Range Rover Sport Coupé to target BMW X6
Range Rover’s next new model will break fresh ground by moving the brand into sportier and more-road biased territory with a luxury £60k model pitched at the BMW X6.
The new model, codenamed L560, could be named Range Rover Sport Coupé. It has been known for some time that a Range Rover was being developed that shared its alloy chassis with the Jaguar F-Pace, but the make-up of the model has been kept secret.
Three years ago, when Autocar revealed Land Rover’s ‘three-pillar’ brand strategy — Defender, Discovery and Range Rover — the Sport Coupé was referred to as ‘Evoque XL’ and positioned between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport.
Launch expected next year
Today, insiders continue to refer to it as Evoque Plus while publicly denying that any such production model exists.
Many details of the new Sport Coupé remain secret in the build-up to its launch, which is expected next year.
However, Autocar has pieced together a picture of a new model that will set new standards for a Range Rover’s styling, interior and road-focused handling, the last of these coming courtesy of the F-Pace’s suspension and lightweight aluminium body. Range Rover’s first battery electric vehicle may also be spun off the new model.
Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern and Range Rover design boss Phil Simmons are understood to be developing a new look for the Sport Coupé to exploit the sporty, long-bonnet proportions of the F-Pace.
At around 4.7m long, the new Range Rover will also be a little smaller than the 4.9m X6 and GLE Coupé and will fit between the 4.4m Evoque and 4.85m Range Rover Sport.
Those dimensions also put it close to the 4.6m BMW X4, but the price positioning is expected to be much nearer to the bigger German rivals.
McGovern has previously alluded to a new Range Rover that will be a bigger surprise than the Evoque.
The cabin, for example, is expected to be more intimate than those of current Range Rovers and, in an echo of the layout of the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, is being designed around a luxurious four-seat layout. A 2+1 rear seat with fifth seatbelt will be on the options list.
Autocar has been told by insiders that the F-Pace’s alloy architecture is not capable of stretching to a three-row, 5+2 seating arrangement — the configuration previously attributed to the ‘Evoque XL’.
The cabin will be more like a ‘cockpit’ than any previous Range Rover and feature a dramatic sloping roofline and tight rear overhang.
The rear doors will be reduced to minimal openings in the search for the most elegant styling possible, while the luxury-quality interior is understood to introduce new materials and finishes.
The target market will include an ‘urban cool’ group of buyers and the palette will be chosen with them in mind.
All-electric powertrain possible
Powertrains will be drawn from the extensive JLR range of six and eight-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, but it is not yet clear if the new Range Rover will feature the four-cylinder engines that are available in the Jaguar F-Pace.
It could also feature the all-electric powertrain that JLR is developing for its I-Pace EV, which should be seen next year and will help JLR hit a new Californian target of 15% fleetmix of battery electric vehicles between 2018 and 2025.
However, because many buyers will live in mega-cities in Europe, the United States and Asia, Range Rover is expected to offer a hybrid powertrain, possibly based on the 340bhp 3.0 SDV6 HEV in the Range Rover Sport.
If Range Rover chooses to fit its most powerful 542bhp 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine, the new model will offer outstanding performance, partly because its lightweight alloy body could weigh as little as 1800kg — a 400kg advantage over the X6 and GLE Coupé.
That engine is thought to be earmarked for an F-Pace SVR model (see p11) and for the range-topping model of the Sport Coupé range, which could command a price of around £90,000.
Another crucial decision to be made is the name of the new car. In many ways the new Range Rover would be more deserving of the ‘Sport’ name than the current sevenseat model that wears the badge. Range Rover won’t discuss this key detail, except to confirm that the existing Sport will keep its name.
Land Rover’s growing global footprint
Land Rover buils and sells 400,000 cars a year, and while many are made in the UK, the company is rapidly expanding its overseas production.
The UK still builds the majority — Halewood the ‘D8’ steel-platform Evoque/Discovery Sport and Solihull the alloy-bodied ‘D7u’ Range Rover/Range Rover Sport and steel-bodied ‘T5’ platform Discovery.
Solihull will shortly close down the T5 line and switch production of the new alloybodied Discovery to the ‘D7u’ line where the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are built.
It is very likely that the Sport Coupé will be made at Solihull too, on the plant’s second line, which currently assembles the Jaguar XE, XF and F-Pace.
However, the UK’s grip on Land Rover production is reducing rapidly, with three new overseas plants adding more than 300,000 units of capacity as part of owner Tata’s latest £4 billion investment in new plant and models.
In China, a £1bn jointventure plant with Chery has been building the Evoque and Discovery Sport since October 2014. It can build 130k units a year, although faltering sales in the Chinese new car market may yet slow this down.
Smaller scale, but just as strategically significant, is the new £240m plant in Brazil that’s due to start making its first cars this summer. Its capacity is 20k a year of the Evoque and the Discovery Sport.
Of more significance is the new £1bn greenfield plant in Nitra, Slovakia. It is scheduled to have an eventual workforce of 2800 that will build 150k cars a year from 2018.
The Slovakian facility will be a high-tech plant capable of building aluminiumbodied cars. It will ease the pressure on Solihull, which is running flat out.
There’s no word yet on which models will be built in Slovakia, although the opening date in 2018 is close to the launch date of the new Defender.