The larger Range Rover Evoque will offer seven seats
An electric powertrain will also be offered
Latest spy shots show the stretched Evoque in early testing
The new model should be unveiled towards the end of 2016
The as yet unnamed car has been spotted on British roads in recent weeks wearing what looks like a stretched Evoque body and a fully mocked-up nose and radiator intake.
Autocar understands that the ‘Evoque Plus’ is the sister car to Jaguar’s upcoming F-Pace crossover, although it has a longer wheelbase and is expected to offer the option of a seven-seat layout.
The new car is expected to be priced between £40,000 and £65,000, depending on the specification. Entry-level models will be powered by turbocharged versions of the four-cylinder Ingenium petrol and diesel engines. All-wheel drive is expected to be standard and the top-end models will get V6 engines.
Last year, Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern first hinted that the company was working on expanding the Range Rover brand with what he described as “incredibly luxurious, low-slung” Range Rovers.
The suggestion was that such a model would be more biased towards on-road performance but would still be capable of cross-country driving thanks to height-adjustable air suspension and a range of electronic traction control systems.
This new Range Rover is not just about filling a gap in the brand’s line-up, though. It will also further stretch the idea of what the Range Rover brand can do in the future.
Currently, the flagship model is about luxury, the Sport is about on-road dynamics and the Evoque is a compact SUV suitable for cities. The new Evoque Plus will stretch the brand towards the crossover market - more of a mix between estate and SUV.
The stretched wheelbase will endow the car with exceptional rear leg room and luggage space and it should also open up the possibility of a third row of seats for children.
The lower roofline and road-biased set-up - imagine a lighter, more agile Range Rover Sport - should allow the new car to appeal across traditional boundaries and attract buyers who might have chosen a high-performance estate.
McGovern’s hints of incredible luxury suggest that Land Rover product planners might even have an eye on the luxury saloon car market. A higher-than-normal seating position, particularly for rear-seat passengers, could be sold as an advance on the low-set seats of a conventional limo.
It also gives Range Rover a potentially high-margin vehicle that is less conspicuous than either the flagship model or the Sport, the visual bulk of both of which might prove a turn-off to some potential customers.
This suggestion is supported by sales of the compact Evoque. It was originally expected to sell about 35,000 units each year but streaked to sales of 125,000 units, increasing sales in three consecutive years.
If the Evoque Plus can pull off a similar trick, it would become the brand’s second biggest-selling model. Sales could crack 50,000 per year.
A version of this new model is also expected to become Range Rover’s first full electric vehicle, using the same battery-electric powertrain as the F-Pace EV.
Jaguar Land Rover engineering chief Wolfgang Zeibart dropped a big hint about these two EV projects last year when he spoke to an industry newspaper abouthis view of a potential pure electric vehicle.
Zeibart said the market for EVs was split into inner-city vehicles and the sector he saw as offering potential for JLR: a “second or third car for a wealthy family”.He suggested that any EV would have to be about the size of a Jaguar XJ and aimed at the US and China.
The first zero-local-emissions Range Rover is expected to have a range of nearly 300 miles in ideal conditions. The suggested road-biased adjustable air spring set-up of the planned Evoque Plus would allow an EV version to run at a lower ride height at motorway speeds, which should improve aerodynamics and stretch the range from the battery pack.
The EV model will be aimed at high-end metropolitan markets, such as New York, southern California, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.
This upmarket EV is likely to be priced at a significant premium over petrol and diesel models, possibly £85,000 and above. It will be seen as a direct rival to the upcoming Tesla Model X SUV.
The new car also fits neatly into JLR’s production plans for its Solihull plant. Because it is based on the same basic aluminium structure as the F-Pace and the Jaguar XE saloon, the Evoque Plus will be built on the same line.
Having three models on the same line, launched at different times, should allow JLR to keep the production line running at high capacity, which is essential for maximum profitability.
Solihull’s second aluminium structure production line will also eventually build three models: the current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and the upcoming replacement for the Land Rover Discovery.
Why Range Rovers do the business for JLR
According to official figures, Jaguar Land Rover enjoyed a healthy global sales increase in 2014.
Combined sales of Jaguar and Land Rover totalled 462,678 units, which was up 9% from the 425,006 of 2013.
Jaguar shifted 81,570 units, a rise of 6%, for which the brand could thank a 2% lift in XF sales, despite the model being at the end of its life. Sales of the now-defunct XK coupé also rose, by 4%.
But the big winner was the F-Type, which shifted a very healthy 11,506 units, 80% up on 2013.
Meanwhile, Land Rover sales rose by 9% to 381,108 units. The Evoque just about retained its record of growing sales every year by notching up 125,364 sales, an increase of 1%.The Defender rose by 4% to 17,781 units, and the Discovery dropped by 2% to a still healthy 45,080 sales.
But what’s really putting the cash into the JLR coffers is the remarkable performance of the two flagship models. Sales of the Range Rover leapt by 21% to 53,735 units - impressive for a car in its second full year on sale.
However, the Range Rover Sport is the group’s money printer; 82,352 were sold in 2014. Moreover, Autocar has heard that the average transaction price of a Sport sale exceeds £80,000. No wonder JLR’s earnings before tax show an industry-leading margin of more than 18%.
You heard it here first
In November 2012, Autocar first broke the news of the aggressive and ambitious momentum that Land Rover was putting into its product line-up.
In total, we foresaw 16 models in its future across three distinct strands: luxury (Range Rover); leisure (Discovery/Freelander) and dual-purpose (Defender).
Range Rover was integral to the plan. We predicted a six-strong product line-up. In addition to the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Evoque, among the cars we foresaw was the Evoque Cabriolet, since confirmed for production, and the ‘Evoque Plus’ you see here, which now looks likely to follow it to the market.
The sixth model we predicted was a sub-compact SUV, the so-called ‘baby’ Evoque, an entry-level vehicle that is believed to be gathering momentum internally at Land Rover.
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