Update: These are the latest pictures of the new baby Land Rover Discovery, due to arrive in 2015. Although heavily disguised, these new images show the car in near-production trim testing on public roads. It's clear the replacement for the Freelander will be significantly larger than its predecessor and take most of its styling cues from the Range Rover Evoque, with raked back headlights and sculpted flanks.
Two versions will be available from launch, a standard five-seat model and a stretched version (pictured), which will offer and additional third row of seating. The wraps are expected to pulled off the new addition to the Discovery family at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Our spy photographers have caught the Land Rover Freelander replacement testing in pre-production guise. The new car - codenamed L550 - will become part of the Discovery family, and take some its styling inspiration from the Evoque to help boost sales and alter its ultilitarian image.
Based on a modified version of the current Freelander, two versions of the 2015 car will be offered.
One will use a standard chassis size and five-seater layout. However the stretched version in these new spy pictures clearly has an extended body which has grown past the rear-wheels. That's to make room for a third row of seats in the back. This added versaility and the choice of a five or seven seats will help move the Freelander closer to the Discovery, which could be the key to getting the smaller Land Rover to take off in the key US market.
Although heavily camouflaged, the front end clearly displays some of the brand DNA from the Evoque, with a large set of headlights that sit flush with the bonnet line, a wide square grille below the front bumper and a high sided design that sits lower to the road than the current model.
At the back the extra glass area does make the L550 seem heavier in profile, but a source told Auto Express that this would be 'A seriously desirable car in its own right.' Gerry McGovern, design boss for Land Rover, has said that this car would be 'sexier' and 'more appealing' than before but without taking too much from its Range Rover siblings.
Under the bonnet, the Baby Discovery will use the new range of Hot Fire 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, which are due to be built at a new engine facility in Wolverhampton. These engines will also power the new Jaguar compact saloon, and can be equipped with either two or four-wheel drive, these should help the newcomer significantly iimprove its economy and CO2 emissions, and make it competitive with cars like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
These pre-production mule shows the finished shape of the new car, which could be shown in concept form at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring, with a full production debut penned in for the Paris motor show in 2014.