With the introduction of a nine-speed transmission for the Range Rover Evoque, featuring an ultra-low first gear for better off-road control, the need for low-range gearing appears greatly diminished.
According to Steve Mullane, Senior Manager, Driveline Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover: ‘The nine-speed transmission will become our strategic east-west [transverse] transmission. You will see it in other future products.’
Officially, Land Rover won't be drawn on what future products are in the pipeline, or which could get the nine-speed transmission, but we'd expect the ‘Baby Discovery’ that we've seen doing the rounds under thin camouflage, to be one of them. The gearbox would also be ideal for a Skoda Yeti-rivalling small 4x4 – a DC100-shaped ‘Freelander’, perhaps? Such a model is 'far-stretched imagination' we're told.
But does that mean the end for the traditional high/low 4x4 system? Land Rover tells us it has no plans to kill off low-range, and the single-speed transfer box option is just that – an option that gives buyers more choice.
The first product to get a single-speed derivative was the latest Range Rover Sport, which is rarely taken off-road by the majority of its owners. ‘We’re responding to customer demands and giving them what they want,’ explains Steve. ‘Not all customers need ultimate off-road capability. So we needed to provide a good-performing, single-speed transfer case. We chose a mechanical system.’
An extra gear or three and clever electronics may well satisfy the lightweight needs of the soft-roader fraternity, but for serious off-road-capable machinery, a mechanical differential-based solution is still valued – whether incorporating a low box, or not. ‘This is because on the bigger vehicles we like to handle the torque distribution front to rear mechanically,’ explains Steve.
The single-speed Torsen unit is also offered for 2014 model-year Discovery 4s with the same set-up as the Sport. Ratios are the same as high-range ratios in the existing two-speed units.