when moving in and out of a farm gate that must be closed behind the vehicle.

It's unclear how many of these innovative features would ever make it to a production Land Rover, but the Discovery concept clearly shows the direction of future Land Rover models. Look for more details on the future of the LR4 (known as the Discovery overseas) over the coming two years.

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