Rumors of a new model meant to replace the big Land Rover Discovery have been circulating for a while, and a report today indicates that the Discovery could in fact be replaced by a seven-seat variant of the next-generation Range Rover that's well on its way to production.
As has been previously reported, Jaguar Land Rover is working to cut the number of platforms the two companies use from six to just two in order to save money. Part of this exercise is believed to be a joint platform between the two companies, an aluminum platform that can be easily and inexpensively modified to underpin either the new Jaguar XJ or the next-gen Range Rover. That project is apparently farther along than we originally thought, and a new, lighter, and slightly larger Ranger Rover could debut by late 2012.
According to Autocar, the next-gen Range Rover won't be a radical departure from the current rig. Overall length is expected to climb by 1 inch and thanks to some serious packaging work inside, Land Rover will address a chief customer complaint by increasing the rear-seat legroom by a whopping 4.9 inches. While the Range Rover's trademark boxy styling is expected to remain, Land Rover is working to lower the roofline to make it appear less bulky and reduce drag. The company still wants to maintain headroom, though, so it's unclear where the height will be taken from, but it could come from the ground clearance. The body work is expected to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and maintain the upright grille, squared-off corners, and flat window line.
The new aluminum platform is expected to seriously cut the Range Rover's chunky curb weight. We also hear that the company may include some composite body panels and other high-tech solutions to bring the weight down. Rumor has it Land Rover is hoping to cut nearly 1000 pounds from the curb weight, bringing it down into the 4700-pound range. Reducing the weight so significantly should result in some serious improvements to fuel economy and performance.
Speaking of performance, power is expected to come from the same sources as the current vehicle. Land Rovers sold elsewhere in the world will get V-6 and V-8 diesel options, whereas those of us in the U.S. will likely have to settle for the tried-and-true naturally aspirated and supercharged gasoline V-8s. Jaguar Land Rover recently received $458 million in loans from the European Union to develop a hybrid drivetrain, and it's expected to make its way into the new Range Rover eventually.
Some of you might be wondering, though, how this all will affect the Range Rover's off-road prowess. Using an aluminum-monocoque chassis in a serious off-roader is a new idea, and Land Rover has put a lot of work into making sure it's up to the task. Heavy-duty axles will be driven by a real transfer case and suspended from special high-strength sub-frames. The sub-frames will mount to the chassis through specially designed rubber bushings to minimize noise and vibration transfer and minimize flexing.
The new Range Rover is also expected to spawn two variants, a high-powered Sport model and the aforementioned stretched seven-seater meant to replace the aging Discovery. No word yet on how that will affect efforts to increase rear-seat legroom. Regardless, we hear that Land Rover is targeting Bentley-like levels of noise isolation and luxury appointments with a healthy mix of wood, leather, and metal trim.
If Autocar's sources are right, we could see the next Range Rover debut as early as the fall of 2012, presumably as a 2013 model. As always, we'll keep our eyes and ears open as more information on Land Rover's next big off-roader draws closer to production.