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2020 Land Rover Discovery spied with hybrid power in pipeline

A mid-life refresh for the third-generation Land Rover Discovery is imminent and a development mule for the more versatile Range Rover sibling has been spotted on roads for the first time, near Land Rover’s Coventry headquarters.

On sale in the UK for almost three years now the current car is very much right in the middle of its lifecycle, but this may not be a full facelift. Key rivals such as the Volvo XC90 and the Audi Q7 have received recent updates, and both those cars are now available with electrified powertrains too - something the Disco currently lacks.

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That’s why what will be perhaps the biggest update coming to the L462 Discovery will be the availability of hybrid drivetrains, but a plug-in option may still be a wait away, with 48-volt tech to be prioritised with this new version of the Discovery coming later this year.

In a bid to reduce the company’s fleet CO2 to comply with tough new EU CO2 targets, 48-volt mild-hybrid tech is playing an increasingly important role across Jaguar Land Rover’s business, introduced on the latest Evoque and already confirmed for the all-new Defender, due on roads later this year. 

As such, mild-hybrid versions of the Discovery seem a given, but may require new engine developments. The only mild-hybrid versions of the similarly sized Range Rover and Range Rover Sport both use a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine in combination with a 48-volt starter generator. At present, no large petrol engine is offered in the Discovery, with the petrol line-up capped to 2.0-litres in size. Diesel is still what sells the Disco, and as such, mild-hybrid adaptions of the existing, big selling 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre six-cylinder units may make more sense from a sales-mix perspective. 

All petrol and diesel versions of the new Evoque feature mild-hybrid tech when equipped with an automatic gearbox, but whether Land Rover can adapt the Discovery’s current underpinnings to accommodate this across the line-up remains unknown.

The car spied here is a hybrid Discovery using a petrol engine, according to registration data. There’s no obvious plug-in socket on the mule’s bodywork and the front grille - where the charging flap is located on the plug-in Range Rovers - has been masked off, denying access to a socket here and all but confirming mild-hybrid tech is underneath.

Look to the latest versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and the “P400e” plug-in hybrid system, using a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged JLR Ingenium engine alongside a 13.1kWh battery, provides hybrid options in other large Land Rover models. However, a plug-in hybrid Discovery may not be part of the 2020 update - so far we’ve only spotted this mild-hybrid variant.

Elsewhere, this refresh - due towards the end of the year - should see only extremely mild exterior design revisions applied to the otherwise fresh third-generation Discovery shape.

Fancy a hybrid seven-seater? Then head over to our sister site DrivingElectric for their guide to the best hybrid and electric seven-seat cars...