Land Rover put a Discovery Sport to a grueling test earlier this month. In Switzerland, on the 16th of June 2016, the SUV towed three passenger train carriages weighing a total of 108 tons, 6 miles along a railway track. That is effectively the same weight as a Boeing-757 airliner.
Even more noteworthy, is that unlike similar stunts by other automakers, the Discovery Sport’s drivetrain was bone-stock. The only modification to the vehicle was the addition of rail wheels to ensure that the SUV didn’t veer off the tracks. The modification was done by Aquarius Railroad Technologies, a British firm specializing in road to rail 4x4 conversions.
The stunt was a nod to Land Rover’s heritage, and a similar feat performed by the Discovery 1 at its launch in 1989. The present-day train pull included a crossing of the historic steel Hemishofen bridge over the Rhine River. The span measures 935 feet long and the railway deck is 85 feet above the valley below.
1989 Discovery 1 Train Pull
The Discovery Sport featured in the video is fitted with JLR’s Ingenium diesel engine providing 177 horsepower and 346 foot-pounds of torque. While the Land Rover was effectively pulling 58 times its own weight, the engine was complemented by Land Rover’s “towing and traction technologies including Terrain Response, Tow Assist, Tow Hitch Assist and All Terrain Progress Control – a semi-autonomous off-road driving system that automatically manages engine output and braking.”
Many old off-road hands will be surprised to learn that this was all accomplished without the aid of low-range gears. Instead, the Discovery Sport relies on its 9-speed automatic transmission, and the Terrain Response technology to maintain the required traction. Land Rover’s new All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) system can be (and was in this case) engaged at the press of a button – it acts much like a low-speed cruise control – maximizing traction at a set speed, while allowing the driver to focus on the road, or rails in this case, ahead.
“Towing is in Land Rover’s DNA, and Discovery Sport is no exception. Over the years, we have introduced game-changing towing technologies to take the stress out of towing for our customers,” said Karl Richards, JLR’s Lead Engineer for Stability Control Systems. “This is the most extreme towing test I’ve ever done.”
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