New York Auto Show: Land Rover Discovery Concept

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Land-Rover-Discovery-ConceptWhat is it?

The Discovery Concept is a thinly veiled preview of the upcoming Discovery Sport, a new entry-level, compact Rover that should replace the oldie LR2. It also indicates where the next LR4 (sold overseas as the Discovery, with the four indicating the vehicle’s fourth generation) will head. Land Rover is trimming weight and expanding its all-SUV lineup, so be prepared for a rush of fresh 4x4s in the next few model years.

Why should you care?

No one does luxury SUVs like Land Rover. The British aren’t changing their time-honored, Queen-approved formula of ultimate comfort and capability, but they’re developing electronics that could change the entire industry. The Discovery Concept features a “Transparent Bonnet” which lets the driver see a real-time image of the wheels and road surface projected on the windscreen. Cameras mounted underneath the vehicle and on the grille combine with tricky software to make the engine hood appear clear, so that obstacles and wheel angles are immediately visible.

Other features include infotainment controls projected on each passenger window that can be swiped to the central digital display or the windshield. Hand gestures switch on the headlamps and automatically open and close the doors. And there’s laser beams to detect a road’s width to determine whether or not the Discovery can traverse the trail ahead. Land Rover says it’s close to introducing an autonomous off-road system that would take all the guesswork — and all of the fun — out of off-roading. Most automakers have only announced systems that work on pavement, so it’s only fitting that Land Rover would try to perfect a self-driving 4×4 that can automatically pitch itself off inclines and wade through lakes.

What’s not to like?

The side, with its flat flanks and L-shaped C-pillar, is too reminiscent of the Ford Explorer, Land Rover’s former corporate overlord before it was sold to India’s Tata Motors. And because this is a Land Rover, all of these electronic systems will break and cost a fortune to repair (I wish this were a joke). Land Rover’s poor track record of reliability sticks to the company like mud, so let’s hope it perfects these innovations before they hit the street.

When is it on sale?

Not for a while. The LR4 was refreshed last year, and it remains an incredible vehicle. Don’t expect a production Discovery and Discovery Sport to come until at least a year or two, if not more.

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.