Is the Land Rover that we knew and loved gone for good?
I’ve seen the three new cars in the metal and there’s no doubt they have a technical sheen about them that is very impressive. These cars don’t give away anything to the best the Germans can offer – in static and technical appeal at least.
It makes sense that a company that sees itself as a ‘niche player’ (a phrase used by a number of JLR staffers at the unveiling of the new cars) should want to drive itself upmarket.
With output unlikely to hit half a million in the medium term (with a least four platforms and two factories to finance) JLR desperately needs the healthy margins delivered by premium pricing.
Perhaps that’s why there’s a creeping Range-Roverisation of the entire model range.
The Range Rover is even plusher than before and both the Range Rover Sport and Discovery (despite its Land Rover badging) get a proper, luxo, Range Rover-style interiors.
(At the Discovery price point ‘people expect’ Range Rover-like design language and quality LR design boss Gerry McGovern told me. Perhaps for the Disco 5 they’ll also expect a Range Rover badge.)
Moreover, what started life as a Land Rover concept became the Range Rover LRX in the last few weeks.
Putting the Defender to one side, this leaves the Freelander as the remaining Land Rover displaying resolutely Land Rover design language. How long before this car also submits to Range-Roverisation?
20 years ago McGovern was deeply involved in the ‘Roverisation’ of the ailing Austin-Rover group. They took the Honda Concerto, improved the styling, added a fine UK-designed engine and succeeding in selling the cars at a premium.
That adventure ultimately ended in failure because the subsequent 600 and 400 were a victory of style over substance and hampered by over-pricing.
Today’s Range-Roverisation is built on much firmer foundations. The cars are unique, hi-tech and truly premium. But the arrival of these new models might finally signal the victory of Range Rover over Land Rover for the soul of the company.