Land Rover has formed a global partnership with Richard Branson’s pioneering commercial space travel service, Virgin Galactic. The announcement was made as Discovery Vision Concept was revealed prior to its debut at this week’s New York Auto Show.
The Discovery Vision Concept (DVC) represents a vision of Land Rover’s future family of Discovery vehicles, which will replace today’s Discovery and Freelander models.
The partnership with Virgin Atlantic will see Land Rover vehicles used by the Virgin Galactic team and future astronauts, as they arrive in New Mexico for training, and drive from the space terminal building to the waiting spaceship.
Revealed alongside Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, Discovery Vision Concept previews a new design language for Land Rover – closer in style to the latest Range Rover Sport – and far more ‘dynamic’ than today’s more utilitarian Land Rovers. You’ll spot familiar design elements such as the stepped roof and the latest swanky day-time-running lights which surround new laser headlamps, featuring intelligent object tracking and automatic beam-dipping for improved safety.
There’s an array of innovative new technologies including a ‘see-through’ bonnet, which uses augmented reality to provide a virtual view of the terrain ahead. It also features ‘Gesture Control’, which allows you to open the doors, operate the indicators or turn on the headlamps simply by moving your hand, while ‘Laser Referencing’ projects visible markings, symbols and imagery onto the ground to aid low speed or tricky manoeuvres.
The first model in the new Discovery family is due in 2015, which Land Rover claim will “..redefine the leisure SUV category.”
It will be called ‘Discovery Sport’, an all-new premium compact SUV which Land Rover Design Director, Gerry McGovern said is “a significant shift from Discovery as we know it while still remaining as practical and versatile as today’s models.”
“This will be the most versatile and capable SUV in its segment and is the first expression of the Discovery Vision Concept unveiled here in New York.”
By folding the seats flat or sliding them forward or back, via the touchscreen menu, the vehicle can be converted from its standard seven-seat layout to a six-seat, five-seat or even a four-seat ‘limousine’. The tailgate is a powered single-piece design, that works in conjunction with a deployable rear sill step to create a versatile platform for picnics and other social events. On its own, the sill step can also be fitted with a bike/ski rack.
As already showcased by other manufacturers (in their R&D vehicles), the Discovery Vision Concept features Land Rover’s ‘Remote Control Drive’, which enables the driver to manoeuvre the car at very low speeds while not seated inside it. As crazy as that might sound, Land Rover say it could be useful during extreme off-roading – spotting a treacherous route from outside the cabin – or when coupling a trailer.
Such technology would not be legal on-road, where the law sensibly requires a driver to be inside a moving car at all times, but it demonstrates the lateral thinking of a brand determined to make its cars more useful than ever before.
It’s a brave new world for Land Rover, but that’s the spirit of adventure which the Discovery is set to represent.